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Planet America

Poor Pluto’s been relegated to the planetary sidelines by the addition of just one word. He’s still a planet of sorts, but now the distinction is clear – he’s a “dwarf planet.”

A lot of people seemed to feel that this new label was a pejorative Pluto doesn’t deserve. Behind the sometimes serious, sometimes humorous, hue and cry, there seemed to be an almost genuine sympathy for the marginalization Pluto experienced.

To some, downgrading Pluto to dwarf planet status smacked of elitism. Especially when the demotion was a decision handed down by one privileged group and resulted in the reduced stature of another.

Some people might think that Pluto is better off – now that he’s grouped with his own celestial kind. Instead of being the puny last-kid-chosen on the solar playground, he’s now a major player in his little corner of the cosmos.

Maybe such distinctions work for planets, but what about for the many peoples of Planet America?

In the United States, we’ve got plenty of ethnonymic qualifiers to distinguish groups, set us apart, make sure we all know our place; terms such as African American, Asian American, Mexican American, American Indian, among others.

But here’s the question: when we use qualifiers to identify certain Americans, are we empowering a people or marginalizing them?

Are we dwarfing ourselves, our progress as a country of countrymen, by our insistence on the nomenclature of race?

By eagerly adopting ethnonyms that precisely define what kinds of Americans we are and where we come from, is it possible we’re undermining the very acceptance of diversity we seek to establish?

Ethnonyms, some say, are powerful tools of self-identification. For many Americans whose ancestors were brought to U.S. soil against their will, the term African American is a way to acknowledge ancestral roots, celebrate a rich cultural heritage, and commemorate triumph over tragedy.

But surely we can’t assume that every dark-skinned individual is of African descent? Not all black people self-identify as African and not all are American.

Tiger Woods, for example, refuses to be categorized by race, famously saying “I’m just who I am, whoever you see in front of you.”

Without knowing someone’s background or how they specifically wish to be identified, isn’t it grossly impolitic to ascribe huge aspects of heritage and history onto someone simply because of the color of their skin? Isn’t that just another form of prejudice?

Many whites (or is it Caucasian Americans?) prefer to use the term African American as opposed to black. It sounds more respectful and seems to ameliorate a common discomfort among whites who haven’t a clue how to talk about, much less speak with, black people. Some black people use the two terms interchangeably, showing little preference for the use of one over the other.

Of course, the word “black” isn’t accurate either – it doesn’t begin to describe the spectrum of color we see in darker or differently colored skins. And “white” doesn’t really work for the continuum of pale most whites obsessively cover up with tans – real or fake.

What would happen if we could identify ourselves as Americans with a language that brings us together rather than keeps us apart?

For most of us, Pluto will always be a funny little in-between planet, shivering at his frigid outpost on the fringe of our solar community.

But one of these days, a new generation will come along that won’t know Pluto as we do – won’t know and won’t care about the controversy over his status, the debate over the little guy’s identity.

For that generation, Pluto won’t be a dwarf planet, won’t be #134340. Instead Pluto will be seen as just another heavenly body — uniquely individual and accepted for what it is.

Maybe that could work on Planet America too – all of our bodies could be seen as heavenly, regardless of color or race.

Maybe then we’d only need one word to describe our status as Americans: united.

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Posted on September 18th, 2006Comments RSS Feed
12 Responses to Planet America
  1. Since this column in 2006 MC things have become worse no doubt about it.I agree with you 100% but in reality it is not going to happen.I guess we can dream and hope but I don’t see it and I am on your side.United I wish.Planet America is still Planet Uranus!

    Reply
  2. Being held hostage in a Blue State
    September 18, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    God the both of you are really over the edge, lets all hold hand and celebrate our heritage being careful to include everyone and at the same time give them the opportunity to be recognized individually but only after you ask them which they prefer both collectively and individually…………..Pleeze

    English is the primary language period, want to celebrate your heritage, speak your primary language etc……do it on your own time and own dime. I can describe myself or be described by others in ways that do not correctly identify my heritage I do not take offense. American is universal United?? it would be easier to herd cats.

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  3. It is a lovely thought to think that mankind could live in harmony with one another and nature. It’s an ideal that has been pursued throughout the centuries as idealists die at the hands of realists.

    I suppose the only way that true harmony on Earth can be achieved would be for the use of negotiation with other enlightened like-minded cultures. Or, total war on those that will not accede to rule by the United States of America in the Pursuit of Peace of the Planet.

    It’s our destiny..

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  4. Being held hostage in a Blue State
    September 19, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Oh Geeze!!! Another liberal democrat……….MC2 can’t you limit these Bill Maher types they tend to wear very very heavily on the worker-bee types.

    Perkins get help for that addiction please………………………

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  5. Being held hostage in a Blue State
    September 19, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    Oh and Steve …PE now there’s a difficult major One of these days you’ll understand that prior to running for President Barry Obama never changed nothing, never did anything as a u.s. senator and failed to put his giganormus ego aside and focus on the prize winning the presidency which would have included choosing Hillary as his VP………..opps! poor judgement…….opps! McCain shoots he scores………

    And no I don’t want to play hockey…..

