Mocking Chicago’s Unity Month should not be construed as mocking unity itself, however. One glance at Iraq is enough to remind us that sectarianism is one of society’s great malign forces, and we need to do all we can to make sure that it never takes root here. To do that, we need to talk to one another, listen to one another, respect one another. Even a wisenheimer like me knows that.
I had lunch last week with Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Chicago office. It wasn’t a Unity Month event, but an ad hoc event whose occurrence bodes well for the future.
We met after I printed — in my typical offhand manner — a casual slur against Egypt, where Rehab was born and raised. Most people, finding their homeland insulted, would have responded in an equally harsh fashion and we’d have one of those exchanges of nastiness that clog the Internet.
Rehab didn’t — he expressed his disappointment emphatically but politely, and I suggested we have lunch.
The more you talk to people, the more you understand that they are just that: people.