Jennifer Wilber is an author and freelance writer from Ohio. She holds a B.A. in creative writing and English.
Walt Whitman’s New Eden
Walt Whitman had a vision for America of a “New Eden.” He took inspiration from nature, and the diversity present in the natural world, for his vision of a culture that celebrates human diversity and all of our differences. He recognized that humans were part of nature and that principles that apply to the natural world ought to apply to humanity as well. “As the greatest lessons of Nature through the universe are perhaps the lessons of variety and freedom, the same present the greatest lessons also in New World politics and progress (Ira Chernus).” He saw that the beauty of nature lies in its diversity, and saw humanity in the same light.
How Walt Whitman’s Vision Can Become Reality
This vision for American society can become a reality if people learn to better recognize the value of diversity. One reason why anti-diversity attitudes still exist is that many people tend to stick with people who are more similar to themselves in their daily lives. In the essay Is your world too white? Karen Ashmore lists ways for people in the racial majority of this county to recognize and deal with their racist attitudes in an effort to become more accepting of diversity. Ashmore states that exposing oneself to different cultures, ideas, and different types of people can help people to become more accepting of differences (Ashmore, 2009).
What About the Rest of the World?
This vision could extend to the rest of the world, but it will be more difficult in less-diverse countries. While there is still a lot of work to be done in America to achieve true acceptance of diversity, we do have the benefit of living in a very diverse country compared to many other countries. For example, there is very, very little diversity in South Korea, and people tend to have very nationalistic attitudes there. In speaking with South Korean immigrants, I’ve heard stories of how people view non-Korean people there and have been exposed to the types of bigoted attitudes that are taken for granted in that country. People from other non-diverse countries likely hold similar ideas as well due to a lack of exposure to other types of people. It will be more difficult to promote ideas that value diversity in countries with little racial diversity and a history of extreme national pride, but not impossible given enough time and education. Walt Whitman’s vision of a “New Eden” that values diversity in all of its forms could eventually be achieved in America and throughout the rest of the world.
Looking to the Future
As people continue to be exposed to other cultures and become more open to learning about other ways of life and unfamiliar people, America can continue to become a more accepting and welcoming place. With the internet, people around the world can more easily meet and learn about people from different cultures with different ideas, beliefs, and ways of life. As people become more aware of and accepting of diversity, the world can move closer to Walt Whitman’s vision of a New Eden.
Ashmore, Karen (2009). Is your world too white?. In The Matrix Reader: examining the dynamics of oppression and privilege (pp. 638-642). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Chernus, Ira (2013). Walt Whitman: The Mythology of Perfect and Free Individuals. Retrieved from www.mythicamerica.wordpress.com: https://mythicamerica.wordpress.com/alternatives-in-search-of-new-mythologies/walt-whitman-the-mythology-of-the-perfect-and-free-individual/
© 2018 Jennifer Wilber