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We are community, and membership has its privileges

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It's a phenomenon I've been following out of the corner of my eye for some time, but two articles side by side on our op-ed page one day last week brought it front and center: "Community" is everywhere.

One article blasted Fox Television for its planned reality show about adoption:

"[I]t would be hard to exaggerate the level of near-uniform disgust and outrage they have engendered within the diverse segments of the adoption community - a potential audience of tens of millions."

Tens of millions? I hadn't ever thought of an entity called "the adoption community," but if its "population" is in the tens of millions, it's on par with some of the largest of the 50 United States.

The page-mate for this piece was an article about security for members of "international aid community" operating in places like Afghanistan. This "community" lacks the numbers of the "adoption community" but makes up for them in reach - spread thinly as butter on Melba toast - around the globe.

"Community" may be four Latin-derived syllables long, but it's a wonderfully broad umbrella that covers just about every kind of human settlement: cities and towns as well as villages, urban and rural. The adoption community and the aid community are different - they're communities of interest, organized around a particular subject.

"Community" can also be a convenient way to avoid speaking of "camps" or "sides" in a dispute. Analysts of the conflict in Northern Ireland, for instance, often speak of the nationalist and unionist "communities."

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