A Cousin of Merit

When I see posts about “The first Native American to do this…” or “The first woman to do that…”, I’m rarely as impressed as those writers. I’m happy for anyone who achieves success but I just cannot get excited over immutable human characteristics. To consider these things superficial is an understatement, IMO. The person did nothing to obtain those qualities. He or she is being praised in spite of hard work, persistence, or daunting study.
Try as I may to be impressed, I’m terribly unimpressed by those who find merit in anything unearned.
Perhaps my viewpoint comes from growing up with a brilliant, funny, and gregarious, cousin who happened to have Cystic Fibrosis. Mike was somewhat physically challenged but he achieved intellectual excellence at an early age. He took classes at prestigious colleges and read science fiction. He made the most clever observations and never ceased to amaze me.
He was my wonderful cousin who happened to have Cystic Fibrosis, not the first person with Cystic Fibrosis to do extraordinary things. He didn’t live past his late teens and the world was poorer for that. Through the years, I have seen unbelievable scientific advances and have often thought he’d not only be amazed, he likely would have created or enhanced those feats.
So, no, I never defined Mike by something he couldn’t change. He absolutely wouldn’t have liked that. He was a unique, exceptional, individual. We all are.
Don’t ever expect me to applaud someone over skin color, ethnicity, or disability.
They aren’t a useful definition of what makes each of us special.


2 thoughts on “A Cousin of Merit

  1. Sometimes when a person from a particular group accomplishes something ,it is significant because membership in that group had meant that there were more than usual challenges and obstacles so that accomplishment stood out.

    1. Everyone encounters challenges and windfalls. The individual’s efforts and character are what I personally admire. The association with a group isn’t enough information. There are no two identical situations even among siblings in a nuclear family let alone a challenge specific to a whole ‘group’. [Group identifications are used most often as excuses.]

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