Regarding my last post on The President's Inaugural speech, NV at This D*mn House pointed out that the cited passage is a call for accountability. Personally, I was drawn to the part about challenges as satisfying to the spirit. But I liked NV's connection to accountability because it seemed pertinent to two of my earlier posts, about my neighborhood's problems with tagging and with litter.
The President's call for responsibility is called the price of citizenship. But he also referred to the promise of citizenship.
So perhaps therein lies the answer to my questions about why my local perpetrators of tagging and littering do not feel responsible for their actions. Perhaps they do not see themselves as accountable for or to their community because their community has not been accountable to them. They do not see a future for themselves in which they are likely to benefit from their responsible actions. They are much like the foreclosed upon homeowner who trashes his house just before eviction. Without a stake in the value of the property, why not take out anger and frustration on the property?
As stupid as John Edwards was about his personal life, he was right about one thing - there are two Americas. In the U.S. we don't like to talk about social classes or class divisions. But whether or not we talk about it, there has always been two Americas. It is likely there will always be two Americas. The reality of it will be become more obvious in the year ahead.
The distinction in the U.S. may be more subtle than in other countries. Perhaps our class divisions are less a matter of wealth or ancestry than of personal beliefs and aspiration. After all, I did not grow up in a neighborhood of privilege. But I did grow up with expectations and it was those expectations, both my own and those of my parents, that made all the difference in my life.
We can try to exact a price for citizenship in our expectations of greater personal responsibility. But we must also be cognizant of fulfilling the promise of citizenship, lest we create a class of vandals.
Before buying a house, I was dubious about the legitimacy of ownership. Do we really ever own anything? But since then, I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't matter if you really own anything. What matters is the belief that you own. And in America, what matters more is the belief that you can own. Whether it's large or small, whether it's now or later, the potential must be there.
And maybe that is the duty that We Who Have, have to Those Who Have Not - to make the promise that the potential is there for Them as well as for Us.