Identity Politics in the Age of Trump

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I usually describe myself as “apolitical,” because I reject the notion that all of human history amounts to nothing more, and nothing less, than an enduring struggle for power. It’s true that power is the defining but morally neutral feature of politics per se, a universal feature of human life, but ideologues go further than that by adding profound dualism and cynicism. They care not so much about power in a general philosophical sense but about the sinister power of particular groups, which they define according to innate characteristics. This leads them directly to the conspiracy theory of history, according to which “they” stole power from “us” at the dawn of time and used it to “oppress” this or that “marginalized voice” ever since. I refuse to make “power” the central word in my philosophical vocabulary, let alone to adopt an ideological one. And yet I do sometimes find it necessary to comment on politics in the narrow sense of that word, party politics, along with its cultural and historical matrix. It is hard to avoid this topic, the manipulation of cultural (and other forms of) power, in this age of perpetual news coverage and ubiquitous “social media.” To do so, effectively, I would have to cancel my sources of news—throw out my television, radio and computer—and, avoid personal contact with bearers of news. In short, I would have to become a recluse.

Consider the fallout from domestic terrorism. The ideas that have surfaced in connection with these events have revealed much about the political environment that actually makes them increasingly likely. This is not news; many people have written about identity politics but without changing the situation. Why am I adding yet another essay on it? I have a reason. It is bad enough that we have an epidemic of hateful rhetoric on both the right and the left.[1] Much worse, at least for those who actually want to end political polarization,[2] is that we have no clear and universally accepted definitions of racism, sexism and hatred. So far, we have relied mainly on definitions that each side finds useful for its own political purposes. This is what I hope to change.

I begin with a review of (1) identity politics, the infamously ferocious and futile debates between “progressives” and “conservatives.” These have led to extreme polarization and therefore fragmentation, not “diversity,” certainly not intellectual diversity. My point is that the underlying motivations of identity politics include hatred, not merely anger. But whose hatred has led us to this point? Many journalists and academics have discussed hatred on the right, of course, and traced that to Trump’s own fighting words (never mind that hatred has a very long history in America). But few have noticed hatred on the left and its witting or unwitting complicity in polarization. I continue, therefore, by referring to needlessly acrimonious public debates over two closely related disputes that revolve around hatred: (2) illegal immigration and (3) misandry, which lies at the heart of my own research.

Identity politics

I am hardly alone in observing that identity politics has come to prevail in the American public square. This much was obvious from Trump’s very first day on the job, or even before that, and is reaching a crescendo at the impeachment hearings. Nor am I alone in observing that identity politics is a euphemism for societal fragmentation and even tribalism. In this section, I discuss identity politics specifically in connection with (a) race and (b) hatred.

Race: President Trump is not the cause of domestic terrorism and white nationalism or white supremacy—not even if he secretly supports them (which would be very unlikely for someone who seems to have no coherent worldview at all and seems in no hurry to develop one). No rational person can seriously believe that he wants to unleash racial violence, much less that he created racial tension ex nihilo. At issue is only the extent to which his words “empower” those who really do want to solve racial tension by resorting to racial violence. And I do not want to condone his use of linguistic tropes. After all, the president does have what Theodore Roosevelt called a “bully pulpit” (and some presidents, notably both Roosevelt himself and Trump, have often resorted to bullying personal or national foes).

But I do think that we can easily overestimate the symbolic power of this metaphorical pulpit. In fact, it has greatly diminished in this age of the twitterati (as has the symbolic power of every traditional authority). The public square is no longer on the east coast or west coast, no longer at Yale or Harvard, no longer in the New York Times or the Washington Post. Digitally, it is everywhere. This has both advantages for democracy and disadvantages. On one hand, it encourages more and more people to have their say. On the other hand, it allows them to do so irresponsibly by hiding behind anonymity, reacting instantly to gossip or rumor, relying on emotional catharsis instead of careful analysis, absorbing ideological rants, ignoring other points of view and so on. This is close to what the Founders feared as mobocracy, which soon prevailed in France during the Reign of Terror. It would indeed be helpful for a president to embody the civility, kindness, tolerance, patience and other virtues that society needs so desperately. President Obama did that very well, in fact, but not in ways that actually unified the nation (although he could not have succeeded, in any case, in undoing the damage that identity politics had already left after several decades). President Trump seldom even tries to unify the nation.

Maybe social and technological conditions will change this terrifyingly anarchic state of affairs. So far, though efforts to tame the internet have been less than effective. Google, for example, remains notorious for using its algorithms to favor some political points of view, censor others and fire those who openly reject that corporate culture.[3] For the time being, this new public square—it originated on the talk shows, actually, and thus predates both the internet and social media—is a kind of Frontierland. It has produced one moral panic after another. The most recent and destructive has been a revival of hysteria on college campuses over what Susan Brownmiller called “rape culture.”[4] By 2017, this had gone mainstream (and viral) as the #MeToo movement, which openly promotes vigilantism, thus undermining due process and the rule of law itself. No president can put this genie back into its proverbial bottle, because no group of people will be demonized forever without fighting back. Trump is not the cause of all this polarization, as I say, but he is the result—and a very predictable one at that.

For several weeks before El Paso—not hours or days, but weeks—the nation’s “woke” pundits had engaged in relentless ranting about Trump. They had been doing so since the inauguration or even the election—long before he had actually done anything as president. Within days of the election, women were marching all over the country in visceral opposition to him.[5] CNN made it clear almost immediately that its primary function would no longer be to report the news or even to comment on it but, in effect, to make the news by “calling out” the president and thus making him “accountable.” They were no longer journalists at all, in fact, but power brokers at best and propagandists at worst. After failing to bring Trump down with the Mueller Report, the Democrats decided to rely more than ever on name-calling. It was no longer enough that he says racist or seemingly racist things. It was now necessary to claim that Trump is a racist, which is an ontological argument that allows no debate. This reminds me of Humpty Dumpty’s famously irrational argument with Alice. When she tells him that he looks “exactly like an egg,” he reacts angrily to what he assumes is provocation. Alice explains that she was commenting merely on his outward appearance, not on his inner being—that is, his identity. But he retorts that it comes to same thing, because “my name means the shape I am.”[6] I will return to that satirical discussion later.

