Friday, May 13, 2016

Identifying

James Bowman on today's directive to public schools:
“The Obama administration is planning to issue a sweeping directive telling every public school district in the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.” .... By now, of course, it’s no surprise that the law is being supplanted by executive “directives” from an increasingly lawless administration. But the terms in which this process is reported reveal how much it has been helped along by a decline in the standards of our common English tongue. The word “identity,” as we are now to understand, has joined a host of other once-useful words — “truth,” “lies,” “justice,” “honor,” and “reality” among them — in becoming completely subjective and therefore meaning whatever the speaker or writer wants them to mean.

Which, as a moment’s thought will tell us, is tantamount to meaning nothing at all. ....

First, that is, you choose your “gender”; then you lose your identity. And so does everyone else. We might have seen this coming years ago when people started “identifying” with fictional characters and then — full of compassion, naturally — with each other. We pedants might have pointed out that what they meant was that they identified themselves with those who inspired in them fellow-feeling of one sort or another, but hardly anyone saw the need to retain this second, crucial element in the process of identification....

...[A]ll identification has become self-identification, a mere fantasy of otherness, that everyone now can feel he or she has a right to — like, as it turns out, the right to be he or she. Nor, as the latest news informs us, is it only the right to one’s “chosen gender” that one is entitled to but the right to have everyone else forced to play along with the fantasy, as always in the name of compassion. ....