Identity vs Circumstance and Hate

I have an odd way of seeing myself in the world. How I fit in the larger picture, so to speak. I’d like to talk a bit about identity and circumstance, and how these two very separate ideas get confused.

I wish I could say an example of “self” hate like this was startling (David Neiwert, Orcinus):

I was on David Goldstein’s radio show last night and, in between segments, we wound up chatting briefly on the subject of anti-Semitic Jews. Not being Jewish, I’m not very comfortable wrestling with the issue — but Goldstein, being very Jewish, has no compunction about it at all. He said he’s looking forward to talking about them when the subject arises, and he thinks it will a lot in the coming year.

I share in David Goldstein’s enthusiasm. The very thought of so many inconsistent brick heads makes my rhetorical karate chops water in anticipation. But that’s not the only reason. This kind of hatred for one’s own group provides an excellent opportunity to take a peek into the logic behind affirmative action, immigration policy, hatred, peace, and a number of issues that revolve around how we see ourselves and others.

First there is the matter of my own identity. I was born into the culture and faith of Judaism. How I got to where I am now is a bit of a story, so I’ll be brief. A combination of exposure to various philosophical traditions and my own intellectual curiosity have left me something of a theist. That said, there is still this ingrained sense of identity with the Jewish tradition. A love of humor and stories as a way of understanding and interacting with the world, and a sense of familiar and comfortable logic when traveling through the words of those who came before me.

But that is not how I view myself. I see myself purely as a human being, and I understand my heritage in those terms more with each passing day. I am every bit the heir to Gandhi, hitler, pol pot, MLK, FDR and Rumi as I am to any other luminary or dark stain upon history. I share in the shame and guilt of the German people, and in the pain and suffering in Darfur. Every tyrant shares my blood, as does every revolutionary.

This view cuts at one of the core components of hatred. Exclusive Identity: Here is where we get into one of the driving misunderstandings of the right wing movement. I’ll start with an example: Affirmative Action.

Affirmative action is viewed on the right in terms of Identity. You have a certain identity, and you get certain privileges. Whereas on the left it is viewed as a response to circumstance. In other words Affirmative Action was a response towards inequality generated by identity based hate, to address the circumstances created. It was also a rhetorical slap towards that hatred. So in one sense, switching to a economic based set of criteria is entirely natural. On the other, we are losing that rhetorical punch packed by group based affirmative action.

What we have is a gulf in how we see each other. When it comes to immigration, we see individuals responding to circumstance. Conservatives see a group of “permanent criminals” or “invading hispanic hordes”, depending on how far down wing nut lane you traipse.

Which brings us back to the example of the Conservative Jew (not to be confused with religious conservatism within Judaism) who is so caught up in the culture of hate that she engages in a flimsy defense of her new friends on the far reich:

The rapid Islamisation of Europe must be fought. In order to fight it, political parties must be engaged. If not, how then to effect change?

I will make the case for the Europeans desperate to save their country(s). I did research (and continue to) and see the ghosts but VB or more particularly the Swedish Democrats have done nothing in recent years that I need to worry about. The Swedish Democrats have had their purge a few years ago and are now clean. I see a pattern of such transformations in several European countries. If they want to become respectable, pro-Israel, I am thrilled to be part of the process.

I can’t be held captive to past associations. That’s like the left repeatedly running the pic of Rumsfeld and Saddam back in the 80s. Every party, every person, everywhere has past associations that are irrelevant to what’s happening now. Hell, I was once a Democrat.

Hell, why not join the KKK? They had their purge years ago, and are now clean. This kind of convenient douche logic never holds up to even cursory examination. It fails in a spectacularly instructive way now.

Take another look (emphasis mine):

Every party, every person, everywhere has past associations that are irrelevant to what’s happening now.

This is absolutely the crux of the problem with the right wing today. They do not understand that the relationships and histories we built in the past are driving world events in the present. A group of neo-nazis that once attacked the Jews are now attacking Muslims. This is very relevant. The whole mess we call the Middle East is a hotbed of past grudges being played out day after day. Those “past associations” are what keep the Middle East burning.

We absolutely must understand and grapple with those associations, just as we must understand how the hatred in our own past has made efforts like affirmative action and the civil rights law necessary. What we must be careful of is falling into the trap of exclusive identity politics. In the Middle East, we are on the side of both the Israelis and Palestinians, the Sunni and the Shiite, Turk and Kurd. Here at home, that applies with the same urgency.

Our identity is shared. Our circumstances are not. If we want to make the world a better place, we can start by recognizing our shared past, and offering our help to those who are, quite literally, our people: humanity.


7 Responses

  1. Welcome back.

  2. Fitness said:
    “What we have is a gulf in how we see each other. When it comes to immigration, we see individuals responding to circumstance. Conservatives see a group of “permanent criminals” or “invading Hispanic hordes”, depending on how far down wing nut lane you traipse.”

    You must be independently wealthy fitness. You obviously don’t feel that the social and economic impact is a big deal. You might if you viewed it as a real circumstance. But somehow I don’t think you can relate to the situation on a realistic level. If you could then you’d be on wing nut lane with me as I see the effects quite vividly and there are literally tons of corroborating facts.
    Here’s one I thought was ironic but I’m sure it’s sinister to you because you don’t mind when there are two numbers on the back of your credit card, one for English and one for Spanish, and when you press the one for English it says “para espaniol marke numero dos” I know that doesn’t bother you but does it make it clear how far the pandering to law breakers and the disregard for law abiding citizens has gone?

    No? Then have a look at this>>>>>

    A conversation between a Customer and Bank of America Bank:

    The Bank: Bank of America , can I help you?

