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Ethnic Excuses

In todayâ??s Detroit Free Press, Susan Ager decries lame excuses based on ethnic or human stereotypes used by people who â??canâ??t help themselves.â?

Get drunk if you want. Kill your enemies if you must. But don't blame your ethnicity, or your humanity, because the rest of us aim to do better.

These types of excuses for abominable behavior are bad enough, but perhaps equally troublesome are reasons based on ethnicity used to define acceptable behavior or up to standard inclusion.

I once worked with a woman who was of Polish extraction. Her life was â??everything Polish,â? except, of course, that she was an American. Her husband had both German and Polish ancestry, but, according to this woman,... he was Polish. Nothing else would have been good enough. Holidays included only homemade Polish delicacies and traditions. She was especially happy if her children dated Polish people. And there was an added bonus if these dates were Polish Catholic. This woman didnâ??t mind sharing these tidbits of information with us non-Polish-Catholic heathens. There was a place for acquaintances or coworkers in her life, but those who didnâ??t meet her specifications would never be worthy of her inner circle. There was a publicly identified, carefully delineated wall that outsiders did not dare penetrate.

Personally, I find tradition to often be a healthy, unifying part of society, especially when those of varying traditions attempt mutual understanding and respect. However, for some, the idea of community often meets a dead end with divisive, hubristic, arbitrary boundaries, justifications.

Some of the rest of us aim to toast human diversity, not ethnic restrictions.

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