Why the U.S. is an anomaly among democracies | Eboo Patel

Why the U.S. is an anomaly among democracies | Eboo Patel


So there’s a great book by Michael Walzer
called What It Means to Be an American. And one of the things that he says is that
for centuries, really from the time of the Greeks, political philosophers believed that
the only way to have diversity in a society was for it to be an empire or a dictatorship. If you wanted a democracy it had to be homogenous—one
ethnic group, one racial group, and especially one religion. And then he ends that section and he begins
the next section with the line: “…Until the United States of America.“ We are the first mass-scale religiously diverse
democracy, and I think that’s a remarkable thing. And when a religiously diverse democracy works
well it’s a sight to behold. You have low levels of prejudice, you have
strong social cohesion, you have high levels of social capital, you have respect for different
identity communities, you have the narrative of a diverse society that binds that society
with a sense of unity. And a lot of what Interfaith Youth Core is
about is helping America continue to be a religiously diverse democracy that we all
ought to be proud of. So, what strikes me most about the founding
fathers (and a set of important figures before the founding fathers, people like Roger Williams
and the people who drafted the Flushing Remonstrance, that’s 140 years before the founding fathers),
was that this set of characters imagined a religiously diverse democracy. And a big part of that is the separation of
church and state, and a part of that, of course, is to protect the state from the church and
to protect religious communities from undue interference by the state. And it is also, significantly, about the welcoming
of contributions from diverse religious communities. And so it’s not like the founding fathers
were principally very devout people, but they recognized the importance of the civic contributions
of religious communities and they certainly wanted those communities to flourish. Let me give you a couple of examples of this. So Benjamin Franklin when he lived in Philadelphia
made proactive donations to the building funds of every religious community that he could
find in Philadelphia, different communities of Christians, a Jewish community, and he
built a hall so at the pulpit of this hall would be open to the preaching of anybody. If the Grand Mufti of Constantinople wants
to send somebody preaching about Islam this pulpit is here for his service. That’s not just freedom of religion, that’s
welcoming the contributions of diverse religious communities. George Washington, when a Jewish leader in
the late 18th century says to him, “What’s going to happen to my community, to us Jews
now that we have a new nation, a constitution, and you are the president?” And George Washington writes, in a famous
document in American history called the Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport Rhode
Island, he writes, “This government will give to bigotry no sanction and to persecution
no assistance. May the children of the stock of Abraham sit
in safety under their own vine and fig, and let there be none to make them afraid.” So where is the sense that these different
religious communities are going to help make up the civil society that is the United States
of America. I think about it as a potluck nation, and
of course, that’s a play on the term “melting pot.” And what I don’t like about “the melting
pot” is obviously this notion that you have to kind of melt away your identity or your
distinctiveness. I think what makes America strong is not that
different communities melt away their identities, it’s that they bring their identities to
the common table in the way we think about a potluck. And a potluck is boring if everybody brings
Wonder Bread and peanut butter. A potluck is wonderful and nutritious and
festive when people bring the various dishes that are distinctive to their identity. That’s how I think about interfaith: America
is a variety of communities, a variety of orientations around religion, as I said it
from Atheists to Zoroastrian, are contributing the best of who they are for the commons. If different communities don’t contribute,
the nation doesn’t feast.

100 thoughts on “Why the U.S. is an anomaly among democracies | Eboo Patel

  1. First and best being confused is so odd do we still use 300 years old public transport? No Americans use no public transport?

  2. That stupid potluck metaphor again. Yes, different cultures are awesome in any type of food or music reference. Different cultures do not do well when you're attempting to fit them all into one rule of law that will make them all happy.

  3. Stop being surprised that people can learn to get along despite their differences. Start being surprised that people can’t get along because of their superficial differences.

  4. See, America is unique in that you can definitiviely state a start of this happening. European democracies had to accomedate a rising ethnic diversity under various systems of government for a long while. Go back far enough, and co-existence with ethnic minorities can be seen when we still had monarchies all over the place.

