Slogans for Democrats *UPDATED*

Okay, this is my third try at this post, because WordPress has eaten the previous two attempts (which accounts for the low level of blogging this morning).

I was listening to Dennis Prager yesterday, and he was fulminating about the calls for “unity” that are echoing through the Democratic side of the spectrum, especially with reference to Obama. As Prager has pointed out before, and as I have blogged about before, “unity” is Democratic code for “agree with me or else.” There is no evidence that the Democrats have any desire to find common ground, and it’s questionable whether there is common ground on such contentious issues as Iraq and abortion. Likewise, the hope that Democrats will “end dogma” is equally laughable. Do the Dems and their sycophants in the media really want to end all fixed doctrine? Fine, I guess we no longer have to hew to such dogmatic ideas as “all people are created equal,” “equal pay for equal work,” or “no taxation without representation.”

Listening to these vapid platitudes, it occurred to me that I could do better — or come up with something at least as good as what’s currently emanating from the Dems. You too should feel free to join in:

“Now more than ever!”

“Peace through harmony!”

“Prosperity through wealth!”

And as you think about those slogans, take a minute to read this Spiegel article proposing a Clinton-Obama ticket for ’08. The author thinks it would be a fantastic ticket, not because of any harmony of ideas or style, but because it would neatly tag all identity politic demographics. It envisions the perfect election cycle for Democrats, where they don’t have to address the issues at all — they can just stand there and be. (What’s really scary is I heard precisely this idea voiced with great approval at my bus stop a couple of months ago. The neighborhood consensus was that this was a ticket they could go for.)

UPDATE:  And here’s an article that perfectly describes the world behind the Democratic slogans.

When identity politics attack *UPDATED*

Noemie Emery perfectly summarizes the nightmare the Dems have created for themselves:

Sometime back in the 1990s, when the culture wars were the only ones we thought we had going, a cartoon showed three coworkers viewing each other with narrowed and questioning eyes. “Those whites don’t know how to deal with a competent black man,” the black man is thinking. “Those guys don’t know how to deal with a powerful woman,” the woman is thinking. And what could the only white male have been thinking? “They don’t like me. They know that I’m gay.”

So far as we know, there are no gays in the mixture today, but the cartoon nicely captures what the Democrats face as they try to wage a political war in the age of correctness, which is, they are finding, an impossibility. The Democrats are the party of self-conscious inclusion, of identity politics, of sensitivity training, of hate crimes, hate speech, and of rules to control them. A presidential campaign, on the other hand, is nothing but “hate speech,” as opponents dive deep into opposition research, fling charges true, half-true, and simply made up against one another in an attempt to present their rivals as slimy, dishonest, disreputable, dangerous, and possibly the worst human beings who ever drew breath.

This has been true of this country’s politics since at least 1800, when John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were vilified roundly, and has gone on ever since–an accepted and even a much-loved tradition. Until recently, it went on without murmur, as all the main contestants for president were white Anglo-Saxon Protestant males, with the exception of Michael Dukakis and three Roman Catholics, two of whom looked like WASPs. Now, however, in its campaign season from hell, the party of sensitivity has found itself in a head-banging brawl between a black man and white woman, each of them visibly loathing the other, in a situation in which anything said in opposing one of the candidates can be defined as hateful, insensitive, hurtful, demeaning, not to say bigoted, and, worst of all, mean. Looking ahead to the general election, Democrats were prepared to describe any critique made of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton as an example of the racism and sexism that they like to believe permeates the Republican universe. But this was before their own race became quite so close, and so spirited. They never seem to have stopped to think what might occur if they turned their sensitivity bludgeons against one another. They are now finding out.

You’ll want to read the whole thing, which you can find here.

UPDATE: And here is precisely what Emery and I predicted, which is that the give and take of politics is dead, because you’re not allowed to attack Obama (just as you weren’t allowed to attack Hillary and make her cry):

The bitter back-and-forth between former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama has led a prominent black lawmaker to tell the former president Monday to “chill a little bit.”

The two Democratic front-runners, Illinois Sen. Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, are locked in a battle for the key South Carolina primary this Saturday.

As their campaign sparring continues, the Illinois senator seems to be spending almost as much time responding to Hillary Clinton’s husband as he does to the candidate herself.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, one of the most powerful African-Americans in Congress, weighed in on the feud Monday, saying it was time for Bill Clinton to watch his words.

