Wednesday, 3 May 2017

The Collapse of American Identity

Here's a great piece, from Robert P. Jones, at the New York Times (surprisingly).

Jones is the author of The End of White Christian America.

There have been other times in our history when the fabric of American identity was stretched in similar ways — the Civil War, heightened levels of immigration at the turn of the 20th century and the cultural upheavals of the 1960s.

But during these eras, white Christians were still secure as a demographic and cultural majority in the nation. The question at stake was whether they were going to make room for new groups at a table they still owned. Typically, a group would gain its seat in exchange for assimilation to the majority culture. But as white Christians have slipped from the majority over the past decade, this familiar strategy is no longer viable.

White Christians are today struggling to face a new reality: the inevitable surrender of table ownership in exchange for an equal seat. And it’s this new higher-stakes challenge that is fueling the great partisan reorientation we are witnessing today.

The temptation for the Republican Party, especially with Donald Trump in the White House, is to double down on a form of white Christian nationalism, which treats racial and religious identity as tribal markers and defends a shrinking demographic with increasingly autocratic assertions of power.

For its part, the Democratic Party is contending with the difficulties of organizing its more diverse coalition while facing its own tribal temptations to embrace an identity politics that has room to celebrate every group except whites who strongly identify as Christian. If this realignment continues, left out of this opposition will be a significant number of whites who are both wary of white Christian nationalism and weary of feeling discounted in the context of identity politics.

This end is not inevitable, but if we are to continue to make one out of many, leaders of both parties will have to step back from the reactivity of the present and take up the more arduous task of weaving a new national narrative in which all Americans can see themselves.

1 comment:

Drew4558 said...

I'd leaven this with the observation that "Christian" has changed in its meaning over those years as well.

Once upon a time, we were all, or mostly all, self-identified Christians. In many different flavors and intensities. So whatever else, there was a common, shared, root set of basic beliefs and moral standards. We shared most of those with assimilated Jewish folks too, so that wasn't really any kind of big deal.

These days "Christian" seems to have shifted towards the extreme, or at least so the media would have us believe. Revivalists, snake handlers, the Our Flavor Or Else squads, and those intolerant types who use Jesus as a weapon, smug in their own self-righteousness and ever too eager to busybody and judge and damn everyone else, enabled and re-enforced with a bit of scripture. The quiet Lutherans, Presbyterians, Pentacostals, relaxed Catholics and all the rest seem to have been swept aside. We're still out there, by the tens of millions. I think. We have no other label (and everyone HAS to have a group label or three these days) other than Conservative, but we are mostly Centrist. America used to be mostly Centrist, but now all the "extremers" on both sides hog the microphones. It's difficult to speak up and say "let's all just get along" when both sides are so far apart.

It pains me that so few people overtly want to assimilate these days. Everyone is in mindless lockstep to their personal identity groups, regurgitating the official groupspeak, knowing that to deviate is to be shamed, blackballed, shunned, and ejected. That is a dangerous and ultimately destructive path. There is right and wrong, truth and falsehood, honesty and deceit, even if some on the far Left want everyone to "accept" that all of those are relative and dynamic concepts. BS.

So us "little c" centrists really don't care what your gender alignment is today, or what race you want to claim membership in, or whatever. Just be a pleasant decent person with decent hygiene, hold down a job, marry the person you're breeding with, try not to look like a circus sideshow freak, and show some respect for other people and their belongings. That's "Christian" enough for most of us, and it doesn't seem to be such a hard thing to assimilate into.

But yes, I'd really like to see the GOP grow some backbone, give up being purchased patsies, and do some real MAGA. I'm not seeing much of that from anyone other than President Trump.