There’s a small city called Monroe (pop. just under 14,000) near where I live. If you drive down the main drag you may notice a sign that gives it’s identifying slogan, i.e.
MONROE: INTEGRITY – COMMUNITY.
One would be hard pressed to come up with two words that present a higher societal goal. But the usage of words often changes with time, doesn’t it?
The Latin word, communitatem, originally had to do with the idea of “fellowship,” and eventually was used to refer to a “society,” or a group of people living in a given area. The people in a community might be different in many ways, but what united them was their locality. They solved common problems together, socialized with one another, and struggled with one another, too.
The community was a melting pot. People who were more alike found it easier to be around one another (homogeneous groups and all that sort of thing) because of language, customs, temperament, etc. However, when there was a threat from outside the community they rallied together to defend their neighbors. This was especially true in agrarian societies where the threat of inclement weather, wildfire, or infestations of insects presented a regular threat.
Fast forward to the present day usage of “community” in this country. In Monroe . . . at least on a city sign, it still represents the group of people who live there: black, white, oriental, etc.; rich, poor, middle-class; religious, non-religious; Republicans, Democrats and independents. Inclusive.
But on the airwaves the word has taken on a definition that is anything BUT inclusive. And I fear it is unraveling the fabric of this nation. I fear it will be our undoing.
“Community” now is often an exclusive term, because it no longer implies a melting pot of different people united; rather, it accentuates the differences in people, and seeks to divide them. It promotes a subset of the population as if the whole has less value than the parts.
And so, by way of exaggerated illustration, I want to announce two new communities and add them to the fray.
(1) I am concerned about that lack of attention given to the particular needs of third generation Swedish immigrant males in their mid-60s (especially those with orphaned grandmothers).
(2) Don’t get me started on the total absence of press given to the 8 year old adopted southern white male population.
Now you can say that I am being insane . . . and I would not disagree (that might be my point). But when a nation such as ours tolerates the whines and antics of more and more fragmented special interest groups it endangers the future for everyone, just like a parent who elevates the demands of a two-year-old and fails to guide them into maturity.
We are a splintered nation, rallying around, blustering about, spouting forth our uninformed cries for justice and equality as we slowly erode the foundation upon which we stand. It is the quicksand of modern times; like anger, it eats the purveyor from within while it antagonizes those it attacks.
We are learning to hate our law enforcement officers, distrust our politicians, seek for damages and reparations whenever possible, because you never know when you might have been wronged but you are pretty sure you probably have been. We are reducing ourselves to the lowest moral component – selfishness; and we applaud it.
I think we need to rethink what it means to be a community. We need leaders in ALL our so-called “communities” (LGBTQ, Latino, Native-American, etc.) to promote unity instead of division, to work for equality not endless paybacks, to value the whole more than the individual parts.
In a recent NPR broadcast regarding marijuana attention was given to the fact that a disproportionate percentage of minorities are incarcerated for possession of small amounts of the substance. The proposed solution? Stop making it illegal, because it clearly punishes a particular “community.”
Really? That’s the solution?
Think of how many needless federal, state, and local laws we could abolish. And silly rules in our educational system.
Yet, that is the growing point of view in America. We promote bad behavior and fluctuating standards. If not enough minorities earn Academy Awards then there must be something wrong with how we award them. Right?
Is equality important? Yes! Is justice worth fighting for? Indeed! But achievement is cheapened when standards are lowered, and self-esteem is damaged by privilege, not enhanced.
That’s where the City of Monroe has it right. Integrity . . . and Community. But . . . that is for another blog post.