But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. 

George Orwell

I’m not sure just when I first became aware of the term “identity politics.” Like Brussels sprouts on trendy restaurant menus, it wasn’t there — then it was everywhere. For me, I think it was the book Hillbilly Elegy, published in 2016. The book caught the attention of the chattering classes as an explanation of how an idiot like Donald Trump could ever be elected President. It seems that poor rural white people had had enough of being left out of the good life, and somehow had united  together as a tribe to protect themselves and express their anger.

Before I knew it, like the arcade game Whack-A-Mole, these identity groups were popping up everywhere — men, women, black, white, young, old, American, immigrant ad nauseam. There were so many identities, I felt like a split-personality Sybil.

Then I realized that this concept of identity is one manufactured by our political parties to get elected — and by mass media to make money. For a couple of years identity discussion washes over us, and pretty soon we believe it is a real meaningful thing, the key to understanding our new political reality.

Not so fast. I’m sure I’m not alone on this. I’m a 70-year-old white male. In the 2016 presidential election, old people, whites, and males all voted more for Trump. I voted for Clinton. So my tribe should be the young, black, woman tribe.

But to be perfectly honest, I don’t belong to any tribe. Most people don’t. I’m a male, but I didn’t know what DIY stood for until last year, and I’d be embarrassed to go to Hooters. I am white, but I wear it lightly. White people have a lot to apologize for: Slavery and Native American genocide for starters. I’m old, but I genuinely feel bad that we have devoured the available resources for future generations. And I don’t really like how old people look, to tell you the truth. See my photo for this column.

If you want to belong to a tribe, organize a family reunion or watch the movie Braveheart. Otherwise, be an individual. Live your life. You only get 90 years — if you’re lucky. If you consider that lucky. Appreciate your own personal identity. Don’t let some hack politician or somebody trying to sell you a book tell you who you are. 

Figure it out on your own. Don’t be an ant. 

Step up.

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John Hubbuch

John is an Indiana native who moved to Oak Park in 1976. He served on the District 97 school board, coached youth sports and, more recently, retired from the law. That left him time to become a Wednesday...