It was in a very rancid atmosphere that millions of Americans tuned in to CNN for the debates among Democratic presidential candidates. How many viewers were surprised, when the network’s Don Lemon referred glibly on the first night to Trump’s “racist tweets” about “rat and rodent infested” parts of Baltimore, represented in Congress by Democrat Elijah Cummings (without actually stating that Trump is a racist).[7] He referred on the second night to Trump’s policy of dividing the country racially and to “the president’s bigotry” (without actually stating, once again, that Trump is a racist). But Lemon was hardly alone or the most vitriolic. Supporting him were senior pundits, who had been drawing the ontological conclusion, explicitly and with increasing frequency for years. According to Nicholas Kristof, “I don’t see what else we can call him but a racist.”[8] According to David Leonhardt, “Donald Trump is a racist.”[9] Charles M. Blow, as usual, was even blunter: “Trump Is a Racist. Period.”[10] John Cassidy wrote that “we have a racist in the Oval Office.”[11] David Brooks told his viewers that the president’s statements were “pretty clearly racist,” adding that “It fits into a pattern that we have seen since the beginning of his career, maybe through his father’s career, frankly. There’s been a consistency, pattern of harsh judgment against black and brown people.”[12] That list could go on and on and on. My point here is simply to note the conceptual slippage between calling Trump’s words racist (or misogynist or anti-immigrant or anti-Semitic or whatever) and calling him a racist. The connection is not quite as obvious as it seems, because many explanations for his words are possible: racist beliefs—that is, an identity that relies on intimidation—but also circumstantial malice, anti-intellectual ignorance, rhetorical clumsiness, political opportunism and so on.

How many viewers were surprised, therefore, when candidate Kirsten Gillibrand crossed another conceptual boundary by announcing that “The first thing that I’m going to do when I’m president is I’m going to Clorox the Oval Office.”[13] No one accused her of racism, because both she and Trump are white. In another context, though, many people would have denounced her for uttering a racial slur (using a metaphor that links black people with filth) and others would have denounced her for being a racist (supporting a worldview that fosters racial aggression). Clorox is not merely a bleach or a cleanser, after all, but a disinfectant. Her stated goal was not merely to sort out a mass of disordered papers and policies (due partly, perhaps, to Trump’s chaotic management) but to decontaminate it (due, presumably, to the germs from his personal filth). In short, neither she nor her political and ideological colleagues are innocent when it comes to polarizing and potentially racist rhetoric.

During the impeachment hearings, attention shifted from name-calling to defining or redefining words. Because representatives were still looking for a crime, they argued about the expediency of using “quid pro quo,” “extortion” or “bribery.” By this time, Democrats in the House were approaching a new goalpost. What might well have begun for some as anger or despair over a lost election was turning—after three years of trying to reverse the election of 2016—into something more like hatred.

Hatred: Trump is the result of polarization, as I say, not the cause of it. To be more specific, he is both the inevitable result and, with poetic justice, the ultimate comeuppance of identity politics—that is, tribalism in its current form.[14] Some people have argued that most acts of domestic terrorism[15] express the identity politics of white people. And that is clearly true but for a reason that they seldom, if ever, acknowledge. You hardly need a doctorate in psychology to know that resentment, let alone hatred, can be very contagious.[16] By that, I mean that it is not easily contained or limited to one target group. People who hate blacks, for instance, usually hate Jews and other minorities as well. The rioters in Charlottesville certainly did, screaming that “Jews will not replace us” even though Jews had nothing to do with the matter at hand: Confederate statues.

Once hatred of any kind enters an influential worldview, moreover, it often becomes very consequential as well. For decades, advocates of what we now call “identity politics” have encouraged intense hatred toward one group of people in particular: those whose identity has been described as white, straight, “cis” and male. They have four strikes against them on the “intersectional” scale, which pretty well means that they have no right to live. Gay men or black men can sometimes consider themselves exempt from contempt—as long as they convert to the true religion of feminism or some other ideology, which entails allying themselves politically against other men. And that, in turn, entails an inherently conflicted identity. White people can sometimes become honorary black people, for instance, and gay men can sometimes become honorary women—but only by internalizing self-loathing. They come to see themselves as virtuous and deserving exceptions to the rule. For them, at least, personal identity takes priority over collective identity, which gives “identity politics” new connotations.

This phenomenon has long affected Jews in the diaspora for whom the price of admission to “society”—the social, political, economic and cultural benefits of assimilation—is to separate themselves as far as possible from their own communities and backgrounds even to the point of adopting some features of anti-Semitism. Trouble is, there is no guarantee of success. Non-Jews do not always like even Jewish converts to Christianity (socialism, feminism or some other ism). Worse (except in Nazi Germany), some of these converts find eventually that they are either unwilling or unable to cope with the contradiction between two aspects of their own identity. In the recent past, American Jews have found it easier than their ancestors to dispense with both Judaism and “Jewishness.” More and more often, though, even largely assimilated Jews often find themselves the targets of anti-Zionist hostility (although, as many Jews noted after various statements by the Congressional “squad,”[17] separating anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism is no easy task).[18] In these cases, hostility comes from the political left and targets Jews who express any support for Israel—the world’s only Jewish state. [19]

My point here is not primarily about anti-Semitism, however, but about another form of racism (and will be, in due course, about one form of sexism). Common sense tells me that people are likely to react very negatively when singled out for relentless and implacable hostility. Martin Luther King tried one way to avoid that problem, combining common sense with, to say the least, common decency. He relied heavily on the values that all Americans shared. King did not urge blacks to hate whites. On the contrary, he urged blacks and whites to see each other as fellow Americans and fellow humans. He drew on the spiritual authority of Christianity, shared by both blacks and whites (but also on that of eastern religions in the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi). In other words, he saw a huge difference between justice and revenge.

For various historical reasons, however, that is precisely not the message of identity politics, an outgrowth of the black-power movement, not the civil-rights movement. Identity politics on both the left and the right begins with the profoundly cynical notion that “they” are motivated only by the greed and arrogance that sustains their “privilege.” This mentality rests on the naïve assumption that no one could possibly ever harm the targets of their hatred. Therefore, they see no moral need to pull back from any assault on the collective identity of their targets and no need to establish a moral foundation to ensure their own accountability. Anything goes: any lie, any allegation, any double standard, any punishment for the collective sins even of remote ancestors.

I will not go on and on about identity politics, because many people have already written extensively about it (although I suspect that most of their potential readers already agree with them).[20] My point here is simply that those who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind. Those who ignore both common sense and common decency in the effort to establish a new and presumably better society are doomed to find their efforts stubbornly and sometimes murderously attacked by their targets. It is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy, because hatred easily takes on a life of its own. Or, to put it succinctly: hatred begets hatred.

It is a common mistake, to assume that “hatred” is a synonym for “anger” (and that anger is always a helpful response to conflict). The two phenomena often look alike, but they have nothing else in common. Anger is an emotion and therefore, apart from anything else, transitory. It is a psychological problem, therefore, to the extent that it interferes with personal happiness. Hatred is not an emotion and therefore not a psychological problem. It is a worldview and therefore a specifically moral problem. Hatred endures to the extent that people institutionalize and teach it so that it passes from one generation to the next. Hatred divides the world between “us” and “them” so that “we” are, by definition, innocent victims and “they,” by definition, are evil oppressors. From that point of view, “we” are ontologically different from “them.” People who say racist things, in short, are racists. Reacting to what “they” say not only allows but also requires this level of cynicism, because, coming from “them,” its correct interpretation must be the most sinister one possible. This dualistic worldview originates in a realm beyond the personal (although people sometimes nurse personal resentments until these lead them to join groups or adopt ideologies that do foster hatred). In short, I suggest, hatred is inherently evil (possibly the only thing that I would describe that way), not only if it gets out of control and actually harms others. Consequently, I disagree with those who argue that hatred can exist only among those who have the power to express it freely and openly.[21] Anyone can hate, and every adult is surely aware of what has always been a lamentable fact of life. I see no way to excuse anyone for hating. Doing that, in fact, would prevent poor and marginalized people (or women) from being moral agents at all, a notable form of condescension.

As for racial hatred, that brings me back to Humpty Dumpty’s bizarre semantic theory: “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”[22] After three dizzy years of theatrical virtue-signaling, it is time for Democrats to stop calling Trump a racist, a white nationalist, a fascist or any other ugly name—and to acknowledge Antifa as the proverbial elephant standing in the corner of their own room. Trump’s enemies insist on bringing him down at any cost, if not formally by removing him (never mind waiting for the next election) then at least informally by denouncing him as a “racist”[23] often enough to justify repeated refusals on moral grounds to cooperate with him on legislation.

There will always be disagreement over definitions. In order to carry on any worthwhile or even intelligible discussion, therefore, we must at least make our own definitions clear to everyone and defend them if necessary. With this in mind, I propose a working definition of racism. Like anti-Semitism and many other destructive isms, I suggest, racism is a form of hatred. It must therefore involve the conscious urge to harm people on racial grounds. (I will not extend that criterion to include unconscious urges, because those are impossible to identify clearly.) From what I have observed in everyday life over more than a few decades, it seems clear to me that many people say ugly things about others but without any urge at all to harm them politically, economically or legally, let alone physically. They say these things for many reasons: anger over personal conflict, anger over being saddled with the morally dubious charge of collective guilt,[24] the indifference or contempt that they have come to expect from outsiders, verbal clumsiness, political opportunism and so on.

The name-calling that prevails is irrationally simple (which accounts for its prevalence among academics), shockingly childish (which accounts for its origin among students) and even primitive (which accounts for its prevalence among politicians). Moreover, it is contradictory. Those who argue for the supreme importance of words, after all, resort themselves to using words for the purpose of name-calling and therefore intimidation. They use quoted words, whether judiciously or insidiously, to manipulate public opinion. Instead of using their dominance in the House to cooperate with Republicans and legislate for the common good (including that of legal immigrants), they have used every conceivable excuse to take revenge on Trump—thus proving, as they have since the very day of his election, that his “paranoia” is grounded more in reality than in neurotic fantasy. Some Republicans do hate “others,” but so do some Democrats—though not, of course, the same “others.” In a world that relies on ideologically motivated political correctness to shame and silence adversaries, though, many people expect only Republicans or conservatives to apologize and repent for hating but give Democrats or progressives free passes for doing the very same thing. Not only are double standards morally wrong, they are counterproductive.

Words do matter, sure, and Trump does have a talent for choosing incendiary ones,[25] especially if he thinks that doing so might be politically useful by appealing to his core supporters. But so do many other things matter. Identity politics, or tribalism, is a universal human problem. Name-calling, however, is identity politics for the grade-school set.[26]

Illegal immigration

Racial mudslinging is a strategy that “progressives” use not only to defeat Trump but also to defeat his “conservative” policy on immigration (the latter strategy being one way of achieving the former). In this section, I discuss immigration, especially illegal immigration and open borders, in connection with (a) change and (b) compassion.

Change: As a politician, of course, Trump is legitimately subject to any legal expression of personal hostility toward him. But the government’s “comprehensive” policy on immigration, or lack of it, is another matter. Conflict over that goes much deeper than anyone’s attitude toward Trump. Much of this conflict is not so much about racial change but about change per se. I want to argue in this section that those who resist change—which is to say, conservatives—are not necessarily motivated by racism. Change, massive and sudden change, can be problematic enough without having anything to do with race.

Trump explicitly opposes illegal immigration,[27] not legal immigration. The latter always involves change, but the former involves sudden, dramatic and unforeseen change. Democrats, certainly those seeking the presidency in 2020, have consistently elided the difference between illegal and legal immigration. Moreover, they have added fuel to the fire by accusing everyone who opposes immigration, including illegal immigration, of “racism.” They have thus transformed a debate over law, in short, into one over race. Massive and sudden waves of immigration, whether legal or illegal, always mean massive change. And one form of change is indeed demographic—which is to say, racial or ethnic. But another form of change is cultural. It is one thing to oppose those who want to preserve only their demographic characteristics. It is another thing, however, to oppose those who want to preserve their cultural traditions

After many decades of ads and commercials promoting products as “new and improved,” it seems hardly surprising that so few people ask if everything new is necessarily an improvement. The current polarization and fragmentation of American society is new (though not unprecedented), but does that make it an improvement? The rise of National Socialism in Germany was surely new, moreover, but few people today would consider that to have been an improvement over Weimar democracy. Even in 1932, most Germans refused to vote for the Nazis.

For many Americans, especially millennials, tradition of any kind is now ready for the scrap heap of history: notions of marriage and the family; sexual relations at home and at work; legal reliance on due process and the presumption of innocence … all are hopelessly contaminated, they believe, by systemic sexism (presumably in the form of misogyny alone) and racism (presumably that of white people alone). Postmodernists insist that every boundary, in fact, is not only a “social construct” but also an evil product of our oppressive society; it must be “deconstructed,” therefore, as thoroughly as possible. Many boundaries really are cultural artifacts, sure, and some of them serve no useful or edifying purpose. But creating boundaries—making distinctions—is precisely how every culture allows people to create order out of what would otherwise be chaos. Demanding an end to all distinctions means demanding an end to culture and therefore to human existence. But that would never convince the ideologues. Down with all of distinctions, they would say. What they have in mind is not a new society of inter-dependent citizens, though, but a collection of allied interest groups at best or of autonomous individuals at worst. Why do we need “arbitrary” cultural distinctions between masculinity and femininity, they ask (reasonably), or even between maleness and femaleness (unreasonably)? Enter the increasingly “fluid” and evanescent world of “gender” identities.” (Even feminists are beginning to rebel against that ideological fashion, despite its origin in feminism, because they realize that the trans-gender movement endangers protections for women). Change, in short, has become a synonym for progress (except for environmental change, of course, which is a synonym for evil) and therefore, in some circles, an end in itself.

