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Salt Shakers

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For some reason, I remember visiting my aunt Maimie’s house. A widow of some years, she lived with her daughter Helen and a small, particularly annoying miniature dog that, at some times, to me, seemed to be indistinguishable from the multitude of collectibles unevenly distributed in every vacant space. The pre-visit parental warning was “Don’t break anything,” particularly the dog and the salt shakers. The collectibles were salt shakers that had, over the years, been painstakingly called together by my aunt and cousin into a sea of porcelain and pewter, all of it quite valuable and most certainly most fragile.

I should say a word here about my natural tendency. Though probably not inherited, it was every bit as apparent from an early age and has become more refined over time. Things around me like to fall off shelves, get caught on clothing, jump in front of my feet, move overhead and behind elbows, and generally make a nuisance of themselves by smashing to pieces on some conveniently located hard surface. I’m what you might call a “klutz,” a “shla’meal.” So, in the shaker museum with its pint-sized purveyor of calamity, I sat on the edge of anticipation, not anticipation of “if” but of “when.” Thankfully, the propensity was not distinguished by its frequency in my aunt’s house. Nonetheless, it has always been a constant companion.

We seem to live in a world full of salt shaker collections. There are different types of collections, such as those that focus on individuals rather than groups or collectives. Identity politics is the practice of basing political positions or actions on a person's social category, such as their race, gender, sexuality, religion, or nationality. The term "political correctness" is used to describe language, policies, or measures intended to avoid causing offense or disadvantage to particular groups in society. Nationalism is a political ideology that emphasizes the importance of a shared national identity among citizens of a specific country or nation-state. Gender equality is the belief that everyone, regardless of their gender identity or expression, should have equal rights, opportunities, and treatment. All of these salt shakers have their validity and noble intent. However, without the basics of a common ground relational understanding, they can fall off shelves, get caught on clothing, jump in front of us, move overhead and behind elbows, and smash to pieces on the hard surface of misunderstanding.

The growing concern in many countries is the polarization which is driven by the abandonment or ignorance of the common ground model. Political, social, and economic differences are creating deepening schisms between different groups of people. This can lead to a lack of understanding and empathy for people with different backgrounds or beliefs. It's important for individuals and communities to work towards bridging these divides and promoting a more inclusive and united society. This involves making fundamental decisions and choices by everyday people and deploying actionable critical thinking. None of us are better than any of us. It's important to always listen, learn, and engage.

Criss Bellini

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