The Elusive First Person Plural

In the past hard times have united Americans across political parties, ethnicity, and social and economic backgrounds.  For a moment or two after 9/11 “we were all Americans.”

For the last few years our politicians have been trying to create and win blocks of voters through whipping up class envy and feeding resentment.  Now, just when we need it most, we can’t pull together because we really don’t trust each other.

In all his last publications English philosopher Roger Scruton emphasized the importance of the first person plural–that little word “we.”  Who do we mean when we say “we”?

We are told that we are all in this together.  I wonder.  What is the effective range of that “we”?  Who does it include?  All Kentuckians?

Though the church is open for prayer all day long and especially for Morning, Noon and Evening Prayers, I have stopped putting out the sidewalk sign, because I don’t want to attract unnecessary attention, since our leaders have encouraged us to report each other.

As of yesterday Kentucky now has the highest unemployment rate in the country at 242 per 1000.  A statistic like that could inspire a unified response of compassion, but it will likely inspire more blame and animosity and division.

I wonder what it would take to make “Americans” out of all of us again?  Is that even possible?

I heard a new word on NPR the other day: “Science-denialism.”  It’s a recognized condition afflicting those who question anything that is called “scientific.”  But it has also become yet another way we can divide ourselves, and attack and ridicule each other. “You’re not a science-denier, are you?!”

With every person outside our quarantine group a potential threat and/or a potential victim, with tightening circles of trust and expanding circles of suspicion, what is going to become of the first person plural?

Is this a Tower of Babel moment?  Back then, God gave the people such a variety of languages that they could not work together on their grandiose scheme to build a tower to Heaven. Unable to communicate with each other they scattered out over the earth in their language groups.

These days it seems that we really don’t speak the same language anymore; the words we say sound the same but have different meanings.  How often have you given up on a dialog, saying to yourself, “There is no we are going to understand each other”?

What do you think?  Will we scatter peacefully in our language groups like our ancient ancestors, or will we turn against each other, try to force each other to speak our language and obey our rules? Or could we find a common language again and bind together?

Under pressure in the past humans have often found unity in their families and clans.  Today not even blood is enough to unite some families.

Jesus prayed that His people would be one just as He and the Father were one.  We aren’t seeing that among Christians right now.

Perhaps we have not experienced enough pressure to find out who will be there for us when things get really rough.

Who is our “we”?  Who are our “people”?  What’s the glue holding us together?


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