How did this happen—this mess our American community finds itself in? There are a lot of angry and bewildered people in the U.S. today. To answer this question, we must first answer the question posed in the title of this Current Events essay. The question Who Are We? is asking for our collective identity as Americans. The answer is deceptively simple but hidden in the chaos of our self-destructive behavior. We will now descend beneath that chaos much as a scuba divers dives beneath the choppy water on the ocean’s surface where we can see more clearly where we are and who we are.
But first we should know that the tumult on the surface that we are escaping is caused by choosing delusional identities. It is a failure to comprehend the nature of what it means to be human. These choices of delusional identities amount to a missed opportunity to create a sustainable human community. Looking at what several current writers on the subject have said about our search for a healthy identity we begin to see how the problem of choosing self-destructive identities was created.
Simple Reality teaches that a healthy human community would see itself as one interrelated, interdependent and interconnected whole. In short, our collective identity would be that of “Oneness.” However, instead of coming together, our American community is fragmenting. William Egginton in his book The Splintering of the American Mind: Identity Politics, Inequality, and Community on Today’s College Campuses observed that: “As Americans have become more educated and more mobile, those with educations are increasingly moving to communities where there are others who have similar levels of education.” (1)
As the less educated rural Americans find it difficult to identify with their more educated urban cousins, they are more prone to see them as the other and even come to fear and mistrust them. Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt in their book The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure reported that clinical and social psychologists are finding an increase in the number of human behaviors that are defined as abuse, bullying, trauma and prejudice. An increasingly fragmented American community seems to be unconsciously choosing to become more paranoid. “By the early 2000s the concept of ‘trauma’ within parts of the therapeutic community had crept down so far that it included anything ‘experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful.’” (1)
Kwame Anthony Appiah, the author of The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity: Creed, Country, Color, Class, Culture reveals one of the causes of the fragmentation of American and global identities. “Appiah believes we’re in wars of identity because we keep making the same mistake: exaggerating our differences with others and our similarities with our own kind. We think of ourselves as part of monolithic tribes up against other tribes, whereas we each contain multitudes.” (2) What we must come to realize in the human community is that each member of our species is, in all fundamental respects, exactly alike.
Among the delusional differences that we choose to identify with, and thereby shatter the Oneness that would empower our creation of “peace on earth,” are creed (religion), country (nationalism), color, class and culture. In his book The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, Francis Fukuyama points out how identity politics poisons our political system. “Today, the left concentrates on ‘promoting the interests of a wide variety of groups perceived as being marginalized,’ whereas the right ‘is redefining itself as patriots who seek to protect traditional national identity, an identity that is often explicitly connected to race, ethnicity or religion.’” (2)
To come up short in creating a sustainable community in the context of Oneness will insure that our species’ future will be one of unrelenting suffering. Fortunately, we can leave the self-styled experts on the subject of identity up above on the cacophonous surface of their intellects battling among themselves. We can still hear their futile arguments and postulations. However, they are completely out of touch with the deeper Truth. To find your true identity click on the link below.
Insight # 48: The Game is not about becoming somebody, it is about becoming nobody. —Ram Das
- The True Self and the False Self in Who Am I? (Chapter 2) in print and on this blog, by Roy Charles Henry.
- Williams, Thomas Chatterton. “Who Do We Think We Are?” The New York Times Book Review. September 8, 2018, page 12.
- Giridharadas, Anand. “Who Do We Think We Are?” The New York Times Book Review. September 8, 2018, page 13.