All Maine Matters

June 2006



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Celebrating Diversity
By John Frary

Conceptually, the command to celebrate diversity is no use at all; but as a slogan, it is flawless. No one can define it, but anyone can attach whatever meaning to it they wish.

This celebration has all the defining characteristics of an American fad. It appeared with great suddenness, almost no one has any idea of exactly where it came from; no one can explain what it’s good for; everyone is expected to conform to it; only a few curmudgeons think of criticizing it.

Nowadays the word has heard on every hand. High schools, grammar schools, colleges, corporations, foundations, governments at all levels, newspapers, advertising agencies, fraternal organizations – all the world – praise diversity. The word has taken on a magical quality.

Let’s take this celebratory mandate at its literal value and put it to the test. I happen to have had a couple of students who served in the French Foreign Legion. Now, there is a highly diverse organization. The very name affirms it. Its motto, Legion Patria Nostra (the legion is our fatherland) invites males from all over the world to leave their parochial conflicts behind and join a polyglot brotherhood. It matters not whether you are a veteran of the IRA or the Ulster Volunteer Force. In the FFL regiments, you have a common purpose and loyalty. You get to spend your service in such diverse places as Djibouti, Cayenne, and Tahiti. No American university can come close to equaling this organization in its diversity. On the one hand, it is possible to imagine octogenarian veterans of the Waffen-SS lounging around the hobby shop of the Legion’s old folks’ home (they have one) busily crocheting potholders with swastikas. On the other hand, I remember reading a notice in the classified section of the Legion’s magazine, Kepi Blank, inviting its veterans in Israel to join an old comrades’ association. Is that diversity, or what? Yet one never hears the diversity-mongers urging us to celebrate it.

Luis explained to me why he joined up. “You get to see new places and meet new people. And then you get to kill them.” I once asked him if he would have been prepared to gun down women and children. He replied with a diffident smile and a shrug that he supposed he would if given the order. Now there is a set of diverse attitudes no one seems eager to celebrate.

If conversing with Luis sounds like a truly diverse experience for a sheltered professor, let me tell you about Corporal Bob, an American of Cossack origins. His platoon contained Spaniards, Croats, Serbs, Germans, Africans, Englishmen, Australians and others. They had great times together. One of his favorite stories – I must have heard it a dozen times – was an account of the boys in the Djibouti barracks throwing rancid pork scraps to Moslem beggars.

Another favorite was about some of the Englishmen in his regiment discovering that one of their number was homosexual. They felt honor required them to waylay the fellow down on the Marseilles waterfront, strangle him with his own shoulder strap, decapitate him, throw the body into the ocean and the head into a dumpster.

Everything about Corporal Bob – his values, experiences and ideas – fairly shouts diversity, but I regret to report that nobody I knew showed any inclination to celebrate him. I admit to being a little unsettled myself when he showed up at my house one day to exultantly announce the discovery of a loophole in New Jersey’s gun control law – that it was perfectly legal to own a flamethrower.

But enough of Corporal Bob. My point is that the demand to celebrate diversity is a mere windy abstraction. If it were serious, more liberal professors would go off and join the French Foreign Legion.

John Frary was born in Farmington, where he now resides. He graduated from U of M, Orono. He did graduate work in Political Science and in Ancient, Medieval, Byzantine and modern history at U of M., Rutgers and Princeton, completing his Masters degree along with all courses and examinations for the PhD. He worked in administration and as a professor of history and political science at Middlesex County College in Edison, NJ for 32 years. He is associate editor of The International Military Encyclopedia, has been assistant editor of Continuity: A Journal of History as well as editor and publisher The LU/English Newsletter. After returning to Maine he was chosen to be the conservative columnist for The Kennebec Journal and The Morning Sentinel. He was dismissed from this position in December for refusing to drop his criticism of the Dirigo Health Plan. He is currently chairman of the Franklin County Republican Committee.

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