The Danger of a Dominant Identity aka Labels

David Brooks is perhaps my favorite news columnist. He just has a way of understanding  the heart of the matter. I don’t usually miss a Friday PBS Newshour show where he and Mark Shields discuss the week. In order to make sure I see all his articles I just started an e-subcription to the New York Times.  Here is what he says about dominant identity:

We’re even seeing a wave of voluntary reductionism. People feel besieged, or they’re intellectually lazy, so they reduce themselves to one category. Being an evangelical used to mean practicing a certain form of faith. But “evangelical” has gone from being an adjective to a noun, a simplistic tribal identity that commands Republican affiliation….

The only way out of this mess is to continually remind ourselves that each human is a conglomeration of identities: ethnic, racial, professional, geographic, religious and so on. Even each identity itself is not one thing but a tradition of debate about the meaning of that identity. Furthermore, the dignity of each person is not found in the racial or ethnic category that each has inherited, but in the moral commitments that each individual has chosen and lived out. Getting out of this mess also means accepting the limits of social science. The judgments of actual voters are better captured in the narratives of journalism and historical analysis than in the brutalizing correlations of big data…

But there has to be a rejection of single-identity thinking and a continual embrace of the reality that each of us is a mansion with many rooms.

Source: The Danger of a Dominant Identity – The New York Times

I have to admit up front that the word Evangelical is a very negative one for me.  It means only caring about one issue and abandoning everything that Christianity really means to me.  Being an Evangelical, like the word liberal, was once a noble label to wear proudly but it has now come to mean a completely different thing.

I am a person of many labels. I could probably fill up the rest of my 500 word limit on this post with them. Yes my labels are primarily things I am passionate about; I will simply not be defined by any one of them alone.  But as David Brooks says above too many have done just that and almost hang their total being on one label.  Are they just intellectually lazy as he suggests?  I kind of think so.

When we fix labels to people it is just easier to put them on one particular cubby hole and disregard the rest of the person.

  • If you are deaf you must therefore be dumb. I run across this one quite frequently.
  • If you are a liberal you must be a Communist or at least a Socialist.
  • If you are a Christian you must be anti-science.
  • If you voted for Trump are either a narrow minded Evangelical or a card carrying member of the KKK and bent on the destruction of our country.

Labels allow us to put each other into very small boxes that are easier to despise and hate. To identify with a dominant identity is to belittle ourselves. It takes work to step back and see the total person. The intellectually lazy will never make the effort. But I hold out hope that most of us can see beyond the labels people attach to us.

I am a dreamer in that, and many other regards I guess….

Part 8 – How Did We Get Here — History Lessons – The KKK

One part of what is happening today is reminiscent of the 1920s when rural America was feeling threatened by the movement from farm to city brought on by the Industrial Revolution happening around the world. One of the groups many rural people clung to for relief was the reinvented KKK. Here is a story about that:

In its second incarnation, the Klan moved beyond just targeting blacks, and broadened its message of hate to include Catholics, Jews and foreigners. The Klan promoted fundamentalism and devout patriotism along with advocating white supremacy. They blasted bootleggers, motion pictures and espoused a return to “clean” living. Appealing to folks uncomfortable with the shifting nature of America from a rural agricultural society to an urban industrial nation, the Klan attacked the elite, urbanites and intellectuals.

2016-12-20_09-30-01.pngTheir message struck a cord, and membership in the Klan ballooned in the 1920s. By the middle of the decade, estimates for national membership in this secret organization ranged from three million to as high as eight million Klansmen. And membership was not limited to the poor and uneducated on society’s fringes. Mainstream, middle-class Americans donned the white robes of the Klan too. …

In the 1920s, the Klan moved in many states to dominate local and state politics. The Klan devised a strategy called the “decade,” in which every member of the Klan was responsible for recruiting ten people to vote for Klan candidates in elections. In 1924 the Klan succeeded in engineering the elections of officials from coast to coast, including the mayors of Portland, Maine, and Portland, Oregon. In some states, such as Colorado and Indiana, they placed enough Klansmen in positions of power to effectively control the state government.

Source: The Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s . Fatal Flood . WGBH American Experience | PBS

The KKK almost totally dominated my very rural State of Indiana during those years. While the stock markets were increasing daily the hinterland was just not part of that prosperity. The KKK promised that they would make America a White Christian Nation again.  They would do w2016-12-20_09-33-06.pnghatever they could to maintain the past in face of a  overtaking future.  Although they never had a national ticket the KKK thrived at State levels. They controlled the governor’s office and most of the legislature in Indiana.

