Monday, September 22, 2014

We can choose the cultural heritage we live by!

My niece's parents immigrated from China to the United States, choosing to assume U.S. nationality. My niece chose to adopt the cultural heritage of western medicine, became a doctor and an internist, and now practices at Mass General Hospital and teaches at Harvard Medical School.

My nephew's parents immigrated from Gujarat to the USA, also choosing to assume U.S. nationality. My nephew chose to adopt the cultural heritage of American law, graduated from law school and learned the practice of law in a series of increasingly responsible positions. He was recently nominated by President Obama to be a federal judge.

One of my oldest friends was born into a Jewish family, but chose to convert to Christianity as a young man. He went to divinity school and became a Presbyterian minister. He became a recognized expert on the liturgy of his denomination, and recently retired a much loved pastor of a large Presbyterian church.

Another of my oldest friends, also brought up Jewish, became an anti-war activist as a young man. That led him to a lifetime career as a peace activist, working primarily within the American Friends Service Committee -- an organization with a deep Quaker heritage.

I am so proud of these members of my family and friends who have chosen such wonderful heritages to adopt and master.

We may choose to adopt and master a heritage peculiar to the ethnic group to which our ancestors belonged, but we may choose from a much wider range of the heritage of all mankind.

As an American I have inherited the particularly American heritage of a country that had legal slavery for nearly a century, and Jim Crow laws long after. I have inherited my country's heritage in which Indians were moved from their ancestral lands and confined to reservations if they did not adopt a European-American way of life. I have inherited the national heritage of Chinese exclusion laws and gathering of Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II. I reject the heritage of racism. We may and should all choose to reject cultural heritage that does not stand up to ethical standards, but we may also choose simply not to adopt practices from our ethnic ancestors or from the nations we choose as our own. President George H. W. Bush had every right not to eat broccoli simply because he didn't want to.

Check out my recent guest shot an Antiquities NOW.

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