  5. Wow this is leftist politically correct propaganda. In fact it’s this “diversity delusion” that has affected the United States and other western countries is starting to undermine our democracy. Social cohesion has been eroded and social unrest has sprung up as a direct result of unassimilated large groups of immigrants. Now I’m all for responsible immigration however the current lack of homogeneity in our society over this forced influx of diversity is what is tearing American values apart.

  6. The US has only been religiously diverse for about 10 years, so this experiment is hardly proven. 90% of your population being one religion is not diversity, which has been the case in America for all but the last decade.

  7. Welcoming contributions from diverse religious communities? Where? Here?
    This is just a little of what I've seen this past week:
    Louisiana Police Chief Sued (Again) for Forcing His Religion on Officers
    Illinois GOP Introduces Resolution Condemning Satanists’ “Snaketivity” Display
    Ozark (MO) Mayor Vows to Keep Cross in Park Because “This Is Christian County”
    Texas State Rep. Files Bill to Let Teachers Post Ten Commandments in Classrooms
    MI School Board Foolishly Votes to Keep “Three Wise Men” Display on School Roof
    Christians Protest Outside Ohio Courthouse After City Nixes Nativity Scene
    AR State Sen. Jason Rapert Briefly Kicked Off Twitter for Anti-Muslim Tweet
    Why Did a Georgia School District Host Assemblies With Christian Cosplayers?

  8. Not another spiel about American Exceptionalism. Yawn. Americans need to get over what their founding fathers and focus on fixing the huge problems facing their country today.
    .

  9. 1:37 "protect religious communities from undue interference from the state." that sounds great – what about when a religious community has policies that protect child sex abusers, like Jehovah's Witnesses do? and what about when a religious community has policies that interfere with basic human rights, such as being free to leave a religion, like Jehovah's Witnesses do when they force family and friends to shun former members?

  10. Your description of the strengths of America … Honestly sounds more like Canada. (Except we call it a "mosaic", not a "potluck".)

  11. The founding fathers thought of this nation they where building as religiously diverse? Is this guy on drugs or just a liar.
    The founding fathers designed this country to be a homogeneous white Christian country an extension of Europe and european people's. Only in very recent history has that changed through lies and deceit.

  12. We are a republic, not a pure democracy. The melting pot is needed to give people something in common. Without assimilation, the country will fall apart.

  13. It’s not a democracy. The word democracy is not mentioned in the Constitution. It’s a Constitutional Republic. Article 4, Section 4.

  14. I like the pot luck idea. But I won't believe we have one until I see Muslims, Hindi, Buddhists, Wiccans and atheists elected to Washington and state offices regularly. Better yet, how about it doesn't matter at all?

  15. I disagree with almost all his points on how he views the USA now.

    USA "democracy" is deteriorating or nonexistent to some people in the USA. The seperation between church and state? It's becoming very blur with Christians, especially in the south trying to merge education, courts and state with their Christian doctrine and in many states are succeeding.

    Religious tolerance in the USA? What? Pretty much all white Christians hate Muslims and Jews. Racial tolerance? Have you checked the latest gov't statistics? White nationalism and anti-immigration sentiment has risen 10 fold recently. Racial discrimination and hate crimes have spiked in the last 3 years. Hatred towards minorities is rampant. Seriously, I watch BIG THINK videos, most are educational, enlightening and offer a bit of wisdom and perspective but on this particular one, it failed miserably.

  16. I imagine this idea of religious inclusivity in the U.S. probably stems from its history. Many of the early colonies were set up as intentional religious communities. (The Amish continue this practice.) As the colonies moved from various religious settlements to a more unified fledgling nation (mostly unified by a common enemy in King George), there was a concern about how to make one nation out of several colonies without alienating the majority of religious communities, so having a secular federal government seemed like the most logical compromise. Of course, nowadays, religion has been more or less supplanted by the political parties. We've become unified in our division.