Now, where does all this leave people who want to maintain their cultural traditions? Do they really have no rational or moral case? Or, to put it another way, do their communities have no reason and no right to resist at least some change and thus to endure in some recognizable form? How could that be? Every historic human community, like every natural organism, has always tried to endure despite inevitable change. Some communities accept or even embrace gradual changes; others resist any change. But all of them seek ways of continuing from the past and into the future. They derive meaning and purpose by doing so. They confer identity by doing so. They not only offer members the hard-earned wisdom and beauty of earlier generations, so that they do not have to keep reinventing the proverbial wheel, but also require the loyalty and sometimes sacrifice of current generations in order to enrich later ones. This need for continuity, whether conscious or subconscious, is an inherent feature of living in human communities. Otherwise, why would anyone have created and perpetuated religious or even scientific traditions, often at great cost? It is no secret that traditional American communities of all religions and ethnicities are afraid of runaway change, of change taking on a life of its own. And how could it be otherwise? Outsiders, especially rich and highly educated people, look with contempt on them, but contempt is not a moral argument or even a rational argument. (In fact, I suggest, this contempt is often precisely what hides their own fear, a very different one, of lacking total control over themselves, over society or over both.)

Complicating this argument is the strong link, in some cases, between culture and ethnicity. This is very obvious in connection with religion. Episcopalians, for instance, have long been ethnically or racially integrated. Nonetheless, they all retain liturgical and theological traditions that originated in Britain. Some people want that, and others do not. In a free society, though, everyone may choose (no matter how difficult to do that on emotional grounds) whether to join or not join this or any other religious community. Some Christian communities are much more closely linked than Episcopalians are with ethnic origins. In America, for instance, many Eastern Orthodox communities function as ethno-religious ones.[28] Theologically, anyone can join; not all new members are ethnically Greek, Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian or whatever. But most of these communities do insist on preserving historic—which is to say, ethnic—customs such as foodways, costumes, languages, calendars, artistic and musical traditions. Moreover, they encourage endogamy, not exogamy. The link between ethnicity and religion is even more complicated for Jews. Judaism does not encourage proselytism among gentiles. Even so, anyone can become a Jew, even an Orthodox Jew, by converting to Judaism. And no convert remains gentile after conversion; the ritual (following many months of intense preparation) makes them not only adherents of the Jewish religion but also members of the Jewish people.

So, do these religious or even ethno-religious communities have a right to endure in America? Some “progressives” argue that religion—they refer mainly to Christianity—no longer has any legitimate place in the public square (and by implication to endure).[29] Americans have been arguing about this for a long time, ever since the Founders created a “wall” to separate church and state. If so, then we must abolish religion (something that the Soviets tried to do) or invent secular religions (something that both the Soviets and the Nazis tried to do). If not, however, then we must recognize the right of every religious community to preserve its distinctive identity. And that would mean defending their “borders”[30] with “fences” or “walls” and other ways of “gate-keeping.” It would be folly to accept converts to Judaism, for instance, who insist on interpreting the Torah in ways that support Christianity.[31] Doing that would lead quickly and inevitably to communal disappearance.

My main point here, though, is not about the continuity of religious or even ethno-religious continuity. It is about the continuity of any community from the smallest enclave to the nation as a whole. Newcomers are generally welcome if they arrive legally, slowly and generally adopt local traditions. This is what most immigrants by far actually do—and if they themselves do not, their children do. But more than a few Democratic candidates go much further by advocating open borders, or unregulated immigration. Even existing immigration laws, therefore, are tantamount to racist ones. And how could it be otherwise for those who assume that systemic racism has always prevailed and still prevails (which is what Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke argues.)?[32] In that case, then any attempt even to question the supreme value of “diversity” amounts to racism.

Candidates for the presidency never actually say that, of course, because they claim to be patriots. They want not to destroy national traditions, let alone the nation or the state itself, but merely to enhance, purify or perfect it by removing flaws. And when it comes to changes that would abolish systemic sexism (in the forms of both misogyny and misandry) or systemic racism (whether white or black or any other color), I can hardly disagree with them. Trouble is, some people on both the left and the right show no sign of understanding the limits, whether practical or moral, of change. This is why any attempt to stop or slow change becomes “immoral” (which is what Nancy Pelosi said glibly, perhaps unthinkingly, about Trump’s wall).[33] They show no sign of understanding the profound difference, in short, between reform and revolution. Reform is a gradual process that rests on a foundation of emerging consensus. Revolution is a sudden intervention, whether by radically altering the legal, societal or economic system (as it would for a growing number on the political left) or by armed insurrection (as it would for a growing number on the political right). Either way, revolution rests on a foundation of ideology (such as feminism or socialism on the left and white supremacy on the right).

Here is another example, one that I know from personal experience, of the ambiguous relation between change and continuity. I live in Montreal, which is the largest and most cosmopolitan city in Quebec. For as long as I can remember, anglos and francos here have argued about the need for, and the possible results of, separation from Canada. As an anglo, I feel threatened by the rhetoric of separation. And yet I am not immune to all arguments of the separatists. Francos want to be independent, as they once were under the ancient regime.[34] At the very least, they want to protect their cultural identity. In the past, that would have meant the French language, the Roman Catholic religion (both granted to them, along with the Napoleonic Code of law by Britain’s Quebec Act of 1774), large families, local foodways and so on. Now, it means only the French language, which might otherwise disappear in the continental “sea” of English. For most francos, in short, this is not about race. In fact, because of their very low birthrate, they have supported immigration from franco countries in Africa and the Middle East. But where does all that leave anglos (who have been here since the eighteenth century) and immigrants (some of whom have been here almost as long and adopted either French of English as their second languages)? I do not agree to the separation of Quebec from Canada, because I give moral priority to what brings people together, not what separates them. But I do accept the urge to protect French as Quebec’s majority language—and English, too, as Quebec’s minority language. Neither community wants, with good reason, to be “replaced” by the other.

The parallel between Anglos in Quebec and Mexican or Central American migrants to the United States is, I must admit, somewhat loose. Anglos are not, after all, recent immigrants. They have lived in Quebec for over two hundred years. English rule established the democratic institutions of Quebec. Scottish entrepreneurs built the industrial infrastructure of Quebec. Anglos no longer dominate either politically or economically. In my opinion, though, Anglos do have a right to be “at home” in Quebec and even cultural protection as a minority. Like it or not, history is what it is. Settlers from France and Britain created the two “founding nations” of Canada.[35] Montreal, at any rate, is largely bicultural and bilingual (but could be much more so).

The parallel is nonetheless instructive in ways that are germane to this essay. Like the United States, Quebec (and Canada as a whole) must still regulate the flow of immigration. Francos would reject a massive and sudden influx of illegal immigrants, no matter what their ethnic origin, and with good reason. That would almost inevitably mean (in the context of a democratic society) the end of their distinctive cultural tradition and historical continuity.

Compassion: Underlying the conflict over change, however, is a deeper one over the meaning of “compassion.” Etymologically, that word refers to “suffering with” others, vicariously if not actually. By doing so, empathy becomes possible. And empathy is a moral virtue and therefore involves behavior, not merely an emotion. Otherwise, religious leaders could not command it. For Christians this “golden rule” is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. For Jews, it is, “Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.” No one seriously disagrees over the need to treat all people, including immigrants, with the dignity that we would expect for ourselves. The only question is over what that entails—which is to say, in the case of illegal immigration, the effect on society as a whole of establishing open borders (or of not enforcing the immigration system that already exists).

Consider another historical venue for compassion. During the 1960s, one country after another adopted some form of no-fault divorce. Why should unhappy couples have to remain married? Why should unhappily married people not be free to remarry? And why should divorced people have to suffer, in any case, from any stigma? No-fault divorce, after all, means that no-one is guilty, at least not legally. But this kind of compassion created two new problems to replace the old one.

No-fault divorce was a disaster for children. Single mothers needed to earn money, of course, unless courts awarded them lavish alimony or the fathers were able to make lavish (and regular) child-support payments. But if single mothers had to get jobs, then who would look after the children? At the time, experts reassured them by claiming that children needed only “quality time” with their mothers (and possibly no time at all with their fathers). Children, they argued, were “resilient” and could adjust easily enough to “change.” (Yes, there is that word again.) Now, though, we know better. Many longitudinal studies over the past half-century have indicated clearly, consistently and unambiguously that children of divorce are at much greater risk than other children for every kind of social and psychological problem. Children were bystanders in that experiment in social engineering. And nothing in that respect has changed. At first, no one even thought about the effect that gay marriage might have on children. The argument was over adult rights, period. After a while, to answer counter-arguments, advocates of gay marriage claimed that the children of two parents (two mothers or two fathers) were surely better off than the children of single parents. To make that argument, they had to believe that mothers and fathers are interchangeable and that children therefore do not need both fathers are mothers. But no one knew that during the rush for “equal marriage,” and no one could have known that, because social scientists had not yet produced any longitudinal studies. In other words, children were once again the subjects of an experiment—subjects who were incapable of giving their informed consent.

But no-fault divorce, much more than gay marriage, has been very problematic for not only for the couples personally involved but also for society in general. Whatever the intentions of legislators, this measure weakened marriage and therefore the family—which is to say, the most fundamental institution of any society. It meant that the personal happiness, especially the personal freedom, of every individual outweighed all other considerations. In short, it both reflected and contributed to the hedonism of Western societies. From this point of view, compassion for the few can easily, but foolishly, outweigh compassion for the many.

Back now, though, to immigration. In terms of compassion alone, it is surely true that people should be free to live wherever they want to live. Why deny people the “right” to live freely and happily on one side of the border with Mexico instead of languishing on the other side? Many millions of people—and not only in Mexico or Central America—would flock with good reason to the United States if not to escape persecution then to realize the “American dream.” We have no reason not to assume that most immigrants by far, both legal and illegal, would work hard to build better lives for their children (as millions of them already do and always have). But even those who would disregard the potential difficulty of social or cultural integration on such a colossal scale would surely find it hard to ignore the potential difficulty of economic integration. That would entail not only finding jobs for all newcomers, for instance, but also paying them fairly instead of exploiting them as cheap labor. Moreover, it would entail the draining of other countries, leaving them with populations of those who are too old or too sick for emigration—which would make it even easier than it already is for dictatorial regimes to exploit and intimidate them. Maybe American society could absorb millions of newcomers quickly and easily, but maybe not. And if not, then its compassion for the newcomers, let alone society as a whole, would come to nothing. In an ideal world, there would be no borders. But this is not, of course, an ideal world.

Misandry

My general focus in this essay has been on race, so far, because so many of the battles between Trump and his adversaries have relied on the political and ideological rhetoric of race—that is, attacking the president as a “racist” over and over again. But the political and ideological rhetoric of “gender” is never far away these days. Trump’s adversaries routinely accuse him and his supporters of “sexism” or “misogyny,” although they seldom acknowledge their own sexism in the form of misandry. Consider the perpetrators of racial terrorism: almost all of whom are white men. And I am by no means alone in seeing a link between racism and sexism. I might well be alone, however, in how I interpret that link. In this section, I want to discuss the perpetrators it in connection with (a) the loss of a healthy masculine identity and (b) the loss of fatherhood.

The loss of a healthy masculine identity: California’s Governor Gavin Newsome blames the mass shooting in El Paso on “toxic masculinity”[36] (or what the American Psychological Association calls “traditional masculinity”).[37] But is that really the link that explains why many of those who resort to domestic terrorism are young men who support white identity politics? There is an underlying link, I suggest, but it’s not ideology. Consider this hypothesis.

All people need healthy identities, both personal and collective. But what makes an identity healthy or unhealthy? To have a healthy identity, I suggest, they must be able to make at least one contribution to society that is (a) distinctive, (b) necessary and (c) publicly valued. Until very recently, in historical terms, men could (and had to) do this. No matter how much notions of masculinity have varied, both historically and cross-culturally, they had that much in common. But men can no longer do anything that women cannot do (although women can still do at least one thing that men cannot do). Women can provide resources for themselves and their children, for instance, or protect themselves and their children—if not alone then with help from the state.

Add to apparent obsolescence the relatively recent problem of misandry, the form of sexism that now prevails in the journalistic or academic public square. Feminists have not directly caused the identity crisis of young men, which has been centuries in the making,[38] but they have greatly exacerbated it. They do so by relentlessly shaming men, blaming men collectively for every evil since the dawn of human history. This is what I call identity harassment.[39] They do so by manipulating both popular culture[40] and elite culture[41] to promote contempt for men. They do so for political reasons: to establish the doctrine of men’s collective guilt and that of women’s collective innocence. They do so by undermining even the most basic legal principles, such as due process and the presumption of innocence, to intimidate and punish men collectively. Women are not guilty for what men do, but they are surely responsible, accountable, for their own behavior.

From all this, it seems clear to me, that an increasing number of men, young men, come to the conclusion that even an unhealthy identity might be better than no identity at all. These are the ones who, given personal problems[42] and pathologies, turn to violence. For young white men, this sometimes means the kind of racial violence that we associate with white nationalism. They adopt this racial framework, because it remains so much easier to acknowledge their frustration in racial terms than it is to do so in sexual terms (although a few mass shooters do so).[43]

Why would it be easier to feel like a victim of racism than a victim of sexism? It might be at least partly because culture has conditioned everyone to think of men as so powerful that no one could possibly harm them in any way. The ideal of manhood in some communities, especially those of poor whites, is invincibility or invulnerability. A masculine man is always in control, presumably, of his own destiny. When reality contradicts this naïve ideal, therefore, it contradicts their identity as men. They are typically losers, as individuals, never the captains of their high-school football teams or alpha males of any other kind. Some take refuge in the rhetoric of race, therefore, because it provides an accessible model. White people and men are the only two groups that society singles out in the public square not only for contempt but also for retribution. One application of “intersectionality” is to curse white men collectively for evil on not one but two counts.

