It’s all personal

There’s also the language of personal responsibility, which suggests really that there’s no institutional and structural responsibility. There’s no collective responsibility. If you’re not doing well, it’s not because of anything that we in society have done. It’s not because of our history, our legacy of Jim Crow, segregation, exploitation and subordination; it’s all personal. So it all gets translated into, ‘We’re not responsible.’
– john a. powell, A Civil Conversation with Krista Tippet, On Being, March 10, 2015

Exceptionality is sometimes a worrisome thing for me. I confess that I am drawn to exceptional people. I like to hire them for jobs. I like them as my friends. I want them to watch my dog, be my neighbors, sell me a car, and… well, everything.

Paul Passport to SpainThe only problem is that I also distrust exceptional people. What are they hiding? What do they want? Will we all have to perform to that standard? Will they be Koch brothers, Rubio, Walker, or some other thug? Will they fall hard? Take a lot of people with them?

Clearly I am mashing together lots of meanings of exceptionality. My late husband, for example, was truly exceptional and I have not yet finished with him, though he has been dead for more than 100 days. His sweet tenderness was exceptional. His intelligence. His fortitude. His love. But even if he is one in a million, that statistically means that there are thousands more like him in the world right now. He made himself exceptional for lots of reasons, some as a need for survival in the face of anti-gay discrimination. I love his exceptionality; I hate the hurts that were part of what got him there.

The best within us will only get better with a greater sense of community accountability. We will then not say, “We’re not responsible.” We will instead say, “We see what is happening and our parts in it. It stops now.”

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