  17. Respect for different communities. HA!

    There is a lot of responsibility that goes with so much freedom. Many americans are showing that they cannot handle the freedom. They are actively trying to take away the freedom again. I.E. political correctness

  18. As USA's diversity grows, you will see those ancient words play out again. You can already see it, people are shifting towards their demographic camps for political action, can't have a democracy alongside that.

    America was not an exception, it's just a story that it told itself to make itself feel better about the period of slavery, segregation, and how it has triumphed over it, but really it was easy to peddle this story with 90% European and 95% Christian country, the real test is yet to follow. I'm skeptical that the ideas displayed in this video will hold, but we'll see.

  19. I dont think so, the notion of religious diversity is just not at all the case. Not until a period after 65 did non-whites really begin to immigrate in larger numbers into the country. The nation, even today, still mostly has christian values underpinning it. Extending that benjamin franklin story to islam is totally intellectually dishonest. The truth is that someone had to meet the qualification of a "free white person of good character" in the citizenship clause of the constitution. In fact, this was repealed and re-added in an updated version, so this was neither a fluke nor a mistake. Wishful thinking is all this video really is.

  20. You've ignored the most important point of all: cultural miscability.

    Empires were to a degree successful because they forced compatability between religions and normalised (integrated) different, conqured cultures. And it's similar in the US. If you don't integrate or altenatively find a large enough already etrenched community (e.g. Amish) then you're going to have major problems, and it's this forced compatability which makes the US so successful as a polytheistic country.

    And it's this very lack of encouragement of normalisation which is currently creating major problems in European societies.

  21. The US is a pure democracy run by a homogeneous group called major corporations who share the same religion of resources and currency.

    This guy is an idiot.

  22. Please refresh my memory – is there any "indian" temple or religion officially in USA? And by "indian" I mean the people who were there before the others come in with guns, not the taxi drivers in New York from actual India. What about respecting them and their community to death? What about slaves? Was any USA government paying attention to their religion or cultural identity for centuries? Nope! In this case, if only white people who exterminated the others count then yes you have a democracy à la françaisse: we took the Liberte to give more Egalite for our Fraternite and kill the others. USA was build like all empires at that time: blood, blood and more blood. It seem that they are still building: dead bodies count is going up!

  23. What a great viewpoint! Welcoming diverse contributions from anyone, from anywhere, is the road to a golden age. Mewling fear is the fastest route to irrelevance, impotence, and poverty.

  24. The best laid plans that are on paper always seem to go astray.
    We can talk about mythical "democracy" but what we have is an oligarchy
    and the Koch brothers are a big part of that okligarchy. The illusion of democracy 
    is the citizen's right to vote, but it ends there. We have very little input into whom 
    the candidates are and no matter who gets elected, we always wind up in the same 
    spot on the slippery downward slope.

    We are presented with an economic system that appears to give choices, 
    but demands our participation no matter our stationin life. Rich, poor, and even 
    the homeless are coerced into paying homage and sweat into the system.

    The folly of this video is that it is funded by the Koch brothers, two very rich 
    men who are engineering society and education through their many
    organizations. While they try to define what "democracy" should be, they
    are at the same time denying our input. In other words, they are full of shit 
    and propaganda. This video is more of the same and it has proven that it
    just doesn't work. All one has to do is to look at the existing racism and the
    hatred that exists between religions.

    We must also remember that the founding fathers were politicians and said 
    one thing in public and another in private.

