Most of us learned in elementary school the meaning of the Latin phrase, E Pluribus Unum, the translation of which is “From Many, One.” The words are proudly displayed on our currency and as part of The Great Seal of the United States. Its inclusion was originally proposed by none other than Benjamin Franklin, the purpose of which was to promote unity. A new nation comprised of former British colonies lacked commonality. Much like modern America, the lifestyle of citizens in Georgia shared little with that of eighteenth-century New Yorkers, and the political ideology of colonial Pennsylvanians differed substantially to South Carolinians of the time. Franklin and our other Founding Fathers understood the importance of being unified, and they asserted that such unification must be centered on common values shared by all Americans. Almost two-and-a-half centuries later, however, our friends on the Left appear hell bent on division, not unity. Separating us by inherent traits is the objective, and identity politics is the tactic. Common values be damned. One need not look any further than this week’s absurd controversy involving presumptive future-First Lady Jill Biden for evidence of the phenomenon.
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In a recent OpEd in the Wall Street Journal, author Joseph Epstein used a lighthearted approach to examine Mrs. Biden’s apparent insistence on being addressed with the honorific “Doctor.” Mrs. Biden earned a Doctorate of Education from the University of Delaware, and has since referred to herself as “Dr. Jill Biden.” Her Twitter handle, for example, is @DrBiden. Epstein observes that when most people think of a doctor, they think of a medical doctor, and he opines that referring to oneself as a doctor for having earned a PhD in the non-science field of Education, ”sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic.” We could argue about the merits of Epstein’s view, and it’s probable that many opinions will align with one’s political affiliations. Ultimately it’s one person’s opinion – that of Mr. Epstein – and nothing more, and for many of us the opinion is reasonable.
But as is so common these days, the real scandal with the non-controversy is not the opinion of Epstein, but rather the ridiculous reaction to it. The Left’s outrage wasn’t due to Epstein’s criticism of Mrs. Biden’s use of the title, it was due to the fact that Epstein had the audacity to direct that criticism at a woman. But we know, of course that the fury only manifested because Mrs. Biden is a prominent Democrat woman. If Epstein had directed his comments towards a prominent Republican woman – for instance Condoleezza Rice, who does not refer to herself as “Doctor” even though she holds a PhD in Political Science, is fluent in three languages, and earned a fellowship at Stanford University – does anyone honestly think there would be any objections from the Left and their media?
Almost immediately after the OpEd’s publication, the scorn from the Left began to pour in. Backlash came from academia as Northwestern University, Epstein’s former employer, promptly denounced the piece for its “misogynistic views,” followed by their removal of Epstein’s profile from their website. The Chronicle of Higher Education labeled the essay as “sexist,” but our esteemed mainstream media outlets were predictably the most vocal in their indignation. An article by Forbes attacking Epstein regards his “misogyny” as a foregone conclusion, and proceeds to consider the effects of such evil on one’s mental health. Even Megan McCain, co-host of The View who can usually be counted on as a voice of reason from an otherwise outrageously unreasonable group, lumped Epstein in with other “misogynistic men.” There’s only one problem with the argument from McCain and the rest, however. Nowhere in the piece does Epstein indicate that his position on the matter is derived in any way from Mrs. Biden’s gender.
Epstein’s confronters offered no proof of his sexism/misogyny, because they don’t need proof. As we witness with similar accusations of homophobia, racism, and xenophobia, if someone dares to criticize a member of a group other than white men, it is automatically assumed that the motivation behind such criticism is bigotry. It turns out, apparently, that if you consider yourself as “woke,” you are miraculously endowed with the ability to read minds. Almost seven months after the tragic death of George Floyd, there is still absolutely no evidence that his death had anything to do with his race, and the fact that three of the four responding officers to the incident were non-white would certainly indicate otherwise. But his death was due to racism, they insist. The same can be said about the death of Breonna Taylor, and several others. Evidence doesn’t matter if you are on the Left, you see. All they need is tragedy, misfortune, or even criticism to befall a member of one of their protected groups, and they know the cause: it is sexism, or racism, or homophobia. And don’t you worry your pretty little head about evidence, because they know… they just know.
The latest uproar about Mrs. Biden is just the latest example of the Left’s employment of identity politics. The fact that Mrs. Biden is a wealthy white woman means she only checks one of their victimhood boxes, but since she’s Joe’s wife, that’s all she needs. The more boxes a potential “victim” checks, the better their victimhood fits the Left’s narrative, so long as they’re Democrats. It is for this reason we see an increasing number of categories for which victims can be slotted. What started out as the LGB community – indicating lesbians, gays and bisexuals – now adds letters on a regular basis like an episode of Wheel of Fortune. The term Hispanic was first used with the 1970 census, and the Left continually tries to apply modifiers to the term in order to maximize their categories and thereby maximize victimhood and America’s systemic culpability in it. The Left doesn’t want America to be a melting pot, they want to use hyphens as often as possible. The Left doesn’t want unity, they want as much division and as many identifiers as possible. To hell with E Pluribus Unum, our friends on the Left want E Pluribus Etiam Magis: “From Many, Even More.”
Jill Biden has every right to request that she is called whatever she would like; Mrs. Biden, Dr. Biden, or Ms. Biden. It appears likