Friday, September 16, 2011

Them and Us

“They” are wrong. “They” are messing up the nation….or the economy…or the schools….or whatever. Just who on earth are “they?” The progressive/liberal/statists have been very successful with many facets of their subversive agenda, but in one critical area they have won by capturing the language and the national point of view. Our nation was formed and founded on the foundation of individual liberty. The lefties have managed through the decades to transform us from a country of individuals to a gaggle of groups. Our national microscope sees only groups. It is impossible for a government … even one as large as ours … to deal effectively with 310 million people. As a result, we have become through political discourse and government action a collection of groups whose agendas and “needs” suffocate individualism.

The nexus of this column was begun by a caller to my radio show (Tue. & Wed., 6-7pm, 1370 WSPD, Toledo ). A previous caller asked when and why did the Black vote leave the Republican Party and become a reliable voting element for the Democrats. During my response to him and subsequent callers, I frequently referred to the African-American demographic voting bloc as “them.” The caller who inspired this column was an African-American lady who objected to my use of “them” as demeaning and unnecessarily exclusive. In addition she added that she preferred to vote “green” when given the ballot opportunity and resented my assumption that she was a “given” for the Democrats. In essence she rebuked me for failing to acknowledge her capability for making individual choices.

She was right. My tendency when examining voter patterns and preferences is to do so in identifiable and measurable demographic groups. Despite my charming caller’s protestations, 90% to 95% of African-American voters consistently support Democrats. The overwhelming numbers may result from a vast collection of individual decisions or may reflect a “herd mentality” that involves habit and group-think more than personal decision making. African-Americans are not the only sector that assumes an identity superseding individual characteristics. Soccer moms, seniors, Latinos, Evangelicals and farmers are all “thems” that we marshal to attempt to understand the political dynamics…..or purchasing patterns of our citizens. Within each of those groups are individuals or outliers who follow their own reasoning or consciences to different ends than their cohorts. So, even as we justify or rationalize demographic clustering for measuring purposes, we inadvertently ignore or submerge the individualists among them.

It is rather easy to understand why someone would be offended by their automatic inclusion in a group. It is overt stereotyping after all, and denies their uniqueness. As individuals we all seek to establish our own identities. We do not want anyone to speak for us or to presume that we may act in a totally predictable manner. This line of reasoning does beg the question “why do so many people fall into group-think patterns of action if indeed they desire to be acknowledged as individuals?” Although I do not wish to pursue this line in the space that remains, I suspect that we may find ourselves entwined in the “Nature versus Nurture” dispute. While we believe that we think and act independently, we may be strongly influenced by our personal histories and our social milieus. We stand alone with others who are similar to us.

When a hypothetical constitutional government such as ours was intended to be, undertakes responsibilities and tasks beyond its constitutional mandate, its enlarged portfolio necessitates that it cumbersomely engage with groups. Any modicum of effectiveness or efficiency would require the bloated government to broadly identify and define those groups. Thus, for example, one can discover well-educated African-American young people from high-income families reviving preferential treatment and financial benefits when they go off to college because their broadly defined group has been designated as a victim of discrimination or deprivation. Our society and many of its governments have determined that stereotyping certain groups is wrong and should be sanctioned. Yet…government itself is a gross abuser of stereotyping as the example above illustrates. How many harmless patriotic Americans are listed on some government agency “watch list” because they purchased a firearm or witnessed a parade?

It is our nature (or nurture) to view others stereotypically until we get to know them as individuals. Our frames of reference for encountering others who differ from us must rely on anecdotal and incomplete evidence until we can know the others personally. Typically many of our stereotypical assumptions are discarded as our new relationship develops. That is not the case for government. Government NEVER progresses to the personal or individual stage of relationship. As a result, governments utilize, enhance and institutionalize stereotypes. Governments are routinely guilty of hate crimes….stereotypically speaking about “them,” of course.

Tue. & Wed., 6-7pm, 1370 WSPD, Toledo

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