    Here are quotes from Geoge Washington and Ben Franklin :

    "This tribe of black gentry (reference to the so-called "jews.") work more effectually 
    against us, than the enemy’s arms. They are a hundred times more dangerous to our 
    liberties, and the great cause we are engaged in. It is much to be lamented that each 
    State, long ere this, has not hunted them down as pests to society, and the greatest 
    enemies we have to the happiness of America." — George Washington

    "I fully agree with General Washington, that we must protect this young nation from an 
    insidious influence and impenetration. The menace, gentlemen, is the Jews. In whatever 
    country Jews have settled in any great numbers, they have lowered its moral tone; 
    depreciated its commercial integrity; have segregated themselves and have not been 
    assimilated; have sneered at and tried to undermine the Christian religion upon which 
    that nation is founded by objecting to its restrictions; have built up a state within a state; 
    and when opposed have tried to strangle that country to death financially, as in the case 
    of Spain and Portugal.

    "For over 1700 years the Jews have been bewailing their sad fate in that they have been 
    exiled from their homeland, they call Palestine. But, Gentlemen, should the world today give 
    it to them in fee simple, they would at once find some cogent reason for not returning. Why? 
    Because they are vampires, and vampires do not live on vampires. They cannot live only 
    among themselves. They must subsist on Christians and other people not of their race.
    "If you do not exclude them from these United States, in this Constitution in less than 200 
    years they will have swarmed in such great numbers that they will dominate and devour the 
    land, and change our form of government, for which we Americans have shed our blood, 
    given our lives, our substance and jeopardized our liberty.

    "If you do not exclude them, in less than 200 years our descendants will be working in the 
    fields to furnish them sustenance, while they will be in the counting houses rubbing their hands. 
    I warn you, Gentlemen, if you do not exclude the Jews for all time, your children will curse you 
    in your graves. Jews, Gentlemen, are Asiatics; let them be born where they will, or how many 
    generations they are away from Asia, they will never be otherwise. Their ideas do not conform 
    to an American's, and will not even though they live among us ten generations. A leopard cannot 
    change its spots.

    "Jews are Asiatics, they are a menace to this country if permitted entrance and should be 
    excluded by this Constitution." — Ben Franklin

    Also note that Franklin refers to the so-called "jews" as Asiatics. Even back then it was 
    recognized that the majority of "jews" were Asiatics which has been proven that most
    are Khazarian descendents of Turkish and Mongol extraction.

  25. Yeahhhhh we're not accepting of plural cultures. Honestly bc of the religiosity of the masses, it's actually less accepting than secular but historically mono-religious Europe. The founding fathers' democratic ideals and the realities of modern implementation do not match up, and this is a laughable attempt to whitewash the crisis in culture we have today with nearly half of Americans stuck in a medieval view of anyone who is not a fellow white christian.

  26. Every single uneducated lefty in this comments section thinks that America is not a democracy.

    To them, I ask you this, give me an example of “real democracy”.

    You most likely won’t find one.
    America is by all accounts, a democratically governed nation. You do not get to redefine terms to suit your arguments, sorry. It’s really that simple.

    Prove me wrong
    Or change my mind
    Or whatever

  27. While this is true of the American ideal as established by the founding fathers, it’s not exclusive to the US and it’s not as well realized as it is in other democracies. These ideals are better represented in Canada and Switzerland than in the US.

  28. His example at 2:05 is explicitly defining the building of a Freemason temple. Masons allow men of any religion to join as long as they believe in some God.

  29. And here I am, risking to get mass hate left and right – mostly right – for asking if the mentioned low prejudice there should be added of "… in comparison to *other country or global numbers", if strong social cohesion should be added of "…untill politics", America is a religiously diverse democracy "…but islam is a no no, satanism is a death death, african religions are satanism and you should be either christian or skeptic", high level of social capital "… untill the stereotype of the homeless veteran was born", respect of different identity communities "…because fighting and provocation based on origin is a myth" and the sense of unity is just nationalism and nothing more.

    You sure USA is the best? We can be proud of at least what the founding fathers planned

  30. pffff… separation of church and state, my ass. America has it's lips wrapped around the christian god's cock so hard.