Hillary will be a better opponent for the Republican candidate because she is so strident and disliked, it will be okay to attack her in the ordinary rough and tumble of an election. Obama will be a disaster for the Republican candidate, because he’ll be untouchable.

The problem with Obama’s race

The problem with Obama’s race is that you’re not allowed to dislike him simply because you don’t like him. From my point of view, irrespective of skin color, I find Obama boring and platitudinous, I dislike and distrust his friends, I find appalling his lack of practical experience, and I disagree with him from top to bottom when it comes to his political positions. He is, to me, an utterly undesirable candidate. However, in the world of identity politics, all of this is clearly a front for my unspoken racism. It is impossible for those on the Left to believe that, if someone is in a politically correct minority, he can be disliked for reasons other than his minority status. Cynthia Tucker, a liberal columnist, is upfront about this belief:

After a recent column describing Barack Obama as “a presidential candidate who happens to be black — not a black presidential candidate,” I received countless responses from readers, a handful of them odd. That odd handful declared they take no notice of superficial traits such as skin color, and they took me to task for making any reference to Obama’s race.

“I thought of (Obama) as a person. I did not see black or white or Hispanic or that he was a man — I saw a person! If people really, truly want racial equality, then the first step has to be to STOP looking at skin color,” wrote one reader.

“When I look at a person, the last thing I think about is skin color or heritage,” wrote another.

Sorry, but I’m not buying it. While I am sympathetic to any desire to get past dated and useless habits of mind — especially the contentious politics of the color line — that’s just nonsense. None of us, black, white or brown, is colorblind.  (Emphasis mine.)

Sorry, Cynthia, but I’m not buying that. I refuse to be denied the right to dislike someone based upon the content of their character. More to the point, given Obama’s church, his verbal vapidity, and what’s emerging about his somewhat checkered Chicago political past, I’m not even sure precisely how much character the man has. And that is entirely separate, of course, from my disliking his political positions.

Nor do I think I’m deluding myself about my innate racism. The fact is, I’ve never seen Obama speak. I get my news through the written word. Or, if I’m getting my news through the spoken word, I hear it on the radio. I never watch the candidates on TV, ever. That is, my impressions of Obama are purely cerebral. And I still don’t like him.

Hillary, interestingly, doesn’t have quite the same protection Obama does. People have gotten so used over the years to finding her entirely dislikeable that it’s pretty darn hard to attribute negative feelings to her sex, rather than her personality. With Obama, though, we don’t have a past history with him to justify broad dislike. That is, while Obama has a personal history (which I don’t think holds up to scrutiny), there hasn’t been a long-term relationship between the man and the American public that could lay the groundwork for disliking him without a concurrent charge of racism. For example, we don’t hear too many cries of racism if we dislike Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, both of whom have shown themselves to be completely disreputable personally and politically for too many years to be entirely immune from attack (although we may well be accused of being racists for not supporting their race-based political agenda). That is, most people, left or right, seem to concede that the guys lack broad personal appeal.

It will be interesting, assuming Obama continues in politics for a while (whether as a 2008 presidential candidate or a 2012 candidate), to see if we’re allowed to dislike him without being tarred with the racist brush. It will also be interesting if, God forbid, he wins the 2008 presidential primaries, to see if the press will be able to make itself write anything even slightly negative about him. And considering the horror with which Hillary’s attacks against him are being greeted, will the Republican candidate be able to say anything negative, no matter how substantive, without being tarred with the racist brush?  The one thing I can promise you is that, if Obama loses, it won’t be because he’s boring, antisemitic (or, at least, his friends are), uninformed, unexperienced and a leftist. In the eyes of the MSM, whose opinion will be disseminated around the world, he can lose only because he’s black. And that’s the problem with Obama’s race.

More gold in Goldberg *UPDATED*

I’m still enjoying every page of Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, and I thought I’d share with you a few more points that I thought either summed up perfectly something most of us have already figured out or explained why I’d been suffering from cognitive dissonance for so long trying to understand the liberal historic paradigms offered up in college and beyond.

I think Goldberg has summed up as well as anyone can the liberal view of race, and the liberal view of conservatives vis a vis race. Here is his summary of liberals and race:

Even on the liberal left [as opposed to the black supremacist left, which speaks in terms surprisingly reminiscent of Nazi racial ideology], where the poisonous notions are far more diluted, it is axiomatic that there is something inherently and distinctly good about blacks. How so? Well, it must be so. If you buy into the various doctrines of multiculturalism and identity politics you already believe that blackness is distinct, immutable, and unchanging. Once you accept this logic — and the left obviously does — you are then left with a fairly simple choice. If race is not neutral, if “race matters,” as Cornell West says, then how does it matter? Given the choice between assigning a positive value or a negative value, liberals opt for the positive. (p. 278.)

Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to believe race is a matter of skin color. They keep in mind two important historic phrases: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” and “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” This is what Goldberg calls “race neutrality.” How is it that an outlook that says race doesn’t matter routinely gets transformed into cries of “racist”? Jonah answers that question too:

There are only three basic positions. There is the racism of the left, which seeks to use the state to help favored minorities that it regards as morally superior. There is racial neutrality, which is, or has become, the conservative position. And then there is some form of “classical racism” — that is, seeing blacks as inferior in some way. According to the left, only one of these positions isn’t racist. Race neutrality is racist. Racism is racist. So what’s left? Nothing except liberalism. In other words, agree with liberals and you’re not racist. Of course, if you adopt color blindness as a policy, many fair-minded liberals will tell you that while you’re not personally racist, your views “perpetuate” racism. And some liberals will stand by the fascist motto: if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Either way, there are no safe harbors from liberal ideology. Hence, when it comes to race, liberalism has become a kind of soft totalitarianism and multiculturalism the mechanism for a liberal Gleichschaltung. If you fall outside the liberal consensus, you are either evil or an abettor of evil. This is the logic of the Volksgemeinschaft in politicaly correct jargon. (p. 283.)

Goldberg also explains why I’ve always suffered from cognitive dissonance when being told that the Nazis were capitalist fat cats, so that people who believe in capitalism, and don’t view corporations as enemies, are fascists. This clashed head on with a few things I knew about Nazis: they hated capitalism, which is part of why they loathed Jews; they were socialists; they semi-nationalized most industries; and they were a populist movement that started with the Volk in Munich. As to this last, they were very hostile to aristocrats (who created the group that came up with the plot to assassinate Hitler) and industrialists. Those aristos and industrialists who became ardent Nazis did so because they shared its antisemitism and its Aryan racism, or because they saw that the Nazi nation was a profitable entity, with a good government trough. All that being the case, why did Nazism, and therefore “fascism,” get tied up with capitalism? Here’s why:

Doctrinaire Marxism-Leninism defined fascism as “the most reactionary and openly terrorist form of the dictatorship of finance capital, established by the imperialistic bourgeoisie to break the resistance of the working class and all the progressive elements of society.” Trotsky, an admirer of Mussolini’s, conceded that fascism was a “plebian movement in origin” but that it was always “directed and financed by big capitalist powers.” This interpretation was foreordained because by the 1920s communists were convinced that they were witnessing capitalism’s long overdue collapse. Marxist prophecy held that the capitalists would fight back to protect their interests rather than face extinction in the new socialist era. [The Marxist version of the "left behind" theory, I guess.] When fascism succeeded in Italy, communist seers simply declared, “This is it!” At the Fourth Congress of the Communist International in 1922, less than a month after the March on Rome — long before Mussolini consolidated power — the assembled communists settled on this interpretation with little debate over the actual facts on the ground. (p. 286-287.)

In other words, because Marxism assumed that there would be a last gasp of capitalism before the inevitable communist take-over, and because fascism appeared when the Marxist chronology had dictated that this last gasp would occur, therefore fascism was the last gasp of capitalism — a false syllogism if I ever heard one. It sure does explain, though, why I never could make head nor tail of the line taught me at Berkeley — namely, that fascism is simply capitalism carried to the extreme.

And my last Goldberg point for now has to do with a rather charming irony. Do you remember liberal outrage that Cheney sat down with industry leaders to draft rules governing the industry? (And for the life of me, sitting here this morning, I can’t remember which industry it was that Cheney had the termerity to meet with.) It turns out that the close relationship between big industry and government is a long and honorable progressive tradition, one that began even before Wilson’s ultimate progressive WWI government. Goldberg explains that big industry originally encouraged government regulation for an anticompetitive purpose — it knew that small players couldn’t afford to keep up with government requirements. For example, when Upton Sinclair wrote his famous 1906 muckraking book The Jungle, about the meatpacking industry, he was being just a bit disingenuous:

The problem is that it’s [the liberal myth that progressive government forced unwilling corporations to become humane] totally untrue, a fact Sinclair freely acknowledged. “The Federal inspection of meat was, historically, established at the packers’ request,” Sinclair wrote in 1906. “It is maintained and paid for by the people of the United States for the benefit of the packers.” (p. 291.)