Many poor white people collectively reject the elite description of themselves as primitive, hateful or stupid (which is what Hillary Clinton did at a fundraising event for her presidential campaign).[44] This is one way of fighting back against a politically correct world that either ignores them or shames and blames them by imposing collective guilt on them alone. Unfortunately, some turn this class struggle against elite white people into a racial one against black people, Jews, “immigrants” or other scapegoats. This communal paradigm is already out there and becomes attractive to young men who lack healthy identities not only as whites but also as men. It can become lethal in conjunction with personal psychopathology.

The loss of fatherhood: Is there any hope for these men and other men to establish healthy identities specifically as men? Actually, there is one possibility. The one remaining way for men to make a distinctive and necessary contribution to society is by becoming fathers (actually or vicariously). Unfortunately, many people have come to believe that fatherhood amounts to assistant motherhood at best and a luxury or even a liability at worst. Moreover, they have come to believe that the family is either obsolete or infinitely variable. But humans have evolved to live in families, and family structures are not infinitely varied (the closest to universal, until very recently in the West, being the extended family). Recently, psychologists have observed that fathers are not quite the same as mothers. Sociologists have observed that more and more fathers spend time at home with their children. They refer mainly, however, to fathers of infants and very young children. I suggest, though, that their specific functions as fathers begin when their children are no longer infants, when they begin to enter the larger world and prepare to leave home. Moreover, I suggest that the most important non-material thing that fathers can give their children is not unconditional love (which is the most important non-material thing that mothers can give their children) but earned respect. That, after all, is precisely what they will need as mature adults from their peers.

If I am correct, our most urgent need is not necessarily more gun legislation or red-flag interventions (although both would be helpful). We need ultimately to assert the distinctive and necessary function of fatherhood, thus allowing men to create a healthy collective identity and invest in the future of society. To do that, we’d have to acknowledge misandry as a serious problem, challenging the “toxic” portrayal of men that flows from both popular culture and elite (academic) culture; encourage research on boys and men, especially fathers; and reconsider laws or policies that deny men due process and shared custody of children. Moreover, we’d have to reconsider single-mothers-by-choice and gay marriage (both of which deny the right of children to have both mothers and fathers). It would be to assert what our ancestors took for granted: the distinctive and necessary function of fathers.

Taking the currently despised members of society seriously and compassionately will not happen overnight. In fact, the prospect of dialogue between men and women, let alone other sexual or racial groups, has probably never been so daunting. But the alternative, passively succumbing to polarizing and paralyzing hatred in ever more forms, which lies at the core of all identity politics, would leave us with an even more dismal prospect: a society that would not be worthy of enduring.

Epilogue: I wrote this paper before Trump’s impeachment and before anyone had ever heard of covid-19. The same pattern emerged in early 2020, however, with Trump’s implacable enemies blaming him for “fiddling” while Rome burned—which is to say, trivializing the pandemic before taking action against it. Never mind that he quickly prevented all flights into the country from China, where the pandemic originated. That, of course, generated politically correct accusations of racism.[45] Next, Trump set up a committee of medical and other specialists. Did he always agree with them? No. But did he insist on having his own way, getting the nation back to work by Easter? No. The accusers continued night after night on CNN, as if this were a second act of the impeachment show. As usual, they relied largely on ad hominem arguments. Whatever happened or failed to happen, it was Trump’s fault (even though earlier presidents of both parties had neglected to prepare for the next pandemic and therefore to provide enough ventilators for patients in overcrowded hospitals. Whatever Trump said was wrong, even though others had shown the same attitude only days or weeks earlier—not only wrong or even foolish, in fact, but gross indifference to human suffering. This became clear as soon as Trump announced that Americans must soon get back to work. Oh, said the critics, that proves that he cares more about money than about people, let alone sick people. After a few weeks of dire news from Wall Street and interviews with the experts, though, it became clear to almost everyone that massive unemployment could easily lead to another Great Depression, an economic catastrophe for the entire nation. It would have been hard to watch these “discussions” and fail to see visceral hatred toward the man himself. Meanwhile, few of Trump’s enemies in Congress—real enemies, not imagined ones—had better track records for prophecy. Nancy Pelosi, for instance, was among those who tried to exploit the medical crisis for political purposes by adding money in the emergency budget for “green” projects that had nothing to do with any disease.[46] The fact is that almost everyone in almost every country had taken too long in reacting to what became an urgent problem.[47] As I say, hatred is not anger. Far from being a spontaneous emotion due to personal conflict, hatred is culturally propagated and even institutionalized worldview.

♦♦♦

[1] On the right are marginal but increasingly desperate groups, known variously as “fascists” and “white nationalists” or “white supremacists.” Their more powerful allies, presumably, are “conservatives” or “Republicans.” On the left are far more prestigious and culturally powerful groups, known variously as the “woke,” “postmodernists,” “feminists,” “socialists” and “progressives” but also as “liberals” or “Democrats.”

[2] By “polarization,” I mean the fragmentation of society into intensely conflicting identity groups, mainly racial and sexual (although, in other countries, these groups would include linguistic, religious and other identity groups).

[3] See, for example, Libby Emmons and Barrett Wilson, “Google Shows Its True Colours with Defamation of Mainstream Conservatives,” Post Millennial, 27 June 2019; .thepostmillennial.com/google-shows-its-true-colours-with-defamation-of-mainstream-conservatives/?utm_source=The+Post+Millennial+Bite+Sized+News&utm_campaign=1f720495d1-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_06_27_06_03&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_dfff09204e-1f720495d1-197710731; Ryan P. Williams, “Our Brush With Google Censorship; The Claremont Institute Criticized the Orthodoxies of Multiculturalism. The Company Banned Our Ads,” Wall Street Journal, 7 May 2019; wsj.com/articles/our-brush-with-google-censorship-11557268757?mod=itp_wsj&mod=&mod=djemITP_h; and Dennis Prager, “Don’t Let Google Get Away With Censorship,” Wall Street Journal, 6 August 2019; wsj.com/articles/dont-let-google-get-away-with-censorship-11565132175?mod=itp_wsj&mod=&mod=djemITP_h

[4] Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1975). Now considered a feminist classic, it has been in print ever since.

