The Perils of Identity Politics

I’ve got something important to say, and it involves politics. Now, politics has a funny way of going from 0 to 100,000 really quickly and that’s why I usually avoid talking about it on my website. However, today I’ve got something important to say and I hope I can say it without attracting a lot of salt and vitriol.

On that note, I don’t care if you’re a Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, religious or atheist, PC gamer or console gamer, muggle or wizard, cat-person or dog-person. I just ask that you hear me out completely before you throw shade at me for talking about politics. Deal?

If you’re reading this from the US, then I don’t need to tell you what time of the year it is. Midterm elections are coming up and there’s now more at stake than ever before. One of the reasons why politics gets so heated is because it encroaches on peoples’ identities. What makes it worse is that there are no prerequisites to adopting a political identity. For example, you can’t call yourself a doctor without passing med school. You can’t call yourself a pilot without passing flight school. You can’t call yourself a lawyer without passing law school.

You can, however, call yourself a liberal or conservative without any education at all. Once you make these labels part of your identity, you open the door for them to do your thinking for you.

Here’s an example to illustrate. Imagine that I’m walking outside and I happen to overhear a couple of strangers say:

“Steven Zawila is such a moron”

Ouch! That doesn’t feel good at all. If I weren’t able to keep my emotions in check, I may very well feel compelled to shout angrily at these two strangers talking about me behind my back.

Let’s take this one step further. Imagine that I identify with the Harambian political party. I’m walking outside again and this time I happen to hear two strangers say:

“Harambians are such morons”

Ouch! Since I’ve made being a Harambian part of my identity, hearing that Harambians are morons is only one step removed from hearing that Steven Zawila is a moron. That makes hearing this statement sting just as much as the previous statement.

Let’s go even further. Say that the Harambian party believes that access to rapid-fire wizard wands is a fundamental right. This causes the Harambian identity to adopt this belief. So, if I’m outside again and I hear those two strangers say…

“Rapid-fire wizard wands ought to be restricted”

…then that is only one step removed from hearing that Harambians are wrong, which is only one more step removed from hearing that Steven Zawila is wrong. Because I’ve made this belief in rapid-fire wizard wands part of my identity, hearing a contradictory belief stings just as much as hearing that Steven Zawila is a moron. Again, if I’m unable to keep my emotions in check then I may feel compelled to react angrily toward this contradictory belief. And what’s the best way to do that?

By believing in my original belief even harder. Just like that, I’ve let my own identity do my thinking for me.

My Sincere and Important Message

I’m not going to tell you who you ought to vote for. It’s not my place to tell you who to vote for, or what your political beliefs should be, or which party you should identify with. Heck, back in college I voted for Tony Stark for President of Beta Alpha Psi.

All I’m saying is to make sure you keep your identity in check when doing so. When it comes to politics, your decisions on who to support should be based not on identity but on who is going to make things better.

Let your identity be a product of your worldview, and not the other way around.

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