Connecting-the-dots has become a reliable part of the English lexicon. But as it leaches into everyday conversation, we may miss its most important implication. Namely, if our cities, nations and planet DON’T connect their dots, the consequences will be anywhere from dicey to disastrous:
* Cities from Chicago to Cairo to Kabul teem with millions of disparate populations. These dots of humanity tend to cluster tribally within their sprawling metropolises. Blacks & Whites…Muslims & Coptics…Shiite & Sunni. You rarely dare cross into the wrong neighborhoods. Somehow, though, the more enlightened mayors use those cultural connections which help hold these populations together. From welcoming parks and food festivals to sports stadiums and pop concerts.
* Nations too are increasingly more diverse, as a global economy shifts and shoves millions from poor countries to richer ones. Even the United States, which has always prided itself with its egalitarian E Pluribus Unum, has been rendered into Red and Blue states whose value systems fiercely clash. Try moving from Birmingham to New York City; DesMoines to Miami; Boston to Austin. You feel like you need a passport. Somehow, though, we occasionally stumble across a surprising leader whose Americanism connects the regions together. If only for a time. FDR’s new deal, Kennedy’s new frontier, and Reagan’s shining-city-on-a-hill.
* This hunk of twirling rock has only recently been seen for what it is. Our cameras and space shuttles have at long last revealed the indisputable reality: We are a planet, among billions, whose make-up consists of 7 billion squirming dots. The only way this thing is going to keep spinning on course is if we learn what connects us is the only thing that can save us: cooperation. Which is precisely why we are called the UNITED States of America, Europe has formed a UNION of countries, even the feuding Arabs have formed a LEAGUE.
But here’s the problem, my fellow dots. Race! Blood! Soil! have forever been the markers of exclusivity among us. The battlecry bellowed by the sick of mind who preach “Us Not Them!” They wear arm bands of intolerance whether they be the Flag, the Cross, or the Swastika. And in their foolish fears they can’t see what they are preaching will scatter the dots thereby destroying what’s left of the planet.
I suspect most leaders dare to harbor the dream that they’re the one….! Not only to connect but to hold our dots together. But I’ll be damned if most of us squirming dots just won’t believe them. And even if we did, wouldn’t follow them. We’ve just always had this psychotic thing about Me. Never Them.
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