The ultimate tragic expression of identity politics would be the War Between the States or the Civil War (How, for instance, in hell can any war be “civil”?). By looking at the natural extension of today”s fantasies of multiculturalism and identity politics, we can invite a great lesson from that war.
By extension, if every “identity” and “culture” were to win its day in court and by law and tradition gain maximum legitimacy and acceptance at every degree by every known person, how, then, are we to control who comes out on top?
Are we simply to assume, human nature notwithstanding, that African-Americans will concede the stage to the Mexicans, that the Latinos will through some singular grace not fragment into the various “latino” nationalities and sub-nationalities, that the otherwise amorphous “LGBTQAXYZ” (who knows how many more letters will be added over the next decades? Did I forget “T”?) community will hand in hand prance down the street in boundless unison not skipping a beat (what the hell is a rainbow but a pastiche of separate, unmingled colors anyway, duh?), that the Muslims will of a sudden decide that actually there never was that unfortunate divide between the Sunnis and Shias, what was it???, a few hundred years ago and bygones will be bygones, that the hope of fruitful and loving recognition by one and all of our favorite homosexual won’t be dashed to the sidewalk from a push off of a tall building by some homophobic Muslim?
You see, don’t you, that it won’t end at the “end” for there never will be an end. There isn’t now and, as long as we are on this sad trajectory, never will be, period. What will happen in the final analysis (which is a euphemism for “end”) is that each of the ideal identities and cultures will begin to war with each other endlessly. It won’t be one big war like it was between the Rebs and Yanks but a whole lot of smaller, bloodier and hyper-energized engagements that will leave each “identity” and “culture” in true shock, each wondering what happened, each thinking that they had actually “won” what they had always wanted. It won’t be finger-pointing and verbal accusations. Because, if they can’t exist with the level of tolerance now, how can they expect to do so with other so wholly intolerant “fellow-travelers”? Go back and learn what the victorious Bolsheviks did to their train of co-conspiring revolutionaries after 1917.
For, you also see, that the War Between the States was really a battle between two identities and two cultures at both the corporate and the human scales. Review all that went before, even the principles of the Founding Fathers (some principles of which never got initially included, hence the need for adjustments that the war brought about), and you will readily see the trajectory of the politics of both “identity” and “culture”. And none of it will be good as none of it was able to sustain any temporary good at the time. William Golding had it right in “The Lord of the Flies”. There will be certain winners and most definitely losers.
That is why the notion of being an American has always been the leveling presence in all of this. Had both the North and the South somehow and somewhere agreed first on that, there may have been no conflict- and, ultimately, no slavery. But they didn’t.
In truth, each ethnicity and each nationality, where they are dissimilar, that has immigrated voluntarily to the United States has largely been able to practice some of what was customary for them in their origin countries without much interference. There have been exceptions- some of them vast- but taken in the context and sociology of the time, coming to America also meant arriving at a place where not only could they melt into the American fabric but they could also continue cooking kielbasa, lasagna, burritos, brats and metz, warm potato salad, adobo, pan-fried noodles, blintzes. They could attend a church where only their native language was spoken while instilling on the next generation the necessity to learn English and study and live out the American ideal. That, in the United States, is what truly represents original “multiculturalism.”
Yes, there was judgment and discrimination and prejudice as there is even now. What would one expect from an “experiment” that had never in history been tried before? Do you think that the Irish, merely because they were counted as European whites, had it that well when they first began arriving en masse in the 1840s? That is, in part, always part of any hypothesis- test, fail, adjust, retest.
An American is of a creed and a culture born of principles that know neither identity nor multiculturalism- they may “identify” with something or be one of and with a “culture”, but when asked to raise their hands when the question is asked, “Who here is an American?”, theirs will shoot up explosively. It was from this precept that we gained the edge in world technology, trade, property, finances, wealth, and opportunity. If not, why is it that so many people from so many countries have always wanted (and continue to want) to immigrate to the United States. Why is it that immigration is such a hot topic now, as well? It is the clear definition of what an American is and what it can do for them that attracts them here in the first place. Why, then, would they want to change it now and in the future so as to negate the same opportunity for later generations?
If American creative and inventive successes did not derive from a melding of variety born of a mostly unfettered immigration from other countries, then I have no idea where it came from. For our true success has come from the ability to take other cultures individually and make an American of each one.