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What's 'right,' anyway?
Americans need to embrace diversity, no matter what the political climate

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RICHARD AMRHINE
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Date published: 5/16/2004

CELEBRATING cultural diver- sity and allowing personal freedoms while providing for the common good is key to America's greatness. But doing all those things at once is so difficult that many countries don't even try. One reason it works so well in America is because we have elections every so often to adjust the balance.

For the most part, we just go about our daily routines, counting on the system to work, whether a president faces impeachment, a presidential election ends in a virtual tie, or thousands of our countrymen die in attacks on our own turf.

But despite our ability as a nation to deal with and even close ranks under the most trying circumstances, it seems that once the dust clears we always revert to taking sides on almost every issue imaginable.

In fact, reconciling the cultural and political differences in America has never seemed more unlikely than it does today. We seem to be growing ever more polarized over everything from abortion to taxation, from politics to religion. And everyone thinks they know where individual freedom should stop and American "values" should begin.

Political candidates are considered more in terms of party labels than by what they've accomplished or what they really stand for. Because so many Americans get their news by the sound bite, they may never really know the essence of the person behind the candidacy--until he or she is holding office. Worst of all, half of Americans aren't even interested enough in the direction of their country or communities to cast a ballot. As far as they're concerned, they're passengers on a plane on autopilot.

Today's rhetoric doesn't help. It often encourages divisiveness when it could call on everyone to embrace the diversity that is America's cornerstone.

Last weekend, Carl Rove, President Bush's chief political strategist, told graduates at Liberty University that America needs people who have "the moral clarity and courage to do what's right, regardless of consequence, fashion or fad."

Rove probably offered that up assuming, "Who could argue with that?" But that simple statement hammers even deeper the wedge that is dividing America.


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