Richmond is hardly a big city full of people with wild ideas. Still, most people in the South are content to live and let live. So when I saw this I just rolled my eyes.

For more than 20 years Godfrey’s restaurant and nightclub have been a prominent part of Richmond’s LGBTQ scene, hosting drag shows, creating a hospitable environment for young people with alternative sexual identities, and participating in charitable fund-raising events that transcend the LGBTQ community. As the restaurant website describes its mission: “RVA needs a space where young people can come together in an environment that is inclusive and safe regardless of their sexuality or gender identity. We hope Godfrey’s is that space.” (continued here)

The title of the post, Identity Politics Are So Extreme Now that Gays Look Old Fashioned and Conservative by James Bacon, explains where the article is headed. Identity politics are inherently divisive, and Liberal Democrats have pursued identity politics to the point where they are now having trouble unifying around a common, hated enemy.

What is identity politics ultimately about? “Me.” Identity politics is all about “me”, affirming MY identity. It is a selfish form of individualism, and selfish people don’t work well together. So I have my doubts about a “blue wave” this year. Extreme individualism isn’t that appetizing.

Consider a couple of different definitions of the term “individualism”.


1a(1) : a doctrine that the interests of the individual are or ought to be ethically paramount also : conduct guided by such a doctrine

(2) : the conception that all values, rights, and duties originate in individuals
b : a theory maintaining the political and economic independence of the individual and stressing individual initiative, action, and interests also : conduct or practice guided by such a theory
2a : individuality

b : an individual peculiarity : idiosyncrasy

the habit or principle of being independent and self-reliant.
“a culture that celebrates individualism and wealth”
independence · self-direction · self-reliance · [more]
self-centered feeling or conduct; egoism.
a social theory favoring freedom of action for individuals over collective or state control.
“encouragement has been given to individualism, free enterprise, and the pursuit of profit”

Words mean different things to different people. The first definition emphasizes political individualism, glorifying the individual. The second emphasizes personal independence and autonomy, the ability to go it alone. Neither definition speaks of individual responsibilities.  Neither definition reminds us that with rights come responsibilities.

Even though we are individual human beings, we are also social creatures. None of us thrives alone.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Value of a Friend

Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

With friendship comes responsibilities. We care for our friends. Friendship, the love of our neighbor, is the appropriate counter to extreme individualism.

  • If we overemphasize our “rights”, then we may find ourselves entering the realm of identity politics. Here we will busy ourselves forcing others to “give” us our “rights”, demanding affirmation of our identity and beliefs.
  • If we overemphasize our personal independence and autonomy, we sacrifice the pleasure and the security of having good friends. People we can help. People who can help us. People we can love.

God did not create us so we could make it all about “ME”. Jesus commanded us to emulate Him, to think first of our responsibilities to each other.

We don’t have “rights” so we can make demands on other people. We have rights because we work to protect our each other’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We each have the responsibility to practice a form “rugged individualism” (see here and here). Instead of demanding “rights” and affirmation from others, we each have an obligation to seek our own purpose and happiness in this life without imposing on others. Further, when we can, we have an individual responsibility to help each other.

John 15:12-13 New King James Version (NKJV)

12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.

Not even our government has the authority to demand that we lay down our lives for our friends. Yet that is what our Lord asked of us.


  1. Good post. Being of the same argumentative genes as you, I looked for areas of disagreement with this post, but the ones I found were insignificant. Both extreme collectivism and extreme emotivist individualism would appear to carry the same vices as all extremes. I’m a fan of diversity and pluralism, but not identity politics or any other form of extremist left or right leaning tribalism.

    However, if someone is being victimized because of the identity that they are being victimized for, then they can hardly point out the bigotry without recognizing their own identity as a black or a gay person, now could they? For example, if someone keeps getting pulled over and harassed whose only crime is driving while being black, then it doesn’t seem like identity politics for them to simply point out the obvious – that they are being treated differently because If something so insignificant to there common humanity as the color of there skin.

    1. @tsalmon

      For example, if someone keeps getting pulled over and harassed whose only crime is driving while being black, then it doesn’t seem like identity politics for them to simply point out the obvious – that they are being treated differently because If something so insignificant to there common humanity as the color of there skin.

      Is identity politics involved? Yes, but the solution is rejecting identity politics.

      If the person discriminating against your example driver is wrong to discriminate based upon race, then it is equally wrong to demand special privileges based upon race. All that Martin Luther King hoped for his children is that the would be judged by the content of their character.

      Where does identity politics lead? War. The totalitarian regimes of the last century were all based upon — justified by — the identity of some group. The Nazis pointed to their race. Even the Japanese imperialist pointed to their race. Whereas the Communists waged international class warfare on behalf of the proletariat.

