On Our Knees

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Posted on : 11/10/2010 06:54:00 PM | By : Dann | In : ,

There was a photo that caused a stir recently.  In it a man nearly prostrated himself as Mr. Obama's motorcade passed by.  He assumed the position of the supplicant, begging for the scraps from the master's table.  The focus in this piece is on race.  The supplicant was black.  There are a few interesting thoughts for those that might be interested.

That image reminded me of a deep concern that I have that we are losing part of national identity.  We refer to the President and his paramour as our "First Couple".  The President's wife is called the "First Lady".

Those reference points harken back to the day when our nation's leader was considered to be "first among equals".  Presidents never thought to demand obeisance from a fellow American. 

This "first among equals" is revealed in other facets of our society.  One example is the union worker that expects to be considered the moral equal of the corporate officer.  He may earn less, and may not enjoy the same social circle, but his honest efforts are just as honorable as broader efforts of any captain of industry.

I am fortunate to know several people running companies that treat their employees as individuals first and employees second.  People that will shake someone's hand regardless of how manicured it may be, or how greasy it might be.  Suits can always be cleaned. 

It is this ideal that has driven our culture to expand our definitions of "person" and "equality" so that women are far closer to equality with men, minorities are far closer to equality with whites, and it does not require the greatest stretch of imagination to envision GLT folks as exercising the same rights as those of us with the more typical sexual orientations.

How might we lose this national identity that expects everyone to be considered morally equal?  Tribalism.   A clan-centric focus.  Placing a greater emphasis on smaller group identities and thereby denigrating our larger identity as "American".

When we start thinking that kneeling to an American President is an appropriate response to his passing in close proximity, we stop thinking of ourselves as being his....or perhaps her, someday....equal.  And in doing so we slowly lose part of what makes us Americans.

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