One of the more interesting things about our brief visit to Las Vegas was how diverse the place seems to be.
In my walks navigating through the throngs of people up and down the Strip — which is a pretty good place for both walking and people watching — I saw people of all colors, shapes, and sizes (and, frequently, degrees of inebriation) taking in the sights. The shirts people wear tell you that the place is a magnet for bachelorette parties, family reunions, conventions, and other small-scale get-togethers for people from all over, and you’ll hear lots of people speaking other languages as you walk by. Las Vegas is like a microcosm of the American “melting pot” idea, reduced to city size.
Which raises the question: why are so many different people drawn to a place like Las Vegas? I’m sure that a lot of people just like the prospect of gambling, drinking, and otherwise cutting loose in a place that is legendary for its consequence-free, “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” mentality. More broadly, though, I think many people are seeking a little spectacle and energy to break the routine and spice up their lives. Las Vegas — with its neon, and fantastic buildings, and “anything goes” ‘tude — supplies it.
Kish and I have friends and acquaintances who happen to be Muslims. We’ve shared meals with them and celebrated special events with them. They live in our town, have worked with us, and are related to our friends. They are people we know and like and trust. We don’t fear them because Islam is their religion.
I’m quite sure that we’re not unusual in knowing and working with Muslims. America still remains a melting pot where people of different nationalities, colors, and faiths can come and pursue their dreams, without being shackled by caste systems or tribal ancestry or corrupt political systems. In America, a person’s religious faith is just one aspect of their persona. It doesn’t immutably define them, and it certainly shouldn’t cause them to be targeted.
That’s why comments like the one Ted Cruz made yesterday are so . . . appalling. In the wake of the latest ISIS-supported bombings, in Brussels, Cruz said that “we need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized,” and that America cannot be confined by “political correctness.” But America isn’t like Europe, where in many cities Muslim immigrants live in separate neighborhoods, never learn the language, and never become integrated. What would define a “Muslim neighborhood” in America? Would Hamtramck, Michigan, be one? That’s America’s first majority Muslim city — and it also happens to be where our son Russell lives and works. How would police patrols “secure” such “Muslim neighborhoods” and prevent them from becoming “radicalized”? Does anyone really think that police car drive-bys or foot patrols are going to keep receptive young men and women from falling prey to the terrorist teachings of ISIS? And while I think there are times when political correctness can run amok, it isn’t “political correctness” that prevents targeting people because of their religion — it’s basic American principles that flow from the First Amendment.
I’m as interested as anyone in defeating ISIS, but we have to focus on the terrorists, not their religion. People are more likely to become radicalized when they are disaffected, and dividing people and targeting “Muslim neighborhoods” with a heavily armed police presence sure seems like a good recipe for creating disaffected people. The better course, I think, is to do what America always does — accept people, welcome them, and let them pursue their dreams in a country that is free and full of opportunity for all — and then make sure that we find and crush the terrorists who are slaughtering innocents because of some sick and twisted ideology.
As Richard moves west to Missouri to begin a new chapter, we’ll also be saying so long to Chicago as a regular destination point.
For years now, while Richard attended Northwestern and worked as a tutor in local public schools, we’ve been visiting Chicago periodically. It is a great world city, and the jewel of the American Midwest. We’ve enjoyed its impressive skyline, fine restaurants, and grand parks and public spaces. I’ve also been impressed by Chicago’s focus on preserving and celebrating the proud ethnicity of its people; like New York City, it is one of the places where the concept of the American “melting pot” — in which people of different ethnic backgrounds are tossed into the cauldron, and something new and different and interesting is produced — really seems to have occurred. Chicago has its problems, like lots of murders and a political culture with a history of corruption, but for us it will always be a place with many fine memories.
The only thing I won’t miss about Chicago is the ridiculous traffic. No matter when we’ve come here, and what odd hour has marked our arrival, we’ve always been snarled in bumper-to-bumper traffic jams on the Dan Ryan Expressway. If I were Dan Ryan, I’d ask that my name be removed from that godforsaken stretch of highway.