A nation is defined by the qualities that its citizens have in common. Without common traits and common values, nations could scarcely exist. A group of people that merely happened to gather in one place is a crowd. Even a settled group of disinterested strangers can hardly be called a nation.
Nations are made up of people who identify with each other and call each other by the same name—thus, for example, we have the English, the Indians, the French, the Haitians, and the Americans.
Historically, nations have been defined by a common birth or blood. Nations such as my home country of India are made up of people who have a shared ancestry. They look alike. They eat the same food. They largely have the same mores and memories. There are, of course, some forms of diversity or difference in every nation. India has Hindus, Muslims, and Christians. But Indians of all stripes have much more in common with each other than they do, for instance, with the Chinese or the Rwandans.
America is unique in that it’s a nation not based on birth or blood. Americans come from different countries with different ancestral ways of life. Admittedly, for two centuries most immigrants came from Europe, but now they come predominantly from Asia, Africa, Latin, and South America. Ours is a country whose nationhood cannot depend on a common race or ancestry; it must depend on the values we hold in common.
Without common values, citizens aren’t going to be willing to share their hard-earned money with others less fortunate. Why? Because those others aren’t like them, have nothing in common with them, are not, so to speak, on the same ship as they are. Why should citizens who have nothing in common risk their lives for one another? Even the notion of democracy collapses, because why should citizens who are in the minority trust that those who are in the majority won’t steal their property, deprive them of their rights, or tyrannize them in myriad ways?
My reason for saying all this—in my view, stating the obvious—is that American society and American culture are currently awash in the doctrines of identity politics, accompanied by its corollary themes of critical race theory (CRT) and the nostrums of the 1619 Project. The basic thrust here is that we are defined by our race, our gender, and our sexual orientations and preferences.
Every American, by this measure, either belongs to the society of victims or the society of oppressors. Some people, admittedly, are oppressed two or three or many times over. There are “twofers,” “threefers,” and even “fourfers.” So there’s a hierarchy within the field of victimology. The technical term for this is “intersectionality.” Being oppressed for being black is impressive, but being oppressed for being black and female is better still, and being oppressed for being black, female, and gay puts you at the top of the victims’ totem pole.
By contrast, everyone who is white is an oppressor. Everyone who is white and male is doubly guilty. And everyone who is white, male, and heterosexual is the worst of the worst. This might seem startling enough, but even more startling is the idea that there’s no way to get out of these categories. No matter how repentant you might be for being white, male, and heterosexual, you have no choice but to remain in the reviled oppressor category. You must pay, and your victims must receive, not just now but always; guilt without end.
What I’m getting at here is that identity politics, CRT, and the 1619 Project are all based on a strategy of social division. Division here isn’t an accidental result of these ideologies, but is the strategy employed by these ideologies to achieve their goals. Without division, identity politics would completely break down and lose its raison d’etre.
We can see this by identifying the source of contemporary identity politics, which is early 20th-century Marxism. Marxism, too, is rooted in division. Marx divided society into the oppressors and the oppressed. His was a class division: The oppressors were the capitalist class, and the oppressed were members of the working class. The whole Marxist paradigm was based on setting the two classes against each other, ending, Marx hoped, in the triumph of the class at the bottom over the class at the top.
While Marxism merely sought to create a single division within society, however—a class division—identity politics takes the Marxist strategy much further. Identity politics, as championed on the political left, seeks to divide society not just in one way but in multiple ways: not just rich against poor, but also black against white, male against female, and straight against gay. If America goes all the way down this road, the result would be a deeply fractured society made up of angry, bitter, reviled “oppressors” and even angrier, more bitter, and accusatory “victims.”
I place these terms in quotation marks because we’re not dealing with genuine oppressors any more than we’re dealing with genuine victims. The oppressors haven’t done anything harmful to the victims. Rather, the victims have tagged and stigmatized the oppressors merely for belonging to historically privileged or successful groups. Jews, for example, are oppressors because they’re wealthier as a group than, say, Puerto Ricans; Asian Americans are oppressors because they score higher on math tests than blacks and Latinos.
The whole project of identity politics is a farce and a disgrace. It’s morally and intellectually embarrassing to classify people in this way. It has nothing to do with social justice. So nothing productive is being accomplished, while great harm is being done. The great harm is to fray, perhaps irreparably, the bonds of a society that has nothing but its shared values to hold it together.
Once those bonds break, America might still exist in name, or as a piece of land, but it will cease to exist as a nation.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.