There were three outstanding themes experienced by attendees of last month's #WalkAway March. There was the sense of freedom that comes from escaping the Democrat’s plantation. There was the excitement of meeting new people and making new friends. But there was also an element of sadness over the family and friends lost due to the issues that riven our country.
One man I met there was a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War. He became estranged from his two sisters, the only family he has, partially over Trump and the whole Kavanaugh media circus.
There’s also a friend (who wasn’t at the march) that became alienated from a person she knew for 30 years. They met while in high school, and he was her first gay friend. She walked away, he didn’t. Something similar happened with her mother’s cousin, who knew her since birth, who “changed her diapers” as she put it. Because of various family events, they had to remain in contact, but their interactions became infrequent, their conversations became terse. A mutual friend told me about how much grief she was experiencing over this. The description reminded me of the AIDS crisis writ small.
These same stories are repeated all across America.
Why is this happening?
This is partially due to the changing definition of friendship. We all have online friends, most of whom we’ll never meet. What is the basis of these friendships? It’s not two good people who share similar virtues and who wish each other well, but rather two people clicking the “like” button – not the same thing!
Other types of friendships, like those based on utility or pleasure – are by definition transitory. That’s all that online friends are – friendships based on utility or pleasure. Yet we equate them with real friendships, in their importance and in their permanence.
All types of friendships require time and effort and real-world interaction to cultivate and maintain. Given the number of social media “friends” that people have, it is simply not possible to maintain them all! Once the “friendship” has outlived its usefulness, or is lost in quantity, we either allow it to fade or we terminate it in the most brutal way possible - online interactions allow people to be rude to each other without any real-world consequences.
This somewhat explains the plight of the Vietnam veteran mentioned earlier: he lives in Buffalo, New York, while one sister lives in Florida, and the other is in Arizona. They maintained contact only via social media. There was no real-world interaction, so the friendships withered.
This does not explain the other person mentioned above. In her case, and I think most cases, the dissolution of friendships was solely over ideological differences. The ideology in play is identity politics.
Here’s how it works:
- People belong to identity groups, either by birth or choice or assignment. These identities are artificial, and two members of the same group frequently have nothing in common except for that identity – yet there is an expectation of solidarity.
- Membership in an identity group is not the same as a gym membership. Membership defines and determines their whole existence, and to doubt this is blasphemy.
- Current and historical events are seen by members of any class through the lens of their identity. Doubting the identity or the veracity of its history is an offense to the very core of their being, and to do so makes you ableist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, racist.
- Each group has its own cultural norms. These norms must be respected by other groups, because it is taken on faith that all cultures are equal. They are skeptical of some religions, yet they accept items like this on faith. They are true believers.
- People are encouraged to interact only with other members of their identity. They exist in a bubble yet claim that they are living rich and full lives. They do not go outside their comfort zone, yet they consider themselves brave.
- People are to be loyal to their identity class. They are expected to favor their own, yet they wonder why the world is suddenly so racist.
- People are expected (in most cases) to be proud of their identity.
- To shore up this pride, each identity has its own history. Events that do not fit with a particular group’s history can be safely ignored, or revised, or destroyed. This results in an ever-shifting narrative.
- There is one group that acts as an oppressor, and that group is the white male (either heterosexual or homosexual). Their culture is not to be respected, and pride in that identity is considered to be the very height of racism.
- The degree that an individual is oppressed depends on the number of intersections that this person belongs to. For example, a black disabled lesbian crossdresser is more oppressed than your average lesbian. It’s sort of like a food pyramid of victimhood.
- Those who aren’t oppressors are victims. But not only are they victims, they are helpless, since self-defense is considered wrong.
- Being helpless victims, they are subject to fear, uncertainty, and doubt inflicted by anyone who wishes to manipulate them.
- Since they live in a bubble, they are in no position to verify that they should really be afraid of any particular current event, or whether they are just being manipulated.
Identity politics provides a convenient excuse to prune one’s real-world friends list. And when people indeed end a friendship over identity politics, instead of being angry or upset, they have the warm glow of smugness that comes with virtue signaling. From their standpoint, the friendship was based on a mistaken identity – you fooled them, until they became “woke”.
Identity politics is designed to divide and conquer. It is working.
What can be done? We must begin with a dose of reality.
First, realize that “Hallmark moments” almost never happen in the real world, and it is not possible to hold one’s breath until they do happen. If you doubt this, ask any draft resister or gay man who has been estranged from his family.
Next, look at the pretense under which the friendship was ended: one side believes that the other is a heretic who engages in wrongthink. Ask yourself: why hold on to people who aren’t adult enough to understand that individuals can have different opinions or principles?
Believing in identity politics requires that one suspends their sense of reality. Anybody with an ounce of integrity would reject the theory rather than reject the facts. Ask yourself: do you really want to be friends with a person who trusts their identity group’s agitprop over their own lying eyes? Can you trust someone who outsources their sense of judgement?
Look at the extent the other side is willing to go to purge wrongthink: they are willing to fire you from your employment, to deny you ways of earning money via online activities, to destroy your career. Ask yourself: in good conscience, would you be able to do this?
Finally, ask yourself: is the person who terminated your friendship over identity politics experiencing the same sense of loss?
The situation appears even more intractable when you realize that social justice is a kind of cult, and people who advocate identity politics are not just fervent believers, but the fundamentalists of this cult.
Again, what can be done?
It is tempting to retreat, hole up, and wait for this to pass. It won’t pass. In fact, retreating makes things worse, since everybody will then ask themselves: why not take whole what others propose to divide?
We cannot forget what is at stake: our country, our home. They demand that we relinquish our sovereignty as individuals and as a country. All these are too important to abandon for the social justice warriors’ obvious and vulgar games.
We also cannot forget that we hold the upper hand. The funding of their universities, their affirmative action programs, and their welfare state, depends on us. We can live without them, but not vise versa. Further, we have the element of stability that their narrative du jour precludes - and they know it.
The solution lies in more engagement, not less. It requires that we break down the bubbles which identity politics requires people to inhabit. Even then it will not be easy, since it is far harder to make a believer into a skeptic than to make a skeptic into a believer.