  31. This gentleman is a deluded fantasist. The Democratic value in this society is bigotry be it ethnic, political, religious or economic. Intolerance is and has been a cornerstone of the American way of life, now the President publicly espouses these "Democratic Values" and still has a very large support base. So much for a well ordered and fair society.

  32. B.S. What the 'founding fathers' (I hate that term and usage) had in mind was Jewish and Catholicism, the Judeo-Christian legacy. Can we really think that any western democracy is far from having a Judeo-Christian bias?

  33. The US is a Democratic Constitutional Republic … always has been. Never has it been a Democracy, however it IS partially based on democratic ideals.

  34. He was wrong right out of the gate when he said that America was a democracy we are not a democracy we're a Republic since the day we became a country case in point the electoral college

  35. Democracy does not exist. All government is totalitarian/despotic in nature basically being a single person's vision of Utopia despite opposition and other branches within the government. The closest we could ever get to a true democracy is through a libertarian system or full on mob rule.

  36. I lived in the US for 28 and so odd years. Did I ever experienced prejudice? Certainly. …Hate ? Not that I might’ve notice. Ignorance is a bliss, I concur. Still an American Citizen and living abroad , I am proud of my American experience.

    I worked at a company that sold telecom gear , and in particular to African countries. They used to send African American install techs to set up gear and train. Back from those trips they never got tired to say, We don’t know how good we have here as Blacks in America. And we all agree that Blacks had it worse , even worse than non Americans , for many many decades. Or centuries.

    Truth is, unless you live in certain European Countries , and if you want to assemble and express your own faith , ethnical cultures, and beliefs , then chances are you are at peril.

    Back in America those same warring groups , with few exceptions, are coexisting in peace. True , we have enclaves. And they are a way for new entrants to survive in an Alien culture, through food shopping, religion, language barriers , getting jobs, creating their own aid societies.

    The fact remains , skeptical ones aside, that we have it great and we do not realize it. And Canada has gotten even better, so do not discount how the Canadian Government is promoting diversity. So props to Trudeau ( There will be Canadians who might not agree with me , and I concede I know little about Canada Politics ).

    For those who do not know , the surname Patel, is popular in the Indian State of Gujarati. It comes from ancient India, where a class of hard nosed business people emerged from the sharecropper system at the time of Marajahs. Patel’s were the accountants or bean counters of yesteryear. A vital link between land owners and the actual sharecroppers.

    If you check the names under every managed limited and economy service hotel chain in the US , well over 50% of the names under ownership and management is a Patel. Their offspring are moving into Full Service Hotels. Back in the early days , bankers and insurance brokers refused them service on their property acquisitions. These days they own their own banks.

    Bad presidencies we had, concentration of capital and power is nothing new to Americans. Notice how Mr Patel brings in the name of Roger Williams. A man of tolerance who offered a way out for persecuted religious leaders and refugees, Ann Hutchinson being one. He brings all in perspective , that we do experience times of intolerance when true compromising leaders step up big.

    Written by a Brazilian norm, Portuguese American stock American Citizen.

  37. What a joke this video is… India is the most diverse, largest democracy in world… USA is at least bound by same language… India doesn't even have same language… forget the ethnicity, religion etc… still Indian minorities like Muslims are far off better than minorities in USA like blacks…

  38. What a steaming pile of shit. Just an outright lie all of this is. I'm going to shitlord the fuck out of this video.

  39. What a pile of shit this guy is. You think this is big thinking? What a fucking joke. Some honeydicking nonsense here. Fake fake fake fucking fake.

  40. Fuck religion its whats wrong with the world! And our founding fathers hated the church they are what I call real Masons!!!!! We have turned into a nazi dictatorship where most of our people are in prison!

  41. That's because the U.S. isn't a democracy. The U.S. is (supposed to be, kinda was for a little bit) a constitutionally bound federal Republic with democratically elected representatives.

    Democracy is majority oppression of the minority.

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