Who We Are

Mitt Romney is probably right, that this next election will be fought on treacherous ground indeed: the question of who we are, as a people.

I posit two competing narratives: one, from the right, that our lives are best lived apart, in independence not just from a foreign sovereign, but from each other; and another, from the left, that we are truly best when we work together. If we succumb to the tea party dichotomy, these choices seem to comprise the battleground. But the assumption that these values are mutually exclusive, rather than complementary-but-frequently-in-tension, is clearly wrong. Rather, they seem to represent two sides of the same coin, both critical to the American experience: e.g., we banded together to fight a war to keep everyone else the Hell out of our business, and kept the ensuing union as the best vehicle to preserve that peace.

Perhaps the fight’s really about when and how we should band together, and to what end. To fight a war? To alleviate poverty? To preserve a “Christian” culture? To keep the planet safe? Extreme forms of conservatism, after all, postulate just as much of a surrender of individuality as extreme forms of liberalism. Maybe more. Collectivism versus individualism is an ultimately pointless debate, but apparently one that’s politically useful.

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2 comments

  1. I think you misrepresent the Right’s position on the inter-dependence of our citizenry. We don’t believe people should ‘live apart’. To the contrary conservatism has always been the home of nationalism in the US and our preference for a strong national defense and beneficial treaties with other countries contradicts your statement.

    We believe government is a useful tol for promoting unity, but we favor a unity of choice rather than necessity. Think of it as a marriage between consenting adults. Liberals seem to prefer a unity of inter-dependency, with government as the father and the citizenry as dependent children.

    1. OK, it’s been a while, but I just have to comment on this:

      Mike says: “Think of it as a marriage between consenting adults.”

      Does anybody else get the humor, or is it just me? I hope it’s not just me, because otherwise some very delicious root beer just went to waste in my sinuses. Speaking of which, ow.

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