Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You? NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

Finally, I'd like to have a word about respecting difference. If you listened to Friday's program you may have caught the segments we aired on the Jewish holiday of Passover, which starts today. We had a fun chat about what to do with any leftover matzoh, the unleavened bread which plays essential role in the holiday, especially in the traditional Seder meal.

But we set the table, if you will, with a Passover primer, for which we called on Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Ohev Sholom, the national Synagogue in Washington, D.C., who visits with us from time to time to tell us more about Jewish traditions and observances. Well, it turns out there was more to tell.

After our conversation, Rabbi Herzfeld let me know that he had sued the Washington, D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics over a special election scheduled for April 26th to fill seats on the D.C. City Council and school board. April 26 is the last day of Passover, an observance Jews are not permitted to write or initiate electronic activity on such a day, at least not until 8:40 p.m. in our part of the world when the holiday officially ends.

So Rabbi Herzfeld had written to the elections board no to ask them to change the day of the election, mind you, but just to hold open the polls until 10 PM just two hours later than scheduled to allow those who wished to vote the opportunity to do so. The city said no. So the rabbi filed suit.

Can I just tell you? It is amazing to me that at the very moment the citys leaders are complaining about being steamrolled by Congress on a couple of hot button issues because D.C. residence, although they pay federal taxes, do not have a vote in Congress, an issue I talked about in last week's commentary, that other city officials are so insensitive to the voting rights of a group of people simply because it is inconvenient.

It seems to me that there is no shortage of hypocrisy when it comes to diversity. Conservatives like to pretend that they don't care about diversity, especially not racial diversity, but anybody who is paying attention cannot help but notice that they are quick to push their nontraditional candidates and public figures to the front of the photo op. And we can all think of examples.

This is not to say that these folks are not qualified for whatever task for which they are being enlisted. Let's just say that in a big country like this one there is rarely one indispensable man or woman and conservatives, no less than others, have learned the value of having their message carried by unexpected people.

But liberals, or progressives, if you will, have their own issues with diversity, not the least of which is that they are sometimes unwilling to admit how uncomfortable, how annoying yes, how inconvenient it can sometimes be to accommodate people who are different, so they act as if it isn't happening.

We're going to see more of this. In many urban areas now, Latino and Asian populations have increased dramatically, according to new census figures -Latinos most of all - while the numbers of white and black residents are stagnant or declining. We see friction as these groups rub up against each other. But too often, what I see, is people pretending that the friction isn't there or that it will go away or they just go and withdraw altogether rather than face it and negotiate it. And I think this is particularly true when people are or believe themselves to be beleaguered.

I can see how a lot of people feel that they have enough problems of their own and no time for anybody else's. But there is no other choice but to make time, especially when you want other people to make time for your problems, which is exactly the case in this city.

With just over half a million residents and little or no voice in national affairs, D.C.s leaders need other people to care about our problems, even though its inconvenient. So it seems the least they can do is care about the voting rights of the minority when it's inconvenient, which is pretty much what the federal judge told them on Friday. His suggestion, extend early voting hours to Easter Sunday, which is next Sunday, and that the board agreed to do.

So somebody is going to be working next Easter Sunday. There's clearly a lesson in this, we can spend some time minimizing other people's discomfort or get ready to experience more of our own.

And that's our program for today. Im Michel Martin and you've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Lets talk more tomorrow.

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Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You? NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues