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It is a simple word, an article.

Only three letters in our alphabet, only 3 characters on a key board and by itself it has no discernible power. Few other words, however, when used to preface another can pinpoint a target more demonstrably and intensify whatever message is intended. "The" indicates and it separates. It clarifies and specifies. Out of one mouth, "the" parts waters, out of another, it muddies them. "The" can be as peaceful and benign as it can be violent and malignant. It can excitedly mass groups together and calmly push others apart. "The," by itself, can be welcome at any gathering, but as a party crashing guest, it can ignite a war. "The," when tied to a subsequent pronoun, has become a brazen successor to yesterday's guarded use of "those people."

In Wiktionary, "the," as an article, is described in definition number four as, "Introducing a term to be taken generically; preceding a name of something standing for a whole class. [from 9th c.]" http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/the. That meaning explains a heat I've noticed in recent discussions on a variety of issues: economic, social, religious and in a presidential election season, most certainly, political. Of late, who among us hasn't heard, seen or used "the gays," "the right," "the blacks," "the left," "the rich," "the poor," "the middle class," "the 99%" or "the 1%," "the Jews," "the players," "the owners," "the liberal media," "the Christian right," to name several and still few?

Reflecting People

Reflect a moment. I haven't used "the" as a regular word in any of the previous sentences except for this one? It is not easy to exclude it in common literary or spoken communication, and yet, sometimes "the" is so much more than a throwaway.

"The" is such a simple word, an article. Yet, it is sharply employed in so many instances to put an entire community of people on a shelf—at a distance—to make it easier to talk about whomever the target is without acknowledging the individuals who populate it. After all, when temperatures cool and fury dissipates aren't we all just common folk who have chosen to join or recognize or accept one association as representative of ourselves? Does it make any of us better or more right to lump any portion of humanity in one clump of contempt?

As citizens of the United States of America, does such a practice make any one of us more American than another? Isn't the promise of our homeland supposed to be our freedom to be who we are? Then why do so many of us spend so much time and energy talking against that right for others if they don't think, feel, behave, or worship as any one else of us do? Or, in some cases, if they desire to behave exactly as ee do?

Yes, our differences can be infuriating. Some of the statements and points of view I read and hear espoused on blogs and any number of media outlets by citizens and political pundits alike, make me crazy mad—but how fortunate we are that we can have them. That is not only a guarantee of America, it is a God given gift bestowed on Mankind. I believe we sin when we seek to reject the differences or similarities of any other man.

Chris Haley - 8/11/2012 4:29 PM

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