"Rites," by Emmanuela STANDARDS 

International Cultural Studies
 V7N2 Spring 2001 Revolutions




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While the ideas of conservative/fundamentalist America are hardly new, the typically strident pitch with which such ideas are now being argued betrays how acutely anxious many conservatives have come to feel, due to both real and anticipitated loss of privilege and power. What is more, arch-conservative rhetoric -- as should be evident to anyone watching our presidential elections for the past quarter century -- has found a certain public resonance. Difference, in the traditionalist outlook, has been regressively equated with disunity; and disunity with profound social chaos and collapse. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so, it seems, do many Americans with regard to the social-political myths by which they organize and make sense of their lives. Even a fundamentally flawed, repressive, inequitable social order seems to many better than none at all. A clear imperative thus confronts American progressives -- that intricate (and frequently fragile) web of communities comprised of people of color, feminists, gays and lesbians, the poor and working class, as well as ethnic whites who value ethnicity, indeed all who have been systematically disenfrancised and dehumanized under the once ascendant "traditional values" of pre-Civil Rights America.

It's no longer enough, if it ever was, to critique interlocking systems of oppression without offering affirming alternatives of how society should and can reconstitute itself. As we move into the inevitably more demanding multilingual, multicultural environment -- both nationally and globally -- of the next century, our greatest task will be an inversion of the commonly assumed equivalence between difference and disunity. We must re-write this equation, demonstrating again and again that unity does not require unanimity, that unity -- that is, a sense of social cohesion, of community -- can and does derive from the expression, comprehension, and active nurturing (and not merely tolerance or fetishization) of difference.


Marlon T. Riggs, 1995, from his Introduction to STANDARDS


Cover Image, "Rites," © 2001 by Emmanuela Copal de León

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