Sunday, January 28, 2018

Identity Politics for those who lack Identity

   While I will base this article on anecdotal evidence that I have observed in my High School, it seems apparent to me that what I have began to see take shape among younger groups is not endemic to just my School but that it is signs of a larger pattern that has roots across the nation.
     My High School, a school in Columbus Ohio, one that prides itself as being the only school to meet the state average in the entire district, is a school full of racial and religious diversity. The demographics are somewhere around 40% white, 40% black, 15% Hispanic, and 5% other. This is a rough estimate as I am simplifying statistics that I saw around 3 years ago, yet it attests to the heavy racial diversity within the school. One obvious bonus of going to a school with such a mixed group of students is that racism is virtually unheard of within the school, and this has been a truth that can be applied to my school for as long as I can remember, long before I started attending high school, and by no means has this drastically changed as of today. However, when engaging with younger people in the school, Freshman and sophomores primarily, I have noticed an interesting yet disturbing trend. The level of racial identity that younger students cling to seems much higher than with upperclassmen. Whether white or black, I find it strikingly easier to find someone that feels their racial identity can define them among the younger students than among the older students.
     This phenomenon really isn't that surprising, it's an obvious outcome of a generation that lacks personal identities, an obvious superficial filling for a cavity that has formed. What is this cavity? Its the thing no one wants to address but everyone knows is happening. Secularism is on the rise, Religion and spirituality is on the decline in America. America is nation that has historically bucked all trends when it comes to religion, a nation that in which inhabitants have been around three times more likely to state that their religion is very important to them than people in europe and other wealthy areas across the world, yet today we draw closer and closer to the European nightmare. Many people want to ignore this like it doesn't matter, some even call it a good thing, viewing religion as an evil of the past that has been a cause of ignorance throughout history. Yet while I, as a christian, see countless flaws in that reasoning, there is more to this issue than just the existence of an all powerful being, there is the actual mental and moral health of a nation at stake. Does this sound insane, or like evangelical blathering? The statistics bear it out, people who follow a religion or have spiritual beliefs are much more less likely to be depressed, much much less likely to commit suicide, in fact, Mental health problems have a very real connection with atheism and agnosticism. Call it what you like, but the lack of religion leaves a real void in people's lives, and they have to find other ways to fill it. Why is this, to give a secular response, the reason a lack of religion leaves a void in people's lives is that religion gives people a mission, it gives people a sense of meaning, whether it be to share your faith with others, or to follow some set of rules ordained by whatever your religion may be, religion is an obvious answer to the thing that every human being needs, a mission.
     With religion on the decline, especially among younger generations, it is only logical that people want to fill the gap that has been caused by a loss of religious identity. So how do young people fill that gap. Well, one of the most obvious ways is by latching on to a political identity. If you can't find a mission from religion, than its easy enough to find a mission in political ideology, the one thing almost as powerful as religious ideology. But if just finding a political ideology is what plugs that gap, why don't young people just align as most older americans do, moderate conservatism, or moderate liberalism? It's obvious enough when you look into the beliefs of moderates, there is no real mission there, moderates, for the most part, don't want massive change, they want stability. Who wants real change, change that calls for a mission, a struggle? Extremists.
    The Alt-Right wants its utopia predicated upon their beliefs, what are those beliefs, heavily nationalist, with a large not-so-fringe group holding onto white nationalism. The Far Left wants its own socialist fairytale utopia. The clear connection between these two ideologies? They both think they can fix most problems with their authoritarian and radical beliefs that call for heavy change, and that heavy change calls for a mission, and thus people can jump into that mission and feel that they have an identity, whether it be an identity that calls for a white nationalist nation, or an identity that calls for a socialist nation, or even an identity that says any disparity in income between races, or any other issue that arises must be solved by government intervention. All extremists beliefs are potential plugs for the void left by a lack of religion, many people want to abolish religion from public discourse, mock those who cling to their faith, or even develop laws that directly contradict a person's beliefs, those who cling to separation of church and state, not as a method of keeping our government unbiased against all faiths, but as a method of using the phrase as a hammer against those who hold a faith, yet no one seems to want to acknowledge that religion has been an objective benefit to America and to the world in countless ways.
    The bottom line is that the more we hammer away at religion, the more we disparage people's faith, the more we celebrate the rise of secularism, all we will ever accomplish is to build up extremism in a new way. Is there religious extremists, of course, but there are far fewer religious extremists in America than there are Political extremists. Almost all religions preach love and nonviolence, there is no such role in political extremism. In America, our currency says "In God We Trust", not "In Secularism We Trust".