Re: Culture & Identity What are the components that form your sense of identity? Is it what you see in the mirror's eye? What you have between your legs? Is it something artificial, like fashion and style? Ideas? Right now my own identity is invested almost entirely in abstraction. As much as I resent anti-identification--the art of identification according to what we're not--there is an absence of affirmative aspects. I might say "art", but I don't like to be any more specific than that, so it's not necessarily a useful designation. Principles? Again, too broad to be of any utility. Emotion and sensation? Perhaps that gives way to something more specific. Above all else, people should be happy, and that includes me. The question of how to define happiness is a deep current in my life. I look at the bigot, the hater, and I see that person's unhappiness. It's like a stain, but I can't necessarily tell you what substance. It's also like a disease, and this is where I become proactive: making other people miserable just to feel kinship is a difficult proposition. As repugnant as I find it, I'm also aware that from certain perspectives one can reasonably assert that we all do this. I look at the conflicted lover and, no matter what s/he says about the partner, the conflict is his or her own. I look at myself and I see someone who refuses all definitions and assignations of my person. It is better to not define myself; for all we hear about stopping to smell the roses, it seems ridiculous to pass by carnations or daffodils because they are not roses. There are many things I would like to call myself, but I don't deserve any of those names, and am afraid of wrapping myself too tightly in the label. The only thing I can tell anyone for certain is that I am human, and that ought to be enough. As I've said before, it will be enough for me to understand in this lifetime what it means to be human. But what purpose is there in the inherently impossible? Many of my human neighbors seem utterly alien to me. Their identities are invested in strange affinities. For example, politics: I vote for Democrats because they're the closest thing I'm going to get; I laugh when conservatives complain about liberal Democrats. There are no properly liberal Democrats. Voting for Democrats is my big compromise, my concession to the right wing. Yet there are some who invest tremendous energy and identity into being a Democrat or Republican. Some gun owners seem to invest a great portion of their identity in their guns. Some people see themselves according to their car, or the number of things they possess. Some want to be hip and stylish. Others glamorous. Many want to be viewed according to their intelligence or wisdom. As to culture, how does this identity connect you to your friends and neighbors? What are the common bonds in your personal relationships? It's said that it's easy to take advantage of me, that I'm too trusting. But that's a myth; it just takes me forever to put my foot down. Most certainly, I am not Christ, but after a lifetime of being told I'm wrong about what I perceive, it's well enough to give people a chance. Maybe they're not lying. Maybe they're not insane. At some point, though, consistency demands a response. I wish I could say I identify myself according to my daughter, but I can't begin to know how to explain that. But I am a number of things, and only the first one can be set in its proper place, and only that first one is utterly independent of any other aspect of my identity. I am human. I am also, in no particular order, American, male, a father, an artist, a failure, philosophical, curious, reactionary, a stoner, a communitarian, an idealist, a utopian ... the list goes on. I'm vain, an aesthete, a sad joke .... After a while, there are too many aspects to add up. In the end, I'll be comfortable wherever people let me be comfortable. As a result, I have no real connection to my neighbors in the world. My fellow Americans seem ridiculous unless I can corner any one of them over a beer or a bong rip. I don't think I'm unique in the diversity of my identity components, but I often feel that way. So I'm wondering how cultures come to identify themselves, if so many people are as fractured as I am. How do we go from individuals with so many facets to, say, our national community identity? Being an American, according to the most prevalent notions, is a concept that defies me. The more I understand about it, the more I reject it as a cultural identity. And yet, to a certain degree, it is what I am. So says me. But what of thee?