Originally, government was hostile to this kind of thing, because it was meant for anti-competitive purposes. However, when Wilson, the first progressive took the White House and was able to use WWI to begin his experiments, he immediately set about controlling big business — and big business went along with it, believing that it would drive out competition and increase profits:

Big business and the Wilson administration formed the Council of National Defense, or CND, according to Wilson, for the purpose of redesigning “the whole industrial mechanism . . . in the most effective way.” “It is our hope,” Hudson Motor Car Company’s Howard Coffin explained in a letter to the Du Ponts “that we may lay the foundation for that closely knit structure, industrial, civil, and military, which every thinking American has come to realize is vital to the future life of this country, in peace and in commence, no less than in possible war.”

When the war broke out, the CND was largely folded into the War Industries Board, or WIB. Run by the “dollar-a-year-men” from the world of finance and business, the WIB set prices, trade quotas, wages, and, of course, profits. Trade associations were formed along vaguely syndicalist lines. “Business willed its own domination, forged its bonds, and policed its own subjection,” wrote Grosvenor Clarkson, a WIBer and historian of the effort. The aim was for the “concentration of commerce, industry and all the powers of government.” “Historians have generally concluded,” writes Robert Higgs, “that these businessmen-turned-bureaucrats used their positions to establish and enforce what amounted to cartel arrangements for the various industries.” (p. 293.)

As Goldberg repeatedly states throughout his book, when Roosevelt’s New Deal came along, there was nothing “new” about it. Almost without exception, its policies simply resurrected the policies that Wilson had put into place during WWI. One of these policies should remind you of the infamous Cheney/industry meeting:

The propaganda of the New Deal — “malefactors of great wealth” and all that — to the contrary, FDR simply endeavored to re-create the corporatism of the last war. The New Dealers invited one industry after another to wrote the codes under which they would be regulated (as they had been begging to do in many case). (p. 293; emphasis mine.)

In other words, Cheney was doing nothing more or less than aping the Left’s idol — FDR.

If you can get a hold of a copy of Goldberg’s book, I really urge you to read it. As I noted before, it will explain how liberals ended up where they are, and why it’s the conservatives who wrongly get the pejorative label “fascist.”

UPDATE: It seemed appropriate to include in this post three links to good discussions about Obama and the race card, since it seems very likely that, if Obama is the Democratic candidate, anyone who does not vote for him will be castigated as a racist and, if he loses, the entire nation will be called to account for that “shame.” Article 1 is at Cheat-Seeking Missiles, Article 2 is at Commentary Magazine’s blog, and Article 3 is Charles Sykes, writing at American Thinker.

In the same vein, I had an interesting conversation with my mother, who gets her news solely from MSM television. She agreed with me that Obama lacks any meaningful experience, that he’s untried, and that he’s basically an empty shirt. She also agreed that his political positions do not represent the view of all Americans — and possibly represent the views of fewer than half of all Americans. Nevertheless, she then announced that if Obama loses, it will be because Middle America is racist and will not vote for a black. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a map of the US with me, because I think she forgot where Iowa is. My Mom is an intelligent, humane woman with a lot of common sense. Her take on Barack Obama, though, shows how even the best mind can start showing signs of cognitive dissonance if it is exposed to nothing more than the MSM.

UPDATE II: I read the Charles Sykes (American Thinker) article after I’d had the conversation with my mother and after I’d written about the conversation, above. I think Sykes must have been eavesdropping on my conversation, though, or looking over my shoulder as I blogged:

A central tenet of modern liberalism, after all, is the unshakeable conviction that white American is deeply and irredeemably racist. For three decades, America’s white liberals have invested in the belief that American is so incapable of racial fairness that society needs a panoply of laws, preferences, quotas, set-asides, and remedial programs to ensure that black people are treated fairly.

All of those policies are fundamentally based on the belief that America is deeply racist, that their fellow Americans are personally biased and institutionally prejudiced — consciously and unconsciously, intentionally and structurally; racist in history and practice.

It follows that many race-holding liberals will be among the last to believe that America will ever elect an African-American as president.

White liberals face this cognitive dissonance: if they decide that America is ready for a black president and back Obama they would also be forced to surrender or at least modify decades of convictions about American bias.

