The first set of people I aggravated Tuesday were those of you who get angry when I don’t stick to financial topics.

To them I say — sorry. Read no further. Come back Monday.

The second set were those who thought I was too easy on at least a couple of Republicans. Sure, Senator McCain is a very fine man — and major kudos for his stands on tobacco and campaign finance reform. But, they asked, how about his voting to end a woman’s right to choose? against hiring new teachers and repairing public schools? against the Family Medical Leave Act? against equal rights for gays and lesbians? against the program that’s put nearly 100,000 more cops on the streets?

To them I say — oops! I can see why a lot of people would have problems with that record.

The third set couldn’t understand how I could be such an idiot. In particular on this issue of “diversity.”

Mitchell G: “Why is it that you are logical with money matters, but illogical with politics? Even you must see that your essay was immature and stunted. You wrote — “…you’ve got thirteen white guys.” Why must self-professed minorities see everything through the prism of race? It sadly scatters their position. Racial quotas are wrong. Follow this logic…all men are created equal. No man should have an advantage over the other because of their race, gender, creed, etc… It is just that simple, Andy. Real simple. If you don’t believe that, then by definition, you are a racist, a gender-hater, religion-hater, etc… Which one of those are you? Maybe you are more than one.”

Well, of course, as I said in that column, I don’t believe in quotas. And I sure hope I am not a hater. (I hate waste, but that’s different.) I actually thought I was being not only logical but — well, mathematical. If straight white non-Hispanic gentile males make up 35% of the population, then the chances of all 13 house managers matching that profile, if it were random, works out to one in a million. So was it just coincidence it worked out this way? Is that the logical explanation? Or might it be fair to conclude that the Republican Party does not celebrate diversity with quite the same enthusiasm as the Democratic Party?

Jordan B carries this a step further and makes a valid point: “Understanding that most people are not qualified for the job of House Manager, your calculation does not commensurately reduce the number of straight, non-white people ELIGIBLE for the position. Knowing that you are an intelligent person, I suspect that you have selectively ignored this fact in order to shamelessly further your cause. That’s disappointing.”

In other words, given the pool of congresspersons the Republican leadership had to choose from — where so many of them are straight white non-Hispanic gentile males — the odds of all 13 fitting this profile are nothing like one in a million. Maybe more like one in ten or something. I haven’t done the math.

Jordan is certainly right. (Taken to an exreme, if all congressmen fit this profile, then the odds of all 13 House managers’ matching it would be 100%!) I didn’t selectively ignore this, I just didn’t think of it in this way. My math was reflecting the entire U.S. population, essentially all of whom are eligible, once they turn 25, to serve in the House.

But, OK, then — why do most Republican congresspersons come from that special 35%? Is it really all just superior talent and effort? And in choosing the folks to showcase to the world in this televised trial, why would the Republican leadership choose to go the 100% route?

Democrats make more of an effort to find talented people of all kinds — both because all kinds of people are talented, but also as a way to provide role models and hope and encouragement to people who MAY be black or in wheel chairs or women or Hispanic or Jewish or gay or whatever.

Appropos of which Mike R writes: “Can I ask you a question that I dare not ask in public in this crazy Politically Correct world? Why is “diversity our strength?” Is it Yugoslavia’s strength? How about the Middle East or Central Africa? It seems to me this country has expended tremendous effort, time, and money on affirmative action, sexual harassment, etc. Is diversity good in our military? I guarantee you I would take an all-male force vs. an all-female force. If you watch the NCAA basketball tournament games this weekend, then please tell me where the diversity is on these college teams. Where are the whites and Latinos? Maybe diversity is lacking because the coaches are more concerned with performance than appearances.”

It’s a good honest question. But it has answers. The first thing I guess I’d say is that it is precisely because we don’t want to become a Yugoslavia, riddled with hatred and division and ultimately blowing apart, that we really need to celebrate our differences with humor and love rather than recoil from them with fear and distrust. (And I think we largely do. It’s one of our strengths.) But that isn’t exactly what Mike asked. He probably agrees with that. His question: why do you call diversity a “strength” rather than calling it, say, an “unfortunate handicap” we just need to learn to live with?

But let’s look at it in reverse. Would we be a stronger country if, like Japan, we were almost entirely homogeneous? If we could get rid of the Jews and the Asians, get rid of the blacks and the Latinos, get rid of the gays and the Catholics, get rid of the people in wheel chairs? Would our life be as rich without Michael Jordan? Without Christopher Reeve? Without Gloria Estefan? Would we have been a better nation had we never had a Martin Luther King, Jr.? Would our economy have been quite as successful had Roberto Goizueta not run the Coca Cola Company so brilliantly from 1981 to 1997? Which company would you rather invest in: one that draws from an almost unlimited talent pool, or one that handicaps itself by excluding the talents of certain groups?

Almost everyone agrees there shouldn’t be quotas. If a preponderance of basketball stars are African-American, so long as it’s based on merit, so be it. And we can laugh about it. Anybody see White Men Can’t Jump?

But it would be crazy for the NCAA not to allow white players, and equally crazy, if you ask me, for the military not to welcome women. “Is diversity good in our military?” asks Mike. “I guarantee you I would take an all-male force vs. an all-female force.” Well, so might I — if we had to choose one or the other. But the great thing is, we don’t. We have a wide and broad and wonderfully diverse talent pool to choose from, and this is a great strength. It is also a great pool of material for comedy and laughter . . . and for a shared sense of good fortune, that we live in a country where everyone doesn’t have to be the same to be welcome, to be appreciated, and to fit in.

 

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