[5] These women might have suspected that Trump would oppose abortion (although he had not always opposed it), but their main claim was that he had “bragged” (in the leaked video of Access Hollywood) about “sexually assaulting” women. Like so many allegations to come, however, this one offered evidence of no such thing. Trump was bragging, to be sure, but not about sexually assaulting anyone. He was bragging about his alpha male status, which supposedly had the effect of making him unusually attractive to women—so attractive, he said, that they would allow him to “do anything” (which referred to groping, not rape). Whether he actually had any insight during these encounters is, of course, another matter entirely.

[6] Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass (Raleigh, North Carolina: Hayes Barton Press, 1872), p. 72.

[7] Jelani Cobb, “Donald Trump, Elijah Cummings, and the Definition of a Rodent,” New Yorker, 29 July 2019. Trump did not call the people of Baltimore rats or other rodents; he said only that they had to endure infestations because their Democratic regimes had failed to solve that and many other problems. Why would anyone, black or white, want to live there? Trump was attacking Cummings, because Cummings had attacked him. Trump allows personal grudges to take priority over political wisdom. His words were very clumsy, to be sure, especially at a time when verbal conflicts often seem more important than economic ones. But that is not necessarily the same as racism.

[8] Niolas Kristof, “Mr. Trump, Meet a Hero Whom You Maligned,” New York Times, 22 January 2018.

[9] David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick, New York Times, 15 January 2018.

[10] Charles M. Blow, “Trump Is a Racist. Period,” New York Times, 22 January 2018.

[11] John Cassidy, “A Racist in the Oval Office,” New Yorker, 12 January 2018.

[12] David Brooks, “Shields and Brooks on Trump’s ‘s***hole’ Comments; ‘Fire and Fury’ Fallout,” PBS News Hour, 12 January 2018; https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/shields-and-brooks-on-trumps-shole-comments-fire-and-fury-fallout#transcript).

[13] Jon Campbell, “Kirsten Gillibrand’s Clorox Line Was a Big Hit; She Honed It on the Campaign Trail First,” Democrat and Chronicle, 1 August 2019; democratandchronicle.com/story/news/politics/albany/2019/08/01/kirstin-gillibrand-clorox-line-democratic-debate-campaign-trail/1887945001/

[14] Libby Emmons and Barrett Wilson, “Tribalism Is Terrorizing America,” Post Millennial, 9 [?] August 2019; https://www.thepostmillennial.com/tribalism-is-terrorizing-america/?utm_source=The+Post+Millennial+Bite+Sized+News&utm_campaign=d6f52ce805-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_08_09_07_44&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_dfff09204e-d6f52ce805-197710731

[15] Some acts of domestic terrorism, such as the Dayton shooting only a few hours after the one in El Paso, have no ideological context at all. A few, such as the “Congressional baseball shooting” in 2017, have roots in ideologies of the left.

[16] Paul Nathanson, “Sowing the Wind, Reaping the Whirlwind: Identity Politics, Ideology and the Contagion of Hatred,” New Males Studies 7.2 (2018): 80-94; http://www.newmalestudies.com/OJS/index.php/nms/index

[17] The Squad members are: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; Rashida Tlaib; Ayanna Pressley; Ilhan Omar.

[18] Contrary to the self-image that the Democratic Party cultivates, trying to distinguish itself from the Republican Party, it failed to denounce in unequivocal terms the “Squad’s” habit of making anti-Semites or anti-Zionists remarks. A matter of interpretation? Maybe. But that is definitely not what Democrats say about bigoted Republican remarks.

[19] Hostility toward religious Jews is another phenomenon. That comes primarily from the political right. Consider the 2018 shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, for example, and the 2019 shooting at one near San Diego. In these cases, hostility came from the political right.

[20] See, for example, J. Oliver Conroy, “Panic Attack: A Wake-up Call the Woke Won’t Read,” review of Robby Sauve, Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump, Guardian, 28 July 2019; amazon.com/Panic-Attack-Young-Radicals-Trump/dp/1250169887/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=panic+attack+soave&qid=1563551175&s=gateway&sr=8-1?CMP=book_embed_box

[21] Jessica Valenti, “Feminists Don’t Hate Men, But It Wouldn’t Matter If We Did.” Guardian, 13 March 2015; theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/13/feminists-do-not-hate-men. See also Julie Bindel, “Why I Hate Men.”  Guardian, 2 November 2006; theguardian.com/commentisfree/2006/nov/02/whyihatemen

[22] Carroll, ibid.

[23] Other popular names for Trump would be “misogynist” or “colluder.”

[24] Identity politics relies heavily on the notion of collective guilt, because that point of view assumes that people are not individuals at all but representatives of their class, sex, race or whatever. Even a good white man is still a white man, therefore, and deserves collective punishment for the privilege that other white men, even in the remote past, created for themselves. Collective guilt has a long and dismal history. Consider the Christian idea that all Jews, of whatever time and place, are collectively guilty of “deicide.” God, according to this point of view, has cursed them eternally; they deserve, therefore, to be humiliated, isolated, banished or burned. Nazi ideology merely translated this theology into secular terms.

[25] For whatever reason, Trump chose the wrong words to explain Charlottesville. By saying that there were “fine people on both sides,” he allowed an incendiary interpretation. Did he want to include as “fine” those who had resorted to violence? Or did he want to include only people on both sides of a debate?

[26] Hannah Selinger, “It Might Be Time To Cut My Right-Wing, Trump-Loving In-Laws Out Of My Kids’ Lives,” Huffington Post, 7 August 2019; huffpost.com/entry/trump-cutting-off-relatives_n_5d448ed4e4b0ca604e31f5ba. The author attacks her in-laws for their intolerance but reveals precisely the same intolerance, preferring to isolate her children from ideological contamination instead of teaching them to argue effectively against those who disagree with them.

[27] It was in the specific context of illegal immigration that Trump referred to the “rapists” and “criminals” among them.

[28] But one Orthodox denomination, the Orthodox Church in America, has focused heavily on Orthodox theology, not ethnicity.

[29] I say “by implication to endure,” because religion is never an entirely private matter for isolated individuals. Rather, it is an inherently communal matter to be enacted both privately and publicly. Even Theravada Buddhism, which is primarily a philosophy for those seeking personal enlightenment (and thus attractive to Western intellectuals), flourishes in Buddhist countries not only within the sangha (monastic community) but also the larger community.

[30] For Jews, the word “wall” can have positive connotations. Ghetto walls in Europe, for instance, meant not only isolation from Christians but also protection from Christians. Of greater importance here, though, is what the rabbis have called a “fence around the Torah.” By this, they mean rabbinic interpretations of biblical law in order to make it as unlikely as possible for Jews to overlook or trivialize divine commandments (as in “better safe than sorry”).

[31] Jews are well aware of the need for this boundary, because there are movements—notably that of the Hebrew Christians—that rely heavily on the possibility of being both Jewish and Christian. Insisting on this boundary between Jews and Christians relies not only on theology but also on historical memory: a long history of Christian anti-Judaism which led first to religious persecution and then, in the secular form of anti-Semitism, to racial persecution.

[32] Julio Rosas, “Beto O’Rourke: ‘This Country Was Founded on White Supremacy,’” Washington Examiner, 10 July 2019; washingtonexaminer.com/news/beto-orourke-this-country-was-founded-on-white-supremacy. “Here we are in Nashville,” said O’Roarke. “I know this from my home state of Texas, those places that formed the Confederacy, that this country was founded on white supremacy and every single institution and structure that we have in our country still reflects the legacy of the slavery and segregation and Jim Crow and suppression, even in our democracy.” There can be no doubt that racial slavery tainted the new republic and its institutions. Nor can there be any doubt that racism continued long after the Civil War (which had been fought over racial slavery). But there can be no doubt also that those institutions no longer enforce or encourage racism.

[33] Eric Zorn, “Pelosi Says Border Walls are ‘Immoral.’ But That’s Not the Conversation We Need to Be Having Right Now,” Chicago Tribune, 11 January 2019; https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/eric-zorn/ct-perspec-zorn-nancy-pelosi-says-border-walls-are-immoral-but-that-s-not-the-conversation-we-need-to-be-having-20190111-story.html. One argument in favor of open borders rests on the notion of a universal right for all people to go wherever they want to go, which means wherever they see opportunities for better lives. That is a moral argument, to be sure, but it fails to account for reality—which is not a good sign, because moral reasoning is not daydreaming about utopia but making hard choices in the world as it is. Worse, it relies on a childish premise: all or nothing. To put it bluntly, there can be no such thing as a state, by definition, that either cannot or will not defend its own borders. The proper goal of any state should be to regulate immigration in ways that would offer a safe haven to refugees from persecution (which Americans have been doing since the colonial period) but also strengthen the nation by selecting non-refugees carefully and in relation to its economic conditions (which is what all modern democracies do).

[34] Actually, they were never independent under the ancient regime. On the contrary, they were colonial settlers under the governance of France. What modern francos want is not some nostalgic restoration of New France but independence from anglo Canada.

[35] Both nations conveniently forgot about the tribal peoples who had lived there for thousands of years.

[36] Paul Bois, “California Gov. Gavin Newsom: Mass Shootings Caused By Toxic Masculinity,” Daily Wire, 6 August 2019; dailywire.com/news/50302/california-gov-gavin-newsom-mass-shootings-caused-paul-bois

[37] Fredric Rabinowitz and others, APA Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men, Washington, D.C., American Psychological Association, 2018; apa.org/about/policy/psychological-practice-boys-men-guidelines.pdf.

[38] Paul Nathanson and Katherine K. Young, Replacing Misandry: A Revolutionary History of Men (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015). In this volume, we examine changing perceptions of the male body, its ability to make a distinctive and necessary contribution to society, through a series of technological and cultural revolutions beginning with Neolithic invention of horticulture, the Agricultural Revolution (ten to twelve thousand years ago), the Industrial Revolution, the Military Revolution (“universal” conscription as the price for full citizenship), the Sexual Revolution, the Biological Revolution and so on. Our point is that the current identity problem of men did not emerge out of the blue or due to the current, and legitimate, campaign for sexual equality.

[39] Paul Nathanson, “If Not Now, When? Acknowledging Sexual Harassment and Identity Harassment,” New Male Studies 6.2 (2017): 1-56. I define this problem as the functional equivalent for men (who are the only targets) of sexual harassment for women (although some men, too, are targets of sexual harassment). Like sexual harassment, as now defined, identity harassment can take forms both serious (unfounded allegations of rape) and trivial (everything from jokes to “manspreading” or “mansplaining”).

[40] Paul Nathanson and Katherine K. Young, Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001).

[41] Paul Nathanson and Katherine K. Young, Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination against Men (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006). Part One is about the journalistic assault on men in connection with high-profile moral panics. Part Two is about the legal assault on men. We wrote this volume before the rise of #MeToo, “trauma informed” legal proceedings and the Obama administration’s “Dear Colleague” revision of Title IX, all of which discouraged due process and the presumption of innocence. Consequently, society has given informal permission for vigilantes to bypass and thus undermine the legal system itself.

Another academic venue of elite culture is theology (known in some circles as “thealogy”). This was our topic in Sanctifying Misandry: Goddess Ideology and the Fall of Man (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010).

[42] Among the problems of many is a growing up in a fatherless home. Far more young men from fatherless homes do not end up as mass murderers. But it would be naïve to imagine that fatherlessness is not a risk factor.

[43] Two of these unusual cases, both Canadians for some reason, would be Marc Lépine (who shot fourteen women at the École Polytechnique de Montréal in 1989) and Alek Minassian (the “incel” who drove his van into a Toronto crowd, killing 10 people. Most of the victims were women, although the police found no evidence of an intention to kill only women.

[44] Dan Merica and Sophie Tatum, “Clinton Expresses Regret for Saying ‘Half’ of Trump Supporters Are ‘Deplorables,’” CNN News, 12 September 2016; cnn.com/2016/09/09/politics/hillary-clinton-donald-trump-basket-of-deplorables/index.html. Clinton placed Trump supporters in her metaphorical “basket of deplorables” and must have regretted her carelessness immediately. She apologized next day, 8 September 2016, but it was probably too late to save her campaign; the expression had already gone viral.

[45] Lorne Gunter, “Political Correctness Got in the Way of a Swift COVID-19 Response,” National Post, 31 March 2020; nationalpost.com/opinion/columnists/gunter-political-correctness-got-in-the-way-of-a-swift-covid-19-response/wcm/ae8c0720-3268-4b5a-92fc-eac9317717d0?video_autoplay=true

[46] Noah Rothman, “The Climate ‘Crisis’ and the Present Crisis,” Commentary, 23 March 2020; commentarymagazine.com/noah-rothman/the-climate-crisis-and-the-present-crisis/?utm_source=ActiveCampaign&utm_medium=email&utm_content=A+Frivolous+People+No+Longer&utm_campaign=Daily+newsletter+03%2F25%2F20

[47] Noah Rothman, “The Coronavirus in Perfect Hindsight,” Commentary, 1 April 2020; https://www.commentarymagazine.com/noah-rothman/the-coronavirus-in-perfect-hindsight/?utm_source=ActiveCampaign&utm_medium=email&utm_content=The+Rise+of+the+Immunity+Caste&utm_campaign=Daily+newsletter+04%2F03%2F20. See also Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., “Trump Is Not the Coronavirus,” Wall Street Journal, 7 April 2020; wsj.com/articles/trump-is-not-the-coronavirus-11586300015?mod=itp_wsj&mod=&mod=djemITP_h

Original Story on AVFM
Author: Dr. Paul Nathanson
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