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  6. We finally agree on some points and you still bust chops but you know that right.?First you know the PE was a joke..Next I can’t stand Bill Maher,third you are correct Barack,not Barry,should have picked HC and that would have been a slamdunk,never played hockey,Perkins has class and your boy is flip flopping more than Mitt.With this current crisis the people want change,they blame Bush and Obama gets in without a doubt in my mind.It is as simple as that don’t make it so complicated….After the election if you need free therapy I willl be glad to help you out….Peace … Bad Back Boy Not being held Hostage in the Sunshine State.

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  7. Being held hostage in a Blue State
    September 20, 2008 at 6:15 am

    This crisis is the direct result of a few things:

    First a tax system that encourages actually rewards individuals for encumbering debt, a debt of choice to banks and mortgage lenders.

    Second greedy Americans who bought more house than they could afford, who beleived the rising equity would eliminate their own debt.

    Third all the lenders. stock brokerage houses, real estate agents and the like who profited based on moving the debt around.

    My personal opinion: No one should be bailed out while conservative Americans who live(d) within their means are going to be asked to foot the bill. While the greedy rich and poor alike get a bail out to keep that house or stock portfolio. A flat tax with no deductions for all Americans is a fairer way to go and I mean all Americans no exceptions.

    There is more coming; it all relates to this fundamental belief that no one wants to accept personal responsibility for their own failures, shortcomings or screwups and Uncle has to make it right. McCain is responding to the questions regarding the crisis call him a flip flopper if you will I have heard nothing from Barry of late regarding the situation other than his VP candidate saying it is Patriotic to pay more taxes…… again with more taxes for people making over $250K. Not that I’m in that ball park but the 40% of the 300 million who pay nothing could at least pay $1.00 a week to be included to pitch in and help out.

    Listen Bub you best run out now and buy SPF 80, so you don’t burned by the the November results.

    With regard to Fredo a.k.a. Perkins if he ever takes off and cleans those rose colored glasses he’s wearing he’ll see what I’m talking about.

    As always MC2 your writing brings out the most over the top DEMS, the tree huggers, those Peace, love, dove types ……………..

    and finally Bub, attempting to take over a sound, unique, ID (BHHIABS) and trying to make it yours?? It only demonstrates how much of a Democrat you really are. Did you pick up that trait from Biden and Barry??

    But I believe you all can change….it’s a change I can believe in. Kool-Aid anyone??

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  8. PS, Blue State Hostage,
    Your boy McCain was great in the movie The Wedding Crashers one of my all time favorites…He really made the movie…. Hope you can relax and are not watching the polls…Enjoy your weekend….Oh I forgot the other day but Mary Catherine is a true hero and I am glad that she has a voice to state her most passionate opinions!…Don’t even put her down to get a rise out of all of us..She is class…

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  9. Well I agree with most of what you say but I NEVER get burned….Perkins while I do not know him has class but you don’t get it but we get your rap….Yes I picked up the ID from Biden and Barry ..You got me….Again free therapy for you as your boy and yes mine for now is going to lose……Just make it simple ..Obama wins because the US is in deep doodoo and everyone blames Bush for it and there is nothing McCain can do…….Change is needed…Watch….Kool Aid is on me!

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  10. Perkins and Fredo..Now that is an oxymoron. How is that one Sparky??Yeah I know come on I need Kool Aid? Game set match…. he shooots and scores…..Move here and MC and I will take you to a Tiki Bar so you get get a nice cool drink..Perkins the drinks are on me….

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  11. Being held hostage in a Blue State
    September 20, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Typical Democratic comment all bluster no substance seeing things that are not there you and Perkins were most definitely absent during the reading is fundamental class. Read it again, real slow, sound out all the syllables. The woman can protect and handle herself and certainly doesn’t need any protection assistance from you and Fredo. She’s a sheep dog and you along with the rest of the Democrats that read her columns are the sheep. And before you getting yourself worked up in a lather it’s a metaphor. I know its a big word and the concept is rather complicated but I’m sure you can get someone to explain it to you Bub.

    Can you explain to me why is it that without a teleprompter Barry can’t put 3 words together to make a sentence? Maybe he’s Pinnoccio to the Clinton’s Giuppetto. Oh sorry I forgot the Clinton’s left town 5 minutes after the convention so much for solidarity. And why is it you two Barry supporters (you and Fredo) never, never, ever defend the puppet man; especially regarding his economic plan which he mentions on a daily basis when reading from that teleprompter. This “economic plan” he can’t seem to tell anyone what it contains, very decisive very Presidential. I’m sure you two think it’s brilliant even though Barry has yet to tell anyone what it is. I know you and Fredo agree, don’t ya, just nod your heads like the rest of the Democratic sheep.

    The closest you’ll come to the change you want is when you change your underwear which basis on some of your Democratic rhetoric its long over due. Guaranteed you’ll change your tune in November

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  12. Thank you..baaaa baaaaaa….Thanks for the reminder about my boxers.I really am getting tired turning them inside out like the good ole college days….Before I change I need to look up the word Metaphor…MC can protect herself really?????I was only trying to help protect her from the big bad wolf …What does lather mean by the way???Oh nevermind I can look it up..Make sure you look up the word defeat in Nov…baa baaa

    Reply

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