Even when I was a young lad in the 1960s the KKK still had a presence in my small Indiana town. I can remember seeing crosses burning west of town during their meetings.  When a black couple moved into the town their house burned down within a week. They left and for the duration of my time in that town no other minority dared to try to take up residence.

It was not until I left for college that I found out that the rest of the world was much more diverse than my small town. I have seen where in the last year the KKK has tripled its membership and they proudly boost of their contribution in the latest election. I don’t think, or maybe I should say pray, that their membership will never reach the point it was one hundred years ago. If we get to that point then maybe we deserve to go down in ashes.



About Fascism…

Some are calling the coming years as being about fascism. The world seems to be so obsessed with fear in one form or another to cause it to turn to fascism. The Trump election is a significant sign in that direction. So, for this post I decided to tackle just was fascism is about and to look its past for possible indication to the future.

Lets start of with what Wikipedia says about it:

Fascism opposes liberalism, Marxism and anarchism and is usually placed on the far-right within the traditional left–right spectrum. …

Fascists believe that liberal democracy is obsolete, and they regard the complete mobilization of society under a totalitarian one-party state as necessary to prepare a nation for armed conflict and to respond effectively to economic difficulties.   Such a state is led by a strong leader—such as a dictator and a martial government composed of the members of the governing fascist party—to forge national unity and maintain a stable and orderly society Fascism rejects assertions that violence is automatically negative in nature, and views political violence, war, and imperialism as means that can achieve national rejuvenation.  Fascists advocate a mixed economy, with the principal goal of achieving autarky (economic independence) through protectionist and interventionist economic policies. …

2016-12-10_09-18-45.pngRobert Paxton says that fascism is “a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”…

In Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, both Mussolini and Hitler pursued territorial expansionist and interventionist foreign policy agendas from the 1930s through the 1940s culminating in World War II.

Source: Fascism – Wikipedia

The above quotes are just pieces from the article to start our conversation.  I “bolded” the topics I want to discuss.

Fascism is a one-party government led by a dictator who has almost supreme control. He is almost thought to be the savior of the world by the fascists.  Fascism is primarily about an obsessive preoccupation with community decline. Doesn’t that sound an awfully like the rhetoric coming from the Trump camp during the campaign. “Make America Great Again” insinuates that we have lost our ability to do what is right and need a strong leader to put us back on the right track. Read more

The Death Watch For Another Brick and Mortar Establishment…

About this time last century quickly finding the horse and buggy business evaporating.  They had been left behind when the automobile was invented a couple of decades before.  At about the same time a startup called Sears Roebuck and Company was taking business away from many local mom and pop stores. Is Sears and their similar competitors facing extinction here in the beginnings of the 21st century?

Quick: Name a reason to shop at Sears.If you’re struggling to identify one, you’re not alone; even the company’s web team can’t figure it out. On Thursday, the company’s virtual storefront featured home appliances, a pool table, exercise equipment, watches, men’s jeans and a snow blower. A photo advertising a women’s knit sweater was positioned next to a WeedWacker…

Sears Holdings, which owns Sears and Kmart, reported on Thursday a loss of $748 million for the three months ending on Oct. 29. This is the company’s 20th consecutive quarterly loss, and worse than the $454 million loss the company posted in the same period last year….

This leaves Sears President and CEO Edward Lampert, the billionaire hedge funder and Ayn Rand devotee, with gaping holes in his leadership team as he continues his Sisyphean task of rescuing Sears from irrelevance. While predictions of the Sears collapse have been heard for years, the numbers are starting to show that the company is running out of options.

Source: Sears death watch update: Is it time to prepare an obit for our least-essential department store? –

Read more

Our Times – The Cities vs Hinterland

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One of the major splits in the current American society is between the cities and the rural areas. This is obvious when you look at the latest election map. There are vast geographical areas of red with blue concentrations spread out around the country. Obviously the blue dots are concentrated around the cities and large towns while the red is mainly sparsely populated areas.

I am not really sure what the “red” folks hope to achieve with their selection of an extreme narcissist billionaire as president? Maybe it has something to do with one of the below categories?

Abandoned small towns — I have literally traveled thousands of mile on local and State highways in this country.  For the most part they are littered with thousands of abandoned small towns. They were once enclaves for the people of the surrounding area but as the farming populations naturally decreased they lost their purpose. All that remains in many of them is a local post office. Read more