Identity politics then and now

I have been incredibly embarrassed by the fact that so many women (a) are voting for Hillary just because she’s a woman and (b) were more likely to vote for her because she cried.  It makes me want to hand in my gender identity card.  Are women really so stupid that they can’t rise above their self-involved narcissism and look at the candidates’ actual qualities — his or her experiences, policy beliefs, abilities, etc?  Apparently they are.  It’s just humiliating to share the same chromosomes with these females.

What’s interesting about this narrow, anti-intellectual, anti-knowledge mindset, a political approach that actually confers no practical benefit on the person holding it, is that it tends to parallel the identity politics viewpoint that German fascism took (as distinguished from Italian Fascism, which did not have a racial natural outgrowth of fascism).  I was lucky enough yesterday to get hold of Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, and the subject of identity politics keeps cropping up over and over again as he looks at the politics of the Left.  He’s very careful not to call today’s Leftists Nazis — and he means it when he says it — but he does note points of congruence between American identity politics and Nazi-style fascism:

For most of his career, Mussolini considered anti-Semitism a silly distraction and, later, a necessary sop to his overbearing German patron.  Jews could be good socialists or fascists if they thought and behaved like good socialists or fascists.  Because Hitler thought explicitly in terms of what we would today call identity politics, Jews were irredeemably Jews, no matter how well they spoke German.  His allegiance, like that of all practitioners of identity politics, was to the iron cage of immutable identity.  (p. 62.)

The same can, of course, be said for the way in which liberals approach identity — and it goes a long way to explaining the current explosion or racial and sexist argument emanating from the Left right now.  To people on the Left, blacks are nothing more than black — it is the prism through which everything is filtered.  Women are solely women, although it becomes problematic when women also happen to be black.  Gays are defined by their sexuality, and nothing more (which is why, once they’ve figured out their sexuality, it becomes imperative to teach them how to live like good little gays).  Once you’re gay or black or female, you can never again be a doctor or a lawyer or a truck driver or a manager.  You are a gay lawyer, or a female truck driver, or a black manager.   So what are you to do, as a good liberal, when you’ve got two oppressed people vying for the Presidency?

On the Right, we ask what is their experience?   What are their skills?  What policies do they advocate?  Are they effective people?  Are they reasonably honest?  Will they advance American interests in security and economic matters?  Who are their associates?  On the Left they ask, is he black enough?  Is she female enough?  Is he black but the wrong type of black (Sidney Poitier instead of Malcolm X or Martin Luther King)?  Is she female, but not sufficiently in touch with her femininity?  Interesting questions all to the racist or feminist, BUT WHAT DO THEY HAVE TO DO WITH GOVERNING THE COUNTY?

Incidentally, as regards labels, Goldberg discusses one other aspect of labeling that emanates from the Left and that has always bewildered me.   Now I finally get it.  Some history first — my own history, I mean.  I grew up as a good Democrat, reviling the right.  The only thing is, I wasn’t really sure what right wing ideas were, other than hatred of blacks and poor people.  As I got more sophisticated, I got more confused.  I figured out that Democratic welfare policies tended to keep people mired in poverty, which can be an “I like the poor” platform only if you add “I like them so much that I aim to keep them that way in perpetuity.”  I also learned that it was the Democrats (and aren’t they the Left?) who hated blacks, at least during the seminal civil rights era.  I also figured out that famous figures labeled as right wing fascists, such as Father Coughlin, the famous radio priest, spouted socialists ideas, including the end of capitalism and private property.  These ideas are, of course, Marxist, and I don’t think anyone argues Marx’s Leftist qualifications.  Goldberg explains it all.  He begins by giving a bit of Coughlin’s history, as well as his relationship to the White House, which ended with the White House fearfully sloughing him off when he went too far:

So how did Coughlin [whose Leftist bona fides Goldberg spent pages establishing] suddenly become a right-winger?  When did he become persona non grata in the eyes of liberal intellectuals?  On this the historical record is abundantly clear:  liberals started to call Coughlin a right-winger when he moved further to the left.

This isn’t nearly as contradictory as it sounds.  Coughlin became a villian in late 1934 almost solely because he had decided that FDR wasn’t radical enough.  FDR’s less than fully national-socialist policies sapped Couglin’s patience — as didhis reluctance to make the priest his personal Rasputin.  (p. 141.)

