Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Brexit, Trump, and Identity

The Catholic World Report:
The case of American identity may shed light on the matter. That identity is far from a human universal, but it evidently has some reality. Growing up in America marked me (to continue with myself as an example) in a way that won't go away, and brought with it unavoidable obligations toward the assemblage of people and institutions that helped make me what I am. So I'm distinctly and indelibly American.

On the other hand, America is a manmade unity rather than a natural fact or a divinely ordained reality, it won't last forever, and it's changed a great deal, along with the principles and spirit that animate it. Further, those who guide it want to move more and more toward open borders and ultimately a borderless world, a change that would eventually make American identity less distinct even than my identity as a Brooklynite.

That's a problem, because while American identity is humanly dispensable, membership in a particular people is not. A people is a population joined by common history, loyalties, institutions, and way of life, and by a sense of common destiny. The existence of particular peoples is a human universal, and they serve a necessary function by providing members with a somewhat coherent framework for life with others that includes mutual loyalties and the common habits, attitudes, and understandings that go by the name of culture.

The culture of a particular people functions in large part by recognizing other aspects of identity and giving them a common interpretation that helps them work together so that people can have a decent way of life. Thus, particular peoples and their cultures normally recognize common humanity, masculinity, femininity, family relations, and religion, and attribute an importance to those things related to their natural and intrinsic function. Until recently, American culture did so as well. Like other cultures, it had flaws, but it had strengths as well, and gave Catholics a place to live and something to work with. (Read more.)

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