This week 9 members of the panel responded to the question, here is mine:
MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas
The world’s history records endless stories of chasing minorities or the powerless out of their own dwellings and it continues today. They were driven out, annihilated, enslaved, forcibly converted or made to run, whether you are a native American, African American, Jewish, Catholic, Mormon, Palestinian, Hindu, Muslim, Baha’i, Zoroastrian, Sikh, Buddhist, Dalit, Pagan, Wicca, Gay, Falun Dafa, Tutsi, Bosnians, or other minority or the powerless. You know your painful story.
Oddly, chasing-out took several avatars in the guise of civility; creating reservations and the idea of ‘paying to move’ was born. In 1649 the Puritans paid a stipend to Solomon Franco, the first Jewish man to step on American soil to go back to Holland. Indeed, the Jewish people have the longest recorded history of enduring oppression; the birth of Israel gave hopes of security and peace to them. Thus, protection of Israel became their prime motivator followed by instinctive involvement in affairs of the nation, and the disproportionate representation will continue until they feel secure.
Gays, lesbians and Muslims are next in line to seek representation in governance and at the beginning it will be a disproportionate representation. I am writing a book to nurture a balanced approach for Muslims with this theme: “What is good for Muslims has got to be good for others and vice-versa to sustain a balance in a cohesive society.”
It will take some time and momentum for members of Congress to be truthful about their affiliation and it is getting closer. When I came to America some thirty years ago, I was taken back by the bizarre looks when I said I was an atheist. It was not acceptable. Indeed it was demonic to be an atheist then.
America has come a long way in accepting and absorbing the non-majoritarian norms and practices into her mainstream and the strand of political representation of minorities was born out of necessity. The need for security will continue to drive groups to seek representation, and until such time we become a cohesive society and accept the otherness of other as legitimately as our own, the pendulum will swing from over-representation to under-representation.
Thank God for the vision of the founding fathers to inculcate and nurture the values of separation of state and church, the biggest contributor towards the political stability of our nation and our way of life, a value we need to worship.