    Customer: Yes, I want to cancel my account. I don’t want to do business with you any longer.

    The Bank: Why?

    Customer: You’re giving credit to illegal immigrants and I don’t think it’s right. I’m taking my business elsewhere.

    The Bank: Well, Mr. Customer, we don’t want to see you do that, but we can’t stop you. I’ll help you close the account. What is your account number?

    Customer: (gives account number)

    The Bank: For security purposes and for your protection, can you please give me the last four digits of your social security number?

    Customer: No?

    The Bank: Mr. Customer, I need to verify your information, but in order to help you, I’ll need verification of who you are.

    Customer: Why should I give you my social security number? The reason I’m closing my account is that your bank is issuing credit cards to illegal immigrants who don’t have social security numbers. You are targeting that audience and want their business. Let’s say I’m an illegal immigrant and you’ve given me a credit card. I have a question about it and call for assistance. You wouldn’t be asking me for a Social Security number, would you?

    The Bank: No sir, I wouldn’t.

    Customer: Why not?

    The Bank: Because you would have pressed ‘2’ to speak in Spanish. We don’t ask for that information when calling in on the Spanish line.

    I provided “snopes” for doubters:


    I hope the following 14 reasons are forwarded over and over again until they are read so many times that the reader gets sick of reading them. I have included the URL’s for verification of the following facts.

    1. $11 Billion to $22 billion is spent on welfare to illegal aliens each year.

    2. $2.2 Billion dollars a year is spent on food assistance programs such as food stamps, WIC, and free school lunches for illegal aliens.

    3. $2.5 Billion dollars a year is spent on Medicaid for illegal aliens.

    4. $12 Billion dollars a year is spent on primary and secondary school education for children here illegally and they cannot speak a word of English!

    5. $17 Billion dollars a year is spent for education for the American-born children of illegal aliens, known as anchor babies.

    6. $3 Million Dollars a DAY is spent to incarcerate illegal aliens. ANSCRIPTS/0604/01/ldt.01.html

    7. 30% percent of all Federal Prison inmates are illegal aliens.

    8. $90 Billion Dollars a year is spent on illegal aliens for Welfare & social services by the American taxpayers.

    9. $200 Billion Dollars a year in suppressed American wages are
    caused by the illegal aliens.

    10. The illegal aliens in the United States have a crime rate that’s two and a half times that of white non-illegal aliens. In particular, their children, are going to make a huge additional crime problem in the US

    11. During the year of 2005 there were 4 to 10 MILLION illegal aliens that crossed our Southern Border also, as many as 19,500 illegal aliens from Terrorist Countries. Millions of pounds of drugs, cocaine, meth, heroine and marijuana, cros sed into the U. S from the Southern border. Homeland Security Report:

    12. The National Policy Institute, “estimated that the total cost of mass deportation would be between $206 and $230 billion or an average cost of between $41 and $46 billion annually over a five year period.”

    13. In 2006 illegal aliens sent home $45 BILLION in remittances back to their countries of origin.

    14. “The Dark Side of Illegal Immigration: Nearly One Million Sex Crimes Committed by Illegal Immigrants In The United States “.

    The total cost is a whooping


    If this doesn’t bother you then just delete the message, but on the other hand, if it does raise the hair on the back of your neck, then forward it to every human in the country including every representative inWashington, DC four time a week for a month.

  3. Michael D,

    Of course I won’t delete the message. The only messages I delete are spam. I did have to fish this out of Akismet (it nets anything with a large number of links).

    Ok, onto your arguments. There’s a lot here, so I’m going to pick out the two big ones: Economic and Criminal impact.

    On Crime, the idea that illegal immigrants are disproportionately inclined to crime is a common myth. The fact is the percentage of those committing violent crimes as at or lower than among the general population. More people, of course, leads to more crime. But it doesn’t mean all of those people should pay the price for the few who are violent criminals.

    On the economy, I suspect this is a touch more complicated than either side of the debate will acknowledge. The greater flow of money (including additional consumption domestically, and investment abroad) is a good thing for the economy. Ripping illegal immigrants out of our economy will likely have a devastating impact.

    As far as the consumption of taxed services, if we were able to tax illegal immigrants, this wouldn’t be quite the problem that it is. But it is a problem to be addressed.

    At the same time, America’s criminal justice system is bulging with these citizens of other countries. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 30 percent of federal prisoners are not U.S. citizens. At a cost of $63 a day, taxpayers spend more than $3 million every day to house non-U.S. citizen dollars in our federal prisons. Most are thought to be illegal aliens.

    I doubt this. “Most are thought to be illegal aliens”? Oh really? And does this include the illegal immigrants who are being rounded up, families and all, and kept in concentration camps?

    We do need to address illegal immigration. But the solution is not to vilify or harm large groups of people. It is to look at the benefits and the costs and arrive at an answer that helps everyone.

  4. My only comment / question is then, by breaking the law to enter the country, what should be the punishment? Should it be the punishment that is on the books as the law or should the law be rewritten? I mean there are a few laws that I would like to see rewritten so that I may benefit from the absence of consequence. That is the biggest problem is that there is no consequences to breaking the immigration laws but rather positive reinforcement and reward after reward. Yet if a common citizen is caught breaking the same law the book is thrown at him/her. Impunity does not breed respect for the law. It breeds the opposite, disrespect and no incentive to assimilate.

  5. This is a very telling compilation of data collected and projected simplified with gum balls for emphasis.

  6. Michael D,
    I don’t know exactly how we should handle it. One doesn’t need to know the solution to understand that there is a problem.

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