Today, Politics Is All About Identity

Food for Thought

The chef/owner of this Mexican restaurant immigrated from Oaxaca. According to a New York Times article, they have to import these oversized tortillas from Mexico because American corn is too soft and wouldn’t hold the shape. It was very different from the typical tortilla chips I’ve had. I loved it.

These days, immigration is a controversial topic. It’s a complex problem because no country can completely open its borders. Doing so would create huge chaos; nobody would benefit from it. All nations must be pragmatic and realistic about their immigration policies, but unfortunately, the debate over immigration is often fueled by nationalist and anti-nationalist fervor.

Yes, the latter is a problem too, because the anti-nationalist position is ultimately a nationalist sentiment also. It’s about what America should be or should not be because what their country stands for is an inseparable aspect of who they are.

Most people ground their identity on a group. “I” and “we” are practically interchangeable as they are not saying anything particularly unique. Traditionally, “we” consisted of their families and communities bound by their religious beliefs. Today, stronger identities are provided by the institutions and corporations they work for. Privately, political parties replaced religions. If you are a Democrat, you likely support everything the party supports because maintaining the cohesion is more important than individual issues. The “we” reigns supreme over the “I” because the latter is built on the former.

This is how all forms of politics have turned into identity politics today. We should not be surprised that many people vote against their own interest because how we exist symbolically is more important than how we exist physically. If our identity comes under attack, we defend it to death. Because Americans’ identity is inextricably tied to each other, the fight becomes more intense and bitter like a family feud.

For your house guest, the only problem might be that there is no toilet paper in the bathroom, but this can easily reopen some wounds among the family members. It’s not for the houseguest they are fighting, but for their own identities.