My last column begged the question, “Do we really want every relationship to be based on politics?” In other words, do we only want to associate with people and maintain business relationships with folks who think exactly the same way we do? Since it’s impossible for someone to think exactly as you do (and thank God our founders knew this to be a self-evident truth and included a person’s ability to think for themselves as an inalienable right) I find this question worthy of more consideration.
One of the most glaring statements made to me after my column on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court came from a caller who said that maybe it’s time to only do business with people who think like them, who want the country and government to do as they see fit and only give money to groups like the ACLU who believe as they do. As I thought about it, my concerns grew.
The American Civil Liberties Union should be the biggest supporter of free speech in our country. Now I know —and you know — it isn’t. It has become a mouthpiece and lawsuit lover for almost all things left in our country. But think about the statement of my caller. In a nutshell, the caller wanted to give money to a group because what it does in reality is what that caller wants, which is the polar opposite of what the ACLU claims as its mission. There are reasons galore conservatives don’t give money to the ACLU and fight them in court. Most of them are because of its political actions. Those actions are also the same reason liberals give to the group in abundance. And yes, the same thing can be said of groups on the left and right I’d need the space of 100 columns to cover.
But that’s not my point. My point here, along with the confusion it causes, is that more Americans are going about their daily lives scattered in thought and shunning relationships and life due to politics. If politics can get in the way of a group created to defend the rights of individuals, it can get in the way of individuals themselves. And that’s we have today in America, people doing, associating, talking and living based on politics first, with all our beliefs, hopes, dreams and freedoms coming in everywhere from a distant second to dead last.
That’s exactly the opposite of how things should be. But it’s what we’ve become. And to me, it’s the true definition of “identity politics.”
Many people identify with Republicans or Democrats in terms of how they vote — mostly because we’re only given two choices with a realistic chance of winning. But I’m finding more and more people actually BECOMING how they think politically. How else can someone make a statement saying, “I only want to do business with people who think like me and support my political ideals?” While I know that’s impossible, I also know one other thing: They better hope their customers don’t think the same way.
While that identity politics example shows how disastrous it can be for one’s business, I have a more important example of what identity politics is doing to us personally. It’s not only destroying America, it’s destroying Americans.
Tell me if you’ve had a day like this as I have: You get up in the morning and instead of taking time for your morning coffee and reflection (mine is supposed to be for devotions, but you might meditate or just enjoy the scenery on the patio) you log onto Facebook. W hat pops up? That’s right, a political meme about which you just have to make a comment. Perhaps you’re thinking, just a small comment to get the chat going in the right direction or a quick joke to add some humor to the topic. But then someone responds and, two hours later, your day is shot.
Why is this phenomenon occurring all too frequently? It’s because one group or another is determining just what is or isn’t free speech. And if eyes were open, one would realize the last groups that should be doing this are folks like the ACLU, Facebook, Twitter and main stream media. Yet, that’s where most go to find their version of free speech because these groups wield all too much power in that arena. Hence, these groups and their thinking become one’s identity because they get to be right and they get to win.
Want an example closer to home? Try doing the same identity thinking with your ex (spouse, partner, friend) and tell me how emotional you become in that exchange. Not good. And just as strong as one’s hostility can become towards a high-conflict ex (again, insert what kind here), it can become the same between people and friends in how they think politically. When it’s done via keyboard and screen, it’s even worse. Tell me how your day goes after this kind of interaction.
Maybe it’s time to remember one thing: At some point you loved and respected and communicated with the person on the other side of the politics on an intimate level. Maybe it’s time to find that again instead of losing our lives and each other.
After all, there’s plenty of future Americans counting on us. Let’s talk.