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The Great Identity Crisis

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After September 11, American leaders were asked who they were and what they lived for. And their response was to spread American values around the world. And that was what they sent the military to go out and do. In the memory of the dead, they create more dead, as sacrifices on behalf of the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. This obscenity was described as making the world a better place.

And yet how can you blame them? What else were they supposed to do?

America was under attack, but what is that thing called, “America”? Is it an actual physical place or is it an idea of free enterprise, democracy and universal tolerance? And who are the Americans? Is Anwar Al-Awlaki an American? Of course, he was born here and he has the right papers, doesn’t he?

If Anwar Al-Awlaki is an American and the people who died on September 11 are Americans, then this is a conflict between Americans. And it can only be settled by the legal system. To recognize an outside enemy, you have to be able to delineate a border between the “outside” and the “inside”, and you have to reach for a physical identity to describe what belongs inside the organism and what belongs outside it. Otherwise, you have nothing left but values and legalisms.

If we accept that definition, then the left is correct and this is just an internal conflict between Americans and other Americans, who are extremists, Resident Alien Americans, Undocumented Americans, and Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, who just don’t know that they’re Americans yet. If to be an American, all you need to do is be born here or happen to have the right papers, or believe in free enterprise, democracy and religious tolerance for Dhimmis, then this is truly a global American civil war within the body of the Pax Americana.

An identity crisis leads to a values-based identity, and a values-based identity leads to a compulsive need to spread that identity to others. Islam is an example of an extended identity crisis and a values-based identity. Its adherents resolve a conflict between their practice and values by projecting it onto the infidel Other and then kill themselves to destroy that Other. Liberals do the same thing. Only their choice of tactics and orientation is different.

An individual or a nation in the throes of a values-based identity crisis is a “zombie”; its identity requires it to feed on and infect others. It is wholly other-oriented, whether in a friendly or hostile way. It strives to fill the gaping hole inside its own being by infecting others with its ideology. It is always insecure because it does not know itself. It is suicidal because it has no reason to live. Its existence wholly derives from its ability to spread its own species of insanity as widely as possible. Since it lives for this purpose, it must also die for it. This is the meaning of a human disease.

The loss of identity is a frightening thing and it can happen in any number of ways. Sudden change, national transformation, catastrophic war, contact with superior outsiders, technological revolution and a thousand other things. It is seductively easy to turn to a simple verity, the meditative chant that says identity derives from some form of moral and ethical superiority. It’s child’s play to link this up to national exceptionalism, without considering that national exceptionalism has no meaning without national survival.

In times of crisis, repeating “We are the good people” over and over again is no defense. And even before a crisis, it invites attack. It is tantamount to a refusal to defend yourself and makes it absurdly easy for an enemy to turn your own values against you. It then becomes all too depressingly easy for a nation to conclude that it would rather die than violate the absurdly dainty standards it has set for itself as proof of its own superiority.

A nation’s self-worth is grounded in its accomplishments. As its accomplishments diminish, it either begins to live in the past or adopts a values-based identity that allows it to believe that it is better than the nations who are actually building, forging and making their future. The cycle feeds on itself until fossil nations remain, too good to lift a hand in their own defense. Such nations do not survive long in the natural order of things, but the twilight of the world wars left behind a Pax Americana that saw its stronger and more vital colonies protecting the mother countries from the consequences of their own degeneracy. That allowed them to rot in peace, while being colonized by their immigrant conquerors. Now that the colonies are degenerating at a rapid rate, the day swiftly approaches when there will be no one to protect the mother countries.

About the Author: Daniel Greenfield is an Israeli born blogger and columnist, and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. His work covers American, European and Israeli politics as well as the War on Terror. His writing can be found at http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press.


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