      Just think of all the people they killed just to advance meaningless identity groups.

      1. Thus why I agree with your major point here. My questions to you then are:

        Do you believe that there is such a thing as a black or African American culture that developed out of centuries of enslavement and a hundred years of Jim Crow segregation and practical legal enslavement that only began to end in yours and my life times?

        If so, don’t you think that something is owed to that culture for their involuntary economic and physical contributions to this country?

        Regardless of that, don’t you think that it might take more than one or two generations to actively repair the economic and cultural damage done to African American Culture before the concept of African American culture becomes just another colorful vestige to our broader shared American culture just as Irish American or Italian American culture is today?

        Finally, if there is such a thing as an African American culture which has resulted in higher crime rates and more poverty amongst blacks, then isn’t the police profiling understandable even though rationally unjust? In other words, aren’t there risks to police in expecting them to be the only ones expected to socially reengineer their instinctive prejudices when the rest of society is unwilling to do anything to actively redress and reverse the age old root causes of those prejudices?

        On the other hand, if you don’t believe there is an African American culture that has been disadvantaged by centuries of a abuse, then how can you believe there is such a thing as American culture that is somehow superior and exceptional compared to every other culture, and that needs to be protected from the oblivion of cultural assimilation that you see as the threat of multi-culturalism?

        Like I said, I don’t disagree with most of your criticism of identity politics, but I also don’t believe it is so easy to simply categorize and dismiss it without looking at our natural (and even sometimes useful) tendencies toward profiling potential threats.

        This is a very imperfect analogy, but because people beat and fought pit bulls for years, we have certain rational and unfair preconceived notions about that breed, even though they share virtually all the same DNA with all other dogs, and if raised under similar circumstances, they are not any more aggressive. Because we are talking about fellow humans here, if we are not to be bigots, we must actively overcome our prejudices and afford every person a presumption of human dignity. On the other hand, doesn’t it make sense to, at the same time, try to solve some of the root causes for our prejudices, causes that we as a nation are responsible for?

        1. Well, don’t worry…some day we’ll elect a black president. That should make everything much better!

          1. For clarity, I believe in evidence based practice. Results matter, not intentions. If lack of liberal policies and opportunity were the reason for poor performance, we wouldn’t have ended eight years of Obama with worse race relations than before his term began. Whatever else we might like or dislike about his policies personally, his presidency should not have actually made race relations WORSE. Yet it did. Not in just the estimation of “white people”, but in the estimation of African Americans.

          2. @Liz

            Liberal Democrats have a theory of how things should work. If politicians say the right things, compassionately tell us what we want to hear, and promise to spend lots “rich people’s money”, everything will be just glorious! And if that does not work, we will get rid of the white men. It is all their fault wonderful stuff doesn’t happen when Democrats rule.

            Watch out brother! I doubt being a Democrat will help you all that much. They will just come for you last.

          3. So you think Obama “caused” worse race relations. Where’s your “evidence” for that? I know you know the difference between a correlation and a causation. You assume we have worse race relations, but might it be that birther conspiracist Trump has given the bigots the confidence to come out from under their rocks? Or perhaps worse race relations were a racist backlash to the first black president? You know Trump says some Mexicans are not rapists and criminals?

          4. @Tsalmon

            Dead policemen. Riots. A president and DOJ nobody in his right mind expects to administer justice impartially.

            Listen to yourself. You are advocating special treatment for blacks. That can’t be good for race relations. It is unjust.

          5. ”So you think Obama “caused” worse race relations.”
            What I said was, the evidence would indicate race relations became worse under his administration.

            Where’s your “evidence” for that?
            Gallup polls.

            ”I know you know the difference between a correlation and a causation.”
            Yes. We only know the result…we cannot say the cause with exact precision. My suspicion is that pounding the race drum constantly brings it constantly to public attention and they perceive it to be more of a problem over time. The results support my suspicion (also true of other things….pretty much if you talk about something a great deal, it stays on your mind a great deal).

            ”You know Trump says some Mexicans are not rapists and criminals?”
            It’s true. Some Mexicans are not rapists or criminals (though I was under the impression that rape was a criminal act).

        2. @tsalmon

          The road to Help is paved with good intentions.

          Do some people need help? Yes. Should the government redistribute our wealth to provide those who need help charity? No. That is not charity. All politicians do with this power is buy votes. Charity has to be a voluntary choice, or it is not charity.

          The Civil War ended in 1865. One way or another Democrats have continued the fight. Why? The emotions involved give demagogues a powerful leverage.

