Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Opus for U.S. Attorney

According to an article in today's Washington Post, this week's batch of internal documents turned over to Congress in the conflict over the firings of eight U.S. Attorneys, reveals how Kyle Sampson, a former aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who resigned last week, referred to one of those eight:
The new records show that Sampson called one prosecutor, David C. Iglesias of New Mexico, a "diverse up-and-comer."
The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word diverse as an adjective with two meanings:

1. Differing one from another. 2. Made up of distinct characteristics,qualities, or elements.

Mr. Iglesias is no doubt "made up of distinct characteristics, qualities, or elements." For example, a New York Times reporter mentions his "good looks, evangelical upbringing and Hispanic heritage." However, the most likely reason that Mr. Sampson called Mr. Iglesias diverse is the last of these. If this is true, Mr. Sampson was improperly using language meant for a group in order to refer to an individual. A diverse salad is one made up of many different kinds of foods, such as carrots, spinach, onions, nuts, or cheese--foods "differing one from another." One does not ordinarily talk about a single diverse carrot.

The word diverse points out a relationship. When people call a group diverse, they are referring to differences among the members. One possible danger of confusing language about groups with language about individuals is that it can contribute to our tendency to see individuals as merely useful parts of groups that we create for our own ends, rather than seeing those individuals as ends in themselves, that is, as having intrinsic dignity.

Besides the dictionary, the Sunday comics can also give us some proper diversity education. There, two Sundays ago, a couple of kids building a snowman argued about whether "a major national figure of intellectual prominence" was or was not "authentically black." The following week, while petitioning the U.S. Department of Groups to be known as "Dude of Color," that figure, Opus the anxious penguin, transformed from his normal black and white self into something like a "tutti-frutti" rainbow. Now that's a diverse up-and-comer!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Simple Truth

"If one says of what is that it is, or of what is not that it is not, he speaks the truth; but if one says of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, he does not speak the truth."

--Peter Kreeft's fictional version of C. S. Lewis, drawing upon Aristotle, in
Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialogue Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley (Downer’s Grove IL: InterVarsity Press, 1982), 27.