When I was in my grammar school orchestra, our music teacher and conductor introduced us to a recently written short piece entitled, “Who Am I?” I no longer recall the name of the composer nor have I been able to discover that despite a lot of internet searching. I really didn’t care for the piece (or I would remember who wrote it) but the title is incredibly pertinent to an understanding of the world view that many have adopted – Identity Politics.
There is probably no thinking human who has not at some point asked the questions, “Who am I; Where do I come from; What am I doing here; Where am I going?” Religion and science have both addressed those questions. I suspect our lives would be far easier if we definitively knew the answers to those questions. But as we don’t we have to cope with life as we perceive it. That includes how we see ourselves and our relationship with the world and other people in it.
Without question, most of us would prefer to have a simple answer and way of dealing with all the challenges that come our way in life. Unfortunately, simple solutions are not always the best solutions. Pigeonholing people into a class or group whether by race or gender or sexual orientation makes a fundamental flawed assumption that anyone who can be identified as a member of some particular group is part of a homogenous mass of people all of whom are defined by some particular specific trait and are all exactly the same.
As convenient as it is to define people including ourselves in this way, it is incredibly narrow-minded and denies a basic reality. There are people whom we proscribe to a group who do not fit into the criteria that we ascribe to all members of that group. This leads to one of two options. Either we can consider changing our views based on the evidence in front of us or we can deny it or pretend it simply doesn’t exist.
Years ago, the Roman Catholic church in America had a very serious and embarrassing problem. There were a number of priests who were pedophiles and rather than addressing the problem honestly, the hierarchy chose the path of covering it up, denying what obviously had happened. The media coverage was both relentless and extensive – as it should have been. Most people recognize that sex offenses are serious crimes.
Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert is currently serving a fifteen month prison term for molesting teenage boys when he was a teacher and wrestling coach. That story also got a fair amount of media attention. There is no surprise that both these stories were covered as widely as they were. A large number of people in the media seem to support a secularist view in their reporting. And most share a highly anti-Republican/conservative bias.
There is a similar story that is making it challenging for a Democrat incumbent mayor to retain his position in Seattle. Ed Murray who is openly gay has been accused of paying an underage boy small amounts of money in exchange for sexual favors. This is not the first such allegation against Murray. Two teenagers made similar accusations in 2007 regarding events that were supposed to have taken place twenty years earlier. No charges were filed in either of those allegations. By and large, the media seem to be in denial on this story and is sweeping it under the rug. Gays are one “protected class” of people that Identity Politics has defined as sacrosanct.
It doesn’t much matter other than to Murray and his purported victims whether these allegations are true. With the proliferation of sexual predation, it’s hard to imagine that at least one person who is a member of the gay community has not at some point been engaged in inappropriate and illegal behavior. To deny that is to defy common sense. But if that example were found and proven, it would be completely inappropriate to condemn the entire gay community because of the actions of only one person. Unfortunately, that is where Identity Politics inevitably leads us when it is applied rigorously and universally.
If you can find one word which completely describes and defines who you are, you have more than likely self-circumscribed yourself and are comfortable in the limiting world of Identity Politics. As for me, I would like to give myself a little more credit . I think I am a little more complex than that. In fact, I think we all are.