I have heard it only a few times and each time I felt a little disgusted and had to stuff down a laugh at the same time. It is the desperate cry of one who is attempting to access entitlement from the pedestal of privilege as they learn they are not going to get their way. “Do you know who I am!?” There are other versions of this for relatives, “My (insert relative here) is (insert name or title of person of importance).” The movie version is a little more ominous, “You have no idea who you are dealing with here.”
It is a childish and immature threat used by those who have risen above their capacity to function in the world of fairness and equality — if such a world exists. It is a game that we play all the time without realizing it. We may not say it out loud. We may not be so spoiled or childish as to threaten. We do, however, walk around every day with an identity that is constructed by our view of ourselves and our view of how we think others view us.
We are in the middle of an identity crisis. We have been pushed into micro-tribes by those who think it is to our benefit to identify with being oppressed. As a friend of mine pointed out recently, “When big tech, big media, big business, big sport, and every TV show is promoting your point of view, you are not oppressed.” It is as though we are all walking through the world looking to be offended (which has had a disastrous effect on our sense of humor). Our differences and quirks are no longer celebrated but seen as a ticket to being entitled. It is as though we are always walking around shouting, “Do you know who I am!?”
The cousin to this thinking is, “Do you know what kind of day I am having?” I sometimes believe that our cashiers and front desk workers should receive bonus pay for counseling as they listen to the rest of us tell about our lives — one after another — for hours on end.
When people of different cultures mix there will be misunderstandings. When one group of people subjugates another, there will be pain, scars, and need for repentance and forgiveness. It is one thing to acknowledge and teach fairly the sins of our fathers. It is quite another to continue picking at the sores and thus make healing impossible.
The remedy for this daily fog of offense that we all must deal with each day is to stay focused on our present task with an attitude of helping the other person help us. This is variously called common courtesy or professionalism. It is what is meant by keeping drama out of our interactions in public or at work.
Too often we approach each other as though the past is what is most important. What is more important than the past is the future. What builds a bridge from a sinful or damaged past is the present. It is not as though we do not care about how we treated each other in the past — we must. It is that we must not let the past be the assumption of our present, and thus confirm a future that is no different.
It is difficult not to drag our offenses, politics, sexual identity, and stresses around with us. We cannot help it — it is who we are. What I believe we must not do is to insist with or without words that people treat us a certain way because of who we are — or who we think we are. Nor should we allow our preconceived ideas of who others are dictate our expectations one way or another.
The nations, or ethnicities, if you prefer cannot heal if we insist that privilege or oppression be injected into every interaction we have. We must educate ourselves to stop carrying such baggage around with us.
There are sermons preached every Sunday about how great America is, or about how horrible America is (depending upon where you attend). There are sermons preached about how we are no longer a Christian nation or that we never were. There are sermons about immigration — for or against. Pick your topic and you will find what passes for Christianity on both sides, lined up politically. Each demanding, “Do you know who I am?”, you should listen to me.
Interesting, is it not, that the religious witness is as divided as the rest of the nation? Should that not seem strange to a believer? We have been through this before.
“Do you know who I am?” I am a human being and I want to be seen and treated fairly and with respect. I will assume you want the same. Let’s start there.