          Hundreds of thousands died during the Civil War. A good many blacks died trying to adjust to the end of slavery during that awful period called Reconstruction. Slavery is over. Let the strife over it end.

          During the Civil Rights Movement blacks finally started to assert their rights as citizens. Democrats squelched that by putting lots of blacks on the public dole. So reparations has already been tried. The idea didn’t work. It had the opposite effect. It made too many dependents of the government. So stop being so damned race conscious. It doesn’t help anything anyway.

          1. Imagine you have three sons, all about the same….we’ll call them Ned, Ted, and Ed.
            For whatever reason you start treating Ed differently….giving him a little more encouragement, “You can do it, Ed! You’re just like everyone else….there’s a good kid, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise buddy…”
            Do you think this treatment might actually adversely impact Ed?
            Pretty sure it would. Even if he never verbalizes it, he’s going to wonder why he’s treated differently and why it is assumed that he needs more “encouragement” than others.

          2. Not a good analogy Luz. Now suppose you beat a child for three hundred years and told him he was worthless. That would come closer to what we are talking about.

          3. “Now suppose you beat a child for three hundred years and told him he was worthless. That would come closer to what we are talking about.”

            You mean beat a corpse for 300 years? No person lives that long, and corpses probably don’t mind much.

          4. Diversity is not “strength”, but I do think there is merit to having a variety of individuals from different walks of life. Too many people from the same perspective can discourage innovation and “outlier” / outside-of-the-box thinking.
            But you don’t get good results by forcing people with no interest or aptitude for an occupation, into an occupation.

            One of the most catastrophically bad military leaders in my lifetime (a very very high bar) was the last Secretary of the AF, Deborah James. She set up “diversity” and “inclusion” requirements. For leadership positions as well…regardless of whether or not the person was qualified for the position. My husband went to a diversity awareness seminar for commanders (out of state).

            At the end of the seminar, the presenter came up to him and said he had the name of a person at his base who was very interested in becoming a pilot, and hoped he would give him some guidance.
            Well…my husband already knew the boy (an enlisted Airman), had set up an appointment and met with him and someone from the AF academy a few weeks prior.
            The presenter was surprised….my husband mentioned another person in maintenance who was interested in flying, and there was another Airman he was in contact with, who was very interested in flying. Three African Americans. The presenter told him he was an extremely unusual case and he was delighted to see a commander take such an interest in diversity.

            My spouse didn’t tell him, but he’s not the least bit interested in diversity. He’s interested in people who are very driven and smart and want to be pilots.

          5. Tom,

            I think that there is some truth in what you’re saying, but as much as you may want to argue with your fav strawman, I’m honestly not proposing any big answers, just posing questions. We are talking about the biggest, most intractable questions of human existence here. Only ideologues and demagogues have black and white big ideas. Which are you?

            And no, the Democrats are not the evil bad guys any more than the Republicans are the innocent good guys – they are both both.

          6. @tsalmon

            Big questions? Nope. All we are talking about is one way we manifest our pride. But, yes, our pride does pose an intractable problem. Until we understand just how small we are, we cannot see how big God is.

            Do I have black and white answers? Of course not. No one does.

            If none of us knows what we are doing, what is the point of voting for a bunch of busybodies? They are just going to make things worse. Surely you have heard these words of wisdom: “Keep it simple stupid!”

            Throwing someone else’s money at a problem is not a solution. It is just a “solution” that creates more problems.

            We should solve the problems we can solve. Over the rest we should pray.

          7. Liz,

            We may not always agree, but I always enjoy your stories.. Actually, I agree more than you know, but sometimes, like you, I like to stir the pot.

            You have great subjective insight.

  2. Tom, \

    If I may add a thought to your post, this proverb comes to my mind.

    Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. (Proverb 13:20)

    If a person wants to be identified with a group, perhaps he or she needs to consider the wisdom of their choice as to whether it will cause them harm.

    I can’t imagine anyone would not want to be considered wise by their peers. Being considered a fool can harm the body, spirit, and even vanity.

    Of course, the idiom, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, comes into play.

    My point is if you do not want to be considered a fool, don’t hang around people who risk foolish pleasures that risk their health or their actions would not be considered either wise or worthy of honor in the eyes of their Creator.

    How to differentiate who to honor, according to King Solomon, it was simple in his wise eyes to recognize someone worthy to be honored for their actions.

    Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, honor is not fitting for a fool. (Proverb 26:1)
    Same identity issue applies to political parties’ actions who pander to honor fools, in my opinion.

    Old fashioned or perhaps, ancient wisdom was considered conservative. Appears the meaning of the word conservative seems to have changed over time in the eyes of the writer or the article. But has it changed in the eyes of his Creator? I wonder?

    Regards and good will blogging.

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