Utica, after all, has a long tradition of being a "melting pot" -- a place where people of different races, ethnicities, and religions are welcomed -- a place where the stirring incantation of the call to prayer each Friday from the new mosque next to City Hall has become as familiar as the noontime chiming of traditional Christian hymns from Grace Episcopal Church or the noontime factory whistle.
The "melting pot" works in Utica because its diverse groups of people tolerate and respect each others' sensibilities and traditions -- including respect for the dominant culture. How could it be a "melting pot" otherwise? Respect for the dominant culture -- or lack of it -- explains why a new mosque in Utica raised nary an eyebrow while one proposed for New York City created a firestorm of controversy.
Context is the key to understanding everything.
Now, a new tactic is being tried per this story out of the O-D: Festivus group celebrates outside fire station. The corner of Shepherd Place and Sunset Avenue would seem to be an unlikely place to "celebrate" "feats of strength" and "airing of grievances" unless the celebration is not really a celebration, but, rather, a protest against that humble little "Happy Birthday Jesus" sign.
This was no spontaneous "celebration." It was advertised in the local paper the day before, and in the Syracuse paper on the day of. The organizer is a Utica College adjunct who has political connections and has mobilized activists.
There is nothing wrong with organization and mobilization. Free speech is valued. . . But what are they promoting?
The Festivus group, meanwhile, is calling for other local religions to request the fire department post signs representing their faiths to foster feelings of unity and togetherness in the city during the holiday season.If the fire department received such calls, what would be the response? Post other signs? Remove the original sign? Ignore the calls?
Posting other signs would dilute and confuse the firefighters' simple message about the meaning of Christmas. . . . A victory for anti-Christians.
Removing the sign would be a victory for those who would remove religion from the public square altogether.
Ignoring calls would make other groups feel slighted or discriminated against. . . . A victory for those who would exploit our differences.
Utica, the "Town that Loves Refugees," needs no group of activists to "foster feelings of unity and togetherness." Far from "bringing everybody up," the "Festivus" group's tactics would undo Utica by shutting off or confusing certain messages while setting groups of people against each other.
True to their "live and let live" nature, Uticans ignored the Festivus' call -- this time. But those who would divide us for political gain, though few in number, are strategically located, highly organized, and know how to use the media.
Perhaps this is what political 'science' is all about . . . right, professor?