The liberals’ treatment of Coughlin (and Huey Long) set the template for liberal name calling ever after.  Thus, after describing Coughlin’s fall from liberal grace, Goldberg adds:

This returns us to one of the most infuriating distortions of American political debate.  In the 1930s, what defined a “right-winter” was almost exclusively opposition to Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal.  The muckraking journalist J.T. Flynn, for example, is often labeled a leading light of the Old Right for no other reason than that he was a relentless FDR critic and a member of American First (indeed, he was one of the most articulate voices decrying the incipient fascism of the New Deal).  But Flynn was no classical liberal.  He had been a left-leaning columnist for the New Republic for much of the 1930s, and he denounced Roosevelt of moving in what he considered a rightward direction.  As for his isolationism, he considered himself a fellow traveler with Norman Thomas, head of the American Socialist Party, Charles Beard, and John Dewey.  (p. 143.)

In other words, beginning in the 1930s, the pejorative label “right wing” didn’t describe a person’s position on the political spectrum at all.  Instead, it simply meant that the person was advocating policies that New Dealers, Socialists, and Liberal Fascists* didn’t like.  And, in the same spirit of name calling, “fascist” is whatever  these same people really don’t like, wherever it falls on the political spectrum.  Now I get it.


*Please read Goldberg’s book to understand why “Liberal Fascist” is not a smear term a la Bushitler or Hitllary, but is instead a historically accurate term (which H.G. Wells coined) to describe a specific nationalist, totalitarian approach to socialist politics.

The problem with identity politics

I admit that it’s not fair to pick on Elton John. Although he is a truly talented musician, I don’t think anyone has ever accused him of being a deep thinker or a well-informed man. Nevertheless, something he said a few days ago caught my eye, because I think it exposes just about everything that’s wrong with identity politics. Here’s the money quote:

Sir Elton John wants religion banned completely — because he believes it promotes hatred of gays.

Speaking to the Observer Music Monthly Magazine the singer said religion lacked compassion and turned people into “hateful lemmings”.

The PRESS ASSOCIATION reports: In a candid interview for a dedicated Gay issue of the magazine he shared his views on topics as varied as being a pop icon to Tony Blair’s stance on the war in Iraq.

He said there was a lack of religious leadership, particularly in world politics, and complained that people do not take to the streets to protest any more.

Sir Elton said: “I think religion has always tried to turn hatred towards gay people. Religion promotes the hatred and spite against gays.

“But there are so many people I know who are gay and love their religion. From my point of view I would ban religion completely.

“Organised religion doesn’t seem to work. It turns people into really hateful lemmings and it’s not really compassionate.”

That’s it. That’s his entire take on religion: it’s not gay friendly. There’s no room at all in this world view for the fact that the Judeo-Christian religions have had a profoundly moralizing influence on the Western world. There’s no thought for the Old Testament’s focus on justice and and moral behavior; no care for Jesus’ ceaseless preaching about love and generosity. Instead, there’s a simple two-step analysis: Religion doesn’t like gays, therefore it should go.

I remember once having an argument with a friend of mine who had just come out of the closet. I always knew he was gay, so his confession was no surprise. What did surprise me was the speed with which he’d ghettoized himself. He’d moved into gay housing, joined a gay student organization and, instead of introducing himself as a student majoring in chemistry, introduced himself as a gay man. I questioned whether it was a good thing for him to define himself solely by his bedroom conduct, so that all other aspects of himself were swept into that shadow. Frankly, at this distance in time, I can’t remember his defense. I just remember that I wasn’t convinced, but instead felt strongly that he was limiting himself by placing his sexuality front and center.

But that, of course, is always the problem with identity politics. You’re not the sum total of your parts, you’re a one-trick pony, a stereotype. You’re not a brilliant man with an amazing gift for building computers, a wife and two loving children. You’re a black man and, by default setting, oppressed. You’re not a physician, a poet and a musician, you’re a gay man who is a doctor and has some hobbies. You’re not a much sought after computer program, you’re a handicapped woman in a wheel chair who got a job programming computers. The identity comes first nowadays. Everything else is a subset.

And if the identity comes first, everything that impinges on that identity has to go, regardless of whether that impinging thing has any independent merit. Religion? To heck with its civilizing influence and social controls. It offends gays so it’s got to go. Thomas Jefferson? Who cares about his remarkable intellectual contributions to the then-nascent ideas of freedom and democracy. He had slaves, so his ideas must be derided. And on and on. An identity ridden generation can’t separate the wheat from the chaff. I just hope identity politics doesn’t see too many valuable babies tossed away with the offending bathwater. (Sorry for the mixed metaphors, but I liked ‘em both and kept ‘em.)