We once understood and largely accepted the boundaries that defined much of what we believed, the way arranged our lives and how societies were organized. They allowed us to go about our business and to avoid surprises, especially unpleasant ones. Of course, expected to “know their place” and small, local business operations their geographic limits, regarded the prescribed boundaries as unwelcome and unfair.
But America has always been about testing and stretching boundaries. England’s aristocratic society and Established Church both crumbled after the American Revolution. The former colonial boundaries burst apart as Americans surged westward. More recently, the boundaries that long confined women were redrawn or simply disappeared.
Today, boundaries long in place, are being breached, even obliterated. Whether welcomed or deeply resented, the process, for many, has been unusually unsettling. Take note of the following developments.
• Businesses have changed shape, expanded beyond long established limits. Gas stations now have mini marts attached. Walmart sells groceries and Amazon has exploded far beyond peddling books. Once a successful enterprise goes the franchise route thousands of units spring up across the country. Businesses expand globally: their products arriving on our shores from anywhere in the world.
• Male and female boundaries can no longer contain the many additional identities people have claimed. Families now present in many sizes, shapes and relationships. They are single, extended, blended, co-parented, same sex, etc.
• We’re stretching the boundaries of earth, heading into space more consistently and confidently than ever before.
• News sources spill out beyond all former and formal boundaries. Social media, podcasts, talk radio, the internet, and television: all compete for our attention.
• Facts, validity, evidence were once understood and generally agreed upon. Now truth is under assault, become a contested arena amidst a swirl of opinions, suspicions, falsehoods, a polarized citizenary and conspiratorial fantasies.
All the above is both liberating and unsettling, leaving many of us confused and conflicted as boundaries shift continuously. Barriers have been lifted and freedoms expanded, but let’s not forget that boundaries have also helped us define and reinforce what is worth defending and preserving.