modernity, the idea of culture and groups has become complex and morphed into an amalgamation of definitions surrounding the idea of just what it is that defines a community. The idea of "community" as a political or sociological concept, has taken on new meaning in the 21st century era of globalization. First, however, it is important to understand the basic idea of community, as well as the political, social and cultural changes that result in a need for a different definition of what community means and how it influences the individual's life.
In general, the idea of community conveys two rather distinct messages. It is often used to refer to a social unit of varying size that shares common values, or a national or international community in which the individuals have something unique or a set of principles and beliefs that are common to most of the group. In science, the term means a group of interacting organisms that share a specific environmental niche. However, for humans, community has been something shared in terms of beliefs, resources, ideologies, protection, etc. -- the idea that a common set of circumstances would bring together a group of people for a mutually beneficial outcome. Indeed, the many scholars believe that the notion of community is one of the prime ways humans became civilized, urbanized, and grew both socially and technologically (Effland). Because community is so ingrained within the social and cultural fabric of humans, community becomes more than simple geography -- more than neighbors and more than ethnicity. Instead, community becomes the sum total of an imagined unity - unity within disagreement and diversity, unity within structure and chaos -- a unity that overcomes adversity and denial and brings humans together and focuses upon what it is to be human.
Indeed, when the unthinkable happens, this imagined community of unity not only expresses itself as what is best in humanity, it brings together a sense of togetherness and structure that, in some cases, proves that sometimes the best in all humans arises out of negativity and adversity. Such an event occurred on September 11, 2001. It was on that day that a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks were launched upon the United States. The Islamic Fundamentalist/Terrorist Group al-Qaeda hijacked four passenger airlines; two of which flew into the North and South Towers of the New York City World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and the fourth targeted Washington, DC but crashed prior to impact. Almost 3,000 people were killed and became the deadliest firefighting incident in U.S. History. The resulting tragedy affected millions globally: a global war on terror was launched, numerous laws and governmental agencies and directives were put in place, and globally, the world changed (9-11: The Basics)
As a community, the world reacted with understandable horror. Numerous expressions of emotion came out of the event, and for many, the quality of life in New York City was forever changed. CNN Network, for instance, commissioned artists to create or choose work that illustrated the "ripple" effect of 9/11 -- all the changes in society and culture that have occurred over the past 10 years. One such work that illustrates the manner in which events like 9/11 affect humanity is iconic in interpretation. Martin Mendelsberg notes that one of the most often repeated symbols of America is that of the Stars and Stripes on America's flag. However, the symbol means many things to many people -- for some, an expression of freedom, others a view of imperialism or tyranny, and indeed, for many, a way to individualize the community that transcends all other demographic and psychographic variables to solidify the nation as a whole noting: whatever you may be, you are an American (CNN Network). Mendlesberg used footage from a number of airport cameras to intersperse people traveling after 9/11, and the ripple effect and fear individuals now have regarding a basic right to travel. However, it is not only the issue of travel that is so powerful in this piece, but the notion that within the stripes on the flag, we see Americans of all types -- all economic and demographic backgrounds, various ethnicities, ages and purposes -- but all tied uniquely together under the notion of an imagined community. Contrast this notion with a poem by Colette Inez that seems to epitomize the notion of New York…