Mike Ruby

Mike Ruby

For most Americans, December is a month of joy and celebration. We hear the words "Peace on Earth and Goodwill for All." Unfortunately, those words are often short lived and forgotten by the start of the New Year.

Occasionally, when I need a mental break, I watch reruns of TV shows that were popular decades ago. All in the Family, with Archie and Edith Bunker, is a show that explored topics never to be addressed on TV before -- the deep seated bigotry of so many people. Their son-in-law, Michael (Meat Head) was always at odds with Archie about his extreme prejudice.

Sadly, my father, who died in 1996, was raised in a home environment of extreme prejudice. As a result, my dad had deeply ingrained biases of people who did not look like, act like, or worship like him. I’m just thankful he was not nearly as prejudiced as Archie Bunker.

As an adolescent, I learned to not challenge Dad when he made prejudiced comments. It was very clear how he viewed divorced people, black people and Catholics. His viewpoints saddened me, but I knew better than to defy him like Meat Head did. In April 1989, Dad nearly went into orbit when his 27-year-old granddaughter (my niece) married a wonderful college professor who was -- you guessed it -- divorced, black and Catholic. Today, this man is a highly respected, tenured professor at a major university and they are proud parents of two high-achieving, educated, young adults.

For many years, Jo Anne and I have had dozens of guests in our home from at least 15 countries and it’s been an enriching experience. Some guests couldn’t speak a word of English, but we communicated with apps on our smartphones. We were reminded of the universal language that we all understand -- warm smiles, laughter, hugs, and invitations to sit at our table. In addition, we have been guests in about 25 different homes in Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Europe, and it’s always been a delightful, heartwarming adventure.

Yes, it’s normal to feel somewhat uncomfortable when placed in an environment with people from different cultures, customs and beliefs, but it’s a fantastic opportunity to broaden our perspective and see the world through different eyes. It’s been said that if every teenager in the world had the opportunity to be an exchange student in another culture for a full year, there would no longer be war. I believe that.

In this season of Peace On Earth and Goodwill for All we need to do our part to live out these words long after the holiday decorations are dismantled. Let’s live these words and attitude all year long.

Mike Ruby is a Muscatine resident who writes a monthly column for the Journal.

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