...as in the imperative (i.e. you, youth, progress). This blog is updated by politically active young people. Issues that will be discussed are those which concern young voters and are of concern to young voters.

Monday, July 31, 2006

"Modernity and the Other:" Part 2

"Modernity and The Other:" Part 1

Having already discussed the historical roots of the Mason-Dixon divide, the following segment will discuss its importance in modern voting habits. I will also speculate on global issues related to identity, such as anti-1st-World sentiments among 3rd-World nations, the dangers of xenophobic immigration policies, and the social causes of terrorism.

"In the Name of Identity:"

I recently read Lebanese author/philosopher Amin Maalouf's discourse on ethnic violence entitled In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong. Though I am tremendously oversimplifying his argument, the book states that identity is interpreted "in a narrow, exclusive, bigoted, simplistic attitude that reduces identity in all its many aspects to one single affiliation." In other words, rather than being a Jewish, American, heterosexual, white male, an Englishman would likely describe me as an American guy, or perhaps a Jewish guy. Maalouf convincingly argues that this hypersimplification of the identity complex leads individuals to defend whatever part of their identity is under attack in a radical and often violent fashion.

Maalouf spends much of his pages describing how individuals of certain identities come to feel their identities are under attack, as he describes in this passage:
The reality is experienced differently by those born in the dominant civilization [the West] and those born outside it. The former can change, advance in life, adapt [to changing times] without ceasing to be themselves. One might even say that the more Westerners modernize themselves, the more completely in harmony they feel with their culture. Only those among them who reject modernity find themselves out of touch.

For the rest of the world's imhabitants, all those born in the failed cultures [sic], openness to change and modernity presents itself differently. For the Chinese, Africans, Japanese, Indians and American Indians, as for Greeks, Russians, Iranians, Arabs, Jews and Turks, modernization has constantly meant the abandoning of part of themselves. Even though it has sometimes been embraced with enthusiasm, it has never been adopted without a certain bitterness, without a feeling of humiliation and defection. Without a piercing doubt about the dangers of assimilation. Without a profound identity crisis.
Is this applicable to the American South? A region with a different history, with much greater poverty, with a different culture, and even a different dialect? Could the South be one of Maalouf's so-called "failed cultures?" The "Plantation Culture" was, after all, defeated in the Civil War, though its ghost still lingers today.

I think this is a reasonable comparison. For the population of the South, progressive, modern values will not be "adopted without a certain bitterness, without a feeling of humiliation and defection. Without a piercing doubt about the dangers of assimilation. Without a profound identity crisis."

Targeting the South:

1. Approach the South with cultural understanding. Example: Webb's victory speech and reception in Crystal City, Arlington, VA, had a country band.

2. Understand the poverty of the South. The South (as in the traditional Southern states), has some of the poorest counties in the US. A good way to show that one has come to this understanding is to support economic affirmative action, like Jim Webb. Webb has always supported affirmative action for all African-Americans, but would also like to see affirmative action programs in place for all poor Virginians.

3. Your policies are better for farmers, low-income families, and middle-class families than the Republicans'. Keep them that way.

Certainly there should be more to your Southern Strategy than what I have listed above. Consult Southern Democrats to learn of the best way to target Southern constituents.

Identity-Conscious Foreign Policy:

Now, switching to a more global perspective... When Democrats seize control of the legislative body of the US government come November, they will have a chance to show this nation some truly effective anti-terrorism efforts. And I don't just mean running an effective Congress when it comes to counter-terrorism legislation...

It should be the goal of Democrats to urge the executive branch to rethink its foreign policy. Currently, our Middle East inflames the terrorist sentiments created by globalization. Why globalization? Globalization is seen by Maalouf's "failed cultures" as an oppressive force which wishes to further efface 3rd-World nations' cultures. What is needed, according to Maalouf, is a new, more encompassing form of identity, but I hope that a more just and understanding foreign policy may be somewhat affective, as the first is probably impossible to implement.

Identity-Conscious Immigration Policy:

As I said before, there is great danger in xenophobic immigration policies. One need only to quickly glance at Europe to see its largely unhappy Muslim population, and how many of its members have been radicalized into terrorism. For example, 3 of the 4 bombers in the July 7 London Bombings were Muslims born in Britain, one was born in Jamaica.

Ironically, the Administration and its congressional cronies are now looking to European countries whose xenophobic immigration policies has lead to outraged and radicalized immigrant populations, such as France and Germany. Specifically, I speak of the proposed "Guest Worker" program. The problem with such programs is that children of Guest Workers born in the US would not necessarily be US citizens, instead they would be children devoid of fatherlands, with no identity to attatch themselves to except one of hate for the nation that robbed them of indentity at birth. Democrats need to distance themselves from the Bush on this issue, they need to, for the first time in their history, think up a sensible approach to immigration.

Democrats need to approach issues surrounding identities with sensitivity and level heads.

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