In this together?

And then there’s Mark Lilla’s piece from November 28.

He starts by saying the US is diverse, without saying what he means by “diverse.”

But how should this diversity shape our politics? The standard liberal answer for nearly a generation now has been that we should become aware of and “celebrate” our differences. Which is a splendid principle of moral pedagogy — but disastrous as a foundation for democratic politics in our ideological age. In recent years American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.

Is that right? So it’s more “unifying” to revert to the idea that straight white men should have all the power and influence and most of the money, while the rest of us just tag along in their wake?

No, I don’t think so. I think these struggles over equality may be disunifying in the short term, but in the long term they lead to better, more stable, more just unity.

We need a post-identity liberalism, and it should draw from the past successes of pre-identity liberalism. Such a liberalism would concentrate on widening its base by appealing to Americans as Americans and emphasizing the issues that affect a vast majority of them. It would speak to the nation as a nation of citizens who are in this together and must help one another.

That sounds nice, and it might be nice if this were a different country with a different history. But it’s not. It’s this country with this history: the one that started out in life as a slave country, and stayed that way for most of its history, and even after formally ending slavery continued with de facto slavery for nearly another century. That’s not some little detail, it’s a giant scar across the whole face of our history. There’s also the expropriation of the native population and the internment of Japanese citizens only 75 years ago. Given that actual history, claiming we are “a nation of citizens who are in this together” is insulting to the people who were never treated as “in this together” for almost the whole of our history. There’s a lot of work to do before that claim can be honestly made.

So, yeah. I’m still one of those pesky recalcitrant types who think that straight white men shouldn’t be telling us underlings that we are in this together until that’s actually the case. Not yet, Mark Lilla, not yet.

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