At a time when representation of minority groups is an extremely hot and often “controversial” topic, I was struck by a recent article hailing the first Sikh city council member to ever be elected in Connecticut.
For context, Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world, originating in what is now India and Pakistan in the 15th century, with more than 25 million followers around the world (and half a million of those living in the U.S.).
Swaranjit Singh is the history-making candidate and new city council member in Norwich, Connecticut. But it was this quote from him about his approach to the job that caught my attention most: “It’s for the people of Norwich and for how to make our city a better place—simple as that.”
As a Scientologist, I have spent many hours of my life auditing, a very specific type of spiritual counseling that allows an individual to look at his past and completely handle anything upsetting that might be affecting him in the present in ways he may or may not be aware of. The auditing I’ve received has been life changing in every sense of the word and has made me a much happier, calmer, more confident and more present person in my own life.
As a byproduct of some of that auditing I have been able to look back on experiences that preceded this lifetime. It was not a part of my cultural upbringing to think in terms of having lived before, so this was a very new and fascinating experience for me. I now have vivid memories of previous lives that are as real to me as anything I experience in the present.
“It’s for the people of Norwich and for how to make our city a better place—simple as that.”
Inevitably, it also became a reality for me that I haven’t always been a white, American man. Statistically it’s not surprising that this would be the case. But it’s quite something to see the world through the lens of an identity far removed from your current circumstances. The outcome for me has been a greater empathy for and sense of brotherhood with humankind than I’ve ever had before.
And so I return to Councilman Singh’s quote that he is there to serve the entire community rather than simply represent a specific group. I have come to a greater-than-ever appreciation of the unique beauty that diversity brings to our culture. The gorgeous variations in language, culture, food, clothing and customs are part of what make this planet such an endlessly fascinating place to be.
The idea that every group, every religion, every individual can come together and contribute to their community by putting the needs of the entire community first is, for me, what America is all about. I applaud the people of Norwich, Connecticut, for recognizing this individual as someone who clearly puts the needs of others ahead of his own. The more varied and unique the pool of people we can draw from to find such selfless individuals, the stronger and better off our republic will be.