Down at the dog-run in Riverside Park, the election has already been won for a second term and the smart money is on the impending “fiscal cliff”, with cynical stories of stock broker promises for saving diminished middle class wealth through the next predicted debacle. Cooler heads were discussing the bigger picture and the sterling op-ed piece in today’s Financial Times by Adam Haslet, called “An Imaginary Enemy in the US Presidential Election”

Haslet addresses identity politics. And more profoundly, points to the historical action of group psychology both as it coheres more or less soundly in its sub-groupings and as it splits apart, with new categories and alignments. The current “sky is falling” moment pits the waning of a privileged, white America, the post robber baron big shouldered pork butcher to the world, now threatened in its sovereignty by a more pluralistic, globalized, American majority, headed into a multi-hued future. Haslet rightly recognizes the conflict in the Obama-Romney race.

We live in interesting times for identity politics: as globalizing, pluralizing shifts shake up the religious, political, sociological and wealth alignments around the world, zealots of all kinds agitate for their past (imagined) glories and their future (imagined) glories. As well as for the exclusion, extrusion, or at least deprivation, of everyone else. Religious fundamentalists, political fundamentalists, seem to seize the moment as the more or less quiescent folk—my reference group at the 105th Street dog-run— wonder what is to be, when Yeats’ “center cannot hold” amid passionate convictions in large group and social re-alignments, slouching  toward our new Byzantium.

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The New American Fantasy: The Imaginary Enemy & Subgroup Rivalry


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