Monday, June 13, 2016
The Perniciousness Of Identity Politics And How It Endangers The Republic - Orlando, Ferguson, And Beyond
Jefferson was clear and unequivocal concerning his vision of the new Republic – it was to be a nation of laws, with liberty and justice for all. ‘The pursuit of happiness’ had nothing whatsoever to do with individual satisfaction or pleasure, but the fulfillment of natural aspirations within the context of the community. The source of the nation’s energy came from individuals freed from the fetters of established religion, serfdom, and autocracy, but no republic could prosper if there were no social context within which individual will was expressed.
The balance between individual will and social contract has always been hard to achieve – easier in the early days of the Republic when life was agrarian, pioneering, and simple; much harder today when American society is racially, ethnically, and socially diverse.
The problem is not so much with diversity and complexity but a society which promotes a culture of identity rather than one of integration, accommodation, and resolution.
How can a nation come together as a nation when there are so many competing demands and little patience or tolerance for dispute or disagreement? In the word of Blaise de Miramon,“When a society lionizes difference, it sows the seeds of anarchy”. While we may champion the rights of minorities and encourage a culture of diversity, we are unwilling to pay the price.
Black Lives Matter is a political movement organized in reaction to the deaths of a number of black men at the hands of police. Because of a pervasive culture of identity, the disposition of justice has been altered. A presupposition of guilt because of an equal presupposition of white racism has tainted the cases against police in Ferguson, Baltimore, and elsewhere. Objectivity has played second fiddle to political purpose. Without the artificial ‘empowerment’ of racial minorities – i.e. given the benefit of the doubt in a patriarchal, plantation mentality urban environment – the cases might have been adjudicated fairly.
The gay community knows very well that its exuberant excesses – the erstwhile Castro Halloween celebration, Bay-to-Breakers, or the Folsom Fair – cannot help but harden traditional resolve against it. There is no way that the expression of gay pride – costumed, naked, and outrageous – could possibly set well with the majority of Americans, no matter how politically correct they might be.
In other words, there is a cost to individualism and the identity culture of which it is a part. There is no doubt that the millions of gay Americans feel liberated after so many decades of opprobrium, hostility, and violence; but their emergence into the majority spotlight is not without risk. Gay marriage, proto-sexual exhibitionism, and the flaunting disregard of Biblical injunction cannot go uncontested. It is too much to ask of a conservative, religiously fundamental society, to accept lock, stock, and barrel, what it has considered sodomy, unholy sexual congress, and rejection of the Christian principles of family as expressed in the Trinity.
While public displays of gay affection and commitment may promote tolerance and acceptance of a sexually alternate culture for some, they are anathema for many more.
If we lived in a culture of assimilation and integration, then both blacks and gays might be be more easily incorporated within the body politic. Few people seriously object to Barack Obama, Colin Powell, Ben Carson, or Condoleezza Rice because they represent the best of American democracy. Anyone can be President. Even fewer look askance at professional black families moving next door; but most look for help when a black, hooded teenager comes out of the shadows on 14th Street.
No one would object to a multi-racial, multi-ethnic society of like-minded socio-economic equals.
We do not live in such a culture, and black professionals must suffer for the sins of their racial minority. Until their brothers and sisters in inner-city neighborhoods give up their culture of defiance and rejections of middle-class norms; and unless well-meaning white progressives leave off their demands for entitlement and reparations, successful black men and women will continue to be suspect and guilty by association.
In other words, the celebration of gay and black culture whether Bay-to-Breakers, Folsom Street, or hip-hop, bling, and attitude comes with a price. Defiant shows of sub-cultural, minority extremism always involves risk.
How to square the ideal of a respectful, community-oriented, and tolerant society with the demands of groups who feel left out or marginalized?
Transgender activists demanding equal rights to any and all facilities have a legitimate claim to equal treatment under the law; but by deliberately engaging the enemy on the most contentious of battlegrounds – public restrooms, showers, and locker rooms – must expect a militant and uncompromising response.
The tiny fraction of transgender individuals in America (the estimate of the LGBT population is less than 3 percent, and the number of ‘T’s’ minuscule) might well have considered Jefferson first. The rights of the individual have saliency only within the context of the majority. No one denies transgender Americans their rights, but these rights are not self-evident.
There is perhaps no more contentious issue in America than abortion. It has been reduced to civil rights vs moral right, and both parties have legitimate arguments. Yet given the prevalence of identity politics and the culture of separatism, it is not surprising that the difference has escalated into violence. It is not surprising that people who believe that abortion is murder intimidate and threaten those who provide it. It is equally understandable that those who, coming from a generation weaned on civil rights, consider pro-life activists backward, ignorant, and dangerous.
There may be no agreement on the issue. How can an issue which involves moral values, philosophical principles, and political passions be easily resolved? Yet our culture of identity necessarily mitigates against resolution. Of course clinics which provide abortion are firebombed? What less can anyone who appreciates the depth and intensity of belief expect?
In other words attacks on gays, pro-choice advocates, and Black Lives Matter radicals must be expected. Democracy does not come easily. Life on the edges of the normal curve is not without risk. Change does not come without penalty.
Those who perpetrate crime against blacks, gays, or abortionists are guilty of breaking the law; but those who incite the crime are complicit and cannot be exempted from judgment or exonerated.
Women who enjoy a culture of sexual permissiveness, cannot be exempt from scrutiny in cases of alleged rape. A culture of identity – in this case women – has provided a false insularity.
Currently no matter what the circumstances, whether drugs, alcohol, a hook-up culture, or 21st century permissiveness, a woman is always in the right when it comes to questions of sexual responsibility. Such a culture of feminist identity removes any sense of individual responsibility, or moral probity.
There are contradictions in an identity culture which encourages women to be themselves – i.e. to dress as provocatively and alluringly as possible (as women have for millennia ) – but which ignores male desire. Women are not just women, but citizens in a common culture with men. The only way to resolve potent sexual disputes is to accommodate gender differences, not to provoke them.
No socially provocative action, no matter how justifiable it may seem, has consequences; and those in the avant-garde must be willing to accept attendant risks. More importantly, however, no matter how important any individual claim may be, its advocates must first consider its effect on the integrity of the culture as a whole – the nation. Unfortunately few do.