Saturday, December 10, 2011

Over-Educated Presidential Candidates

Maybe we don't want our presidential candidates to have PhD's.  Gingrich apparently called the Palestinians an invented people.  While this sounds offensive, the funny thing is that many scholars would not disagree.  That is, as Benedict Anderson argued long ago, any nation or ethnic group is really an "Imagined Community" that is socially constructed.  Any community larger than the folks we actually know (a village) relies on perceptions, rather than realities, of shared experience and identity.  So, the Palestinian identity and community is, indeed, imagined and invented.  As is the Jewish one.  Or Ones, I should say since the meaning of what it takes to join and belong into the Jewish community is contested, that there is more than one Jewish community.  Just see the ads Israel has been funding lately about "don't let your kids marry American Jews."

Oh, being American is the one of the ultimate invented identities since all we share, except for the Native Americans, is that we are immigrants and/or descended from immigrants.  What separates those immigrants from the ones up north?  Well, Americans used to think of baseball as their national pastime, as opposed to hockey, and focus more on rugged individualism and suspicion of government.  The colder immigrants actually kind of trust their government so national health care becomes a right (with mixed effects that they tend to deny) rather than something to fear.  What it really means to be American changes over time as individuals and groups fight over the content of American nationalism.  Just like any other imagined community.

And Newt, baby, the concept also applies to Christians.  Lots of Christians have a view of the Christian community that does not include Catholics.  Many of those folks vote in Republican primaries.  So, good luck with that.


Anonymous said...

Ok to a point, but the poke at Christianity is misplaced, as most of the mainstream of Christianity does not consider Catholicism as un-Christian, but simply as non-Protestant.

Steve Saideman said...

I should not have said lots of Christians but many Christians. I was so surprised when I lived in Lubbock to find a significant number of folks thinking that Catholics were not Christians. My point is that this minority happens to be a loud wing of the Modern (ironic) GOP, and that his play with identity politics might be just a bit dangerous to old Newt.

I didn't mean to poke Christians--only Newt.