For decades identity politics have been the subject of heated debates in academic and political circles. These debates are far from over, but it appears as though this generation has decided that the right to define one’s individual lifestyle as a personal identity surpasses the need for any sort of political unity. This generation’s identity crisis has been building for several years now, and has slowly been making its way into popular culture.
There are identities based on what food one will or won’t eat, what clothes one will or won’t wear, even what gender one chooses to be. In the midst of all of this definition, a new idea, that of pride in one’s chosen identity superceding all other concerns, seems to have taken the leftist, anti-war movement by storm.
It would appear that this generation seems to have forgotten that identity politics played a large part in splitting the movements of the fifties and sixties, and dividing liberals, eventually rendering them completely ineffective at the beginning of the 80’s.
In our insistence on being recognized as one’s chosen identity, we are making the same mistakes as our parents.
Several weeks ago the San Francisco Chronicle ran a photograph taken from an anti-war protest in Union Square that showed a protester holding a sign that read, “Transsexual, Vegan, Epidemiologist, Lesbian, Punk for peace.”
Not only is this somewhat excessive, it speaks to the general mindset of the liberal community. This photograph and others like it define the anti-war movement for many people all across the country.
Rather than presenting a unified front, these images present a group of individuals, with their own politics and goals that pertainin primarily to their self-interests-not exactly threatening to those who already consider San Francisco a holding pen for lunatics.
More importantly the need for individual recognition and self involved political activists displays a huge weakness to the rest of the country.While the debate on identity politics still rages, it has no place in a movement that has any interest in being effective.
It is important that the people of this generation who are trying to build a political movement, recognize that one cause, stopping a war before it starts, must be their first priority if they wish to be taken seriously within our current societal structure.
Pride is one thing, but it is entirely another to sacrifice any gains that might be made on a nationwide scale for the sake of one’s need for individual recognition.