Maybe I am playing Chicken Little, but it seems to be that there is an increasing fragmentation and isolation taking place in our country. This is true from the community level all the way down to individual families. We are building walls at every level of society and family, and this is a great concern to me, and should, IMHO, be of import to us all. We are becoming less and less cohesive, and more and more polarized, and fragmented in our society.
We live in a society where many get their ‘reality’ delivered via television, either by attractive, shallow newscasts (or worse yet, one of those so-called news-entertainment shows, i.e. Entertainment Tonight), or one of the plethora, (and abysmal) ‘reality’ shows. In this way people who would never actually interact with other’s ‘below’ their station in life can actually feel like they are partaking in a safe, sanitized version of reality that they can always turn off, should it no longer ‘entertain’ them. All the while, the poor, the dispossessed and the outcast; those who do not have the luxury of turning reality off, are living lives more and more removed from the mainstream. They become important every election year, and are feted or vilified, depending upon the position of a desired constituency. Then, as soon as they have ‘served their purpose’, they are promptly put back on the shelf until needed again to salve our collective conscience, or stir our ‘righteous anger’. This leads to fragmentation and isolation along socio-economic and ethnic grounds.
In the home we find a scenario such as this:
I surf the net, in my safe, gated community, while Junior sits downstairs glued to his Gameboy, ‘thumbing’ himself into oblivion, and little Susie is locked into American Idol, all the while my spouse is on the cell phone talking to a colleague at work. The grandparents have been safely carted off to ‘homes’ that ‘keep’ them until they fade off into the sunset (reduces the trauma on Junior and Susie, God forbid that they are confronted with life in all of its unpleasantness!) This is what many call ‘family time’ today. Somehow we have come to the mistaken notion that because a group of strangers live in the same house, they are actually participating members of this entity called ‘family’. Here we see isolation and fragmentation along generational and familial lines. Like the poor, we find that family becomes important every four years when a politician’s stand on ‘family values’ can elect or remove them.
Our children are learning less and less about being part of a functioning society and/or family, and more and more about being self-absorbed, and fearful. We see even in their day-to-day lives. A simple example; in our town no child takes the school bus, although we pay for them. Heaven’s no! EVERY parent drives little Jimmie to school, causing traffic backups as each car with ONE adult and ONE child (maybe two) waits in line to drop off the kids right at the door of the school. Thank heavens for that, in this way they do not have to interact with any other children at all. (And these are the same parents who are incensed by the price of gasoline.) And when little Jimmie gets old enough, he will drive himself to school, eschewing the bus. It is ludicrous that we spend more money on parking lots and amenities than we do on actual education, all in the name of personal freedom, and the ability to ensure our children complete and perfect air-conditioned isolation to and from school!
And the absolute tragedy is that now it has made its way into the church, the one place where clearly it says in the Bible that there should be no divisions! We drive up to our uniformed parking attendants, handing our keys to them, and rush inside the vast auditorium to check out the latest video from our worship team. We then go to our full-service restaurant (located next to the sanctuary) and watch the service in the comfort of our own booth, never needing to rub elbows with anyone else!
All the while, the community around our vast mega-campus is virtually untouched by the church, unless you count the traffic jams caused by the mass exodus when the services let out. Even here, in the very place where brothers are to be in unity, we find that the church has divided the people in the same manner as the world has; the young, the parents, the aged, the single, the widowed, the green, the blue, you name it. Again, we find that the church has accommodated this isolationism and this fragmentation.
So, rather than simply have observations how about a few suggestions?
OK, that’s fair: How about this –
- GET OUT OF YOUR GATED COMMUNITY, walk amongst the people.
- Work in a homeless shelter in your spare time.
- Work at a food kitchen. See the faces of your fellow man, up close and without a remote to shut it off when it gets painful.
- Let your kids take the bus, you know, actually interacting with other kids.
- SHUT OFF THE TV, spend some time actually visiting, or maybe teaching your children to read. Maybe put the Gameboys and X-Boxes down for a night a week, could you not do that?
- Go to a Senior Center and visit; spend some of your time making someone else feel like they matter.
These are but a few of the things that you can do, how about it America? We can stop the isolation, and actually become a country again, but you might have to actually be inconvenienced. I believe that you and I will survive, maybe we will be uncomfortable for a bit, but then again, aren’t we supposed to be a little uncomfortable?
The other option is to become isolated, sterilized, unfeeling, antibacterial, and living in fear of ‘them’, whoever they may be; xenophobic, and actually prisoners inside our ‘safe’ communities.