Monday, January 24, 2011

Reading Lines

It has occurred to me that front-page photographs of long lines of people are rare but important.

Recently, there were photos of Sudanese people voting on whether or not to separate the south from the north of that east African nation. Before that, I remember the lines of South Africans voting in the presidential election that brought former prisoner Nelson Mandela to office. And in the late '80s, there were photos of lines of voters in what was then Czechoslovakia. On each of those occasions, the act of voting was seen as an enormous privilege, the harbinger or confirmation of huge changes in the lives of the people standing in those lines. None of those elections guaranteed 'happy ever after' but each of them was a milestone in the history of our species.

More recently, and infinitely sadder, we saw the long lines of people waiting to attend the memorial service for the Tucson shooting victims.

And, in contrast, every year we see the lines of shoppers on 'Black Friday'.

Waiting in line often shows a degree of civility, of mutual respect, and appreciation for a common goal. In other parts of the world, the lines have historic significance. Sometimes, in our country, it's just waiting to buy more stuff.

This is just an observation. I'm not sure I have a conclusion. Do you?

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