Phony “Communities”

As a “loner,” I might be criticized for my suspicion of the word “community.” It comes from Latin and provides the root for numerous other common words. Cómmune as a noun means a group of people living together and sharing possessions and responsibilities. As a verb, commúne can mean to relate to someone or something on a spiritual level as in commune with God or commune with nature. Most, if not all, of us belong to one community or another. Unless we are homesteaders or squatters living alone in the far reaches of a wilderness, we have hometowns that are governed by elected representatives. In ages past, such communities were formed to provide mutual protection from the rogues among us. Since then, our being part of a community makes us “insiders.” It gives us that warm, cozy feeling that comes with belonging. As such I cannot argue that community is not a good thing.

What, then, is my beef with the word community? The word is meant to be a limiter. It limits the members of a group to a feature or set of features that they all hold in common. They all live in the same place, or do the same thing for a living, or pray to the same God, or wear the same clothing (or uniforms), enjoy the same movies, root for the same team, etc. Unfortunately, in modern political discourse, the word has been stretched beyond its legitimate use, and we hear reference to groups that are so diverse that the word community doesn’t fit. Why is that so? Because it’s a way for someone to create an illusion that he/she finds politically advantageous. Its use is designed to suggest that members of a given group form a “community” of people with common interests. Like all illusions, though, it is misleading, an attempt to make it appear that there is a community where one does not exist.

Take, for example, the “Black Community.” This label is used by those who want to create the illusion that all black people share the same goals as, say, Al Sharpton; that somehow Thomas Sowell, Ben Carson, and Condoleeza Rice all have much in common with Trayvon Martin, Tawana Brawley, and Jeremiah Wright. “Hispanic Community” suggests that the Latin Kings are part of the same “community” as Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Linda Chavez. And consider one of the most ludicrous constructs ever produced by the mind of man, the “World Community.” Vladimir Putin’s activities in Crimea and the rest of Ukraine, we are told, will cause him to be isolated by the “World Community.” Are we to believe that such a thing actually exists; that China, Cuba, Syria, Israel, Iran, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, Belize, Bhutan, Germany, and Brazil will unite in condemnation of Putin’s machinations? Please. Let’s enjoy those legitimate communities to which we belong but not get taken in by those that are fabricated by propagandists or wishful thinkers.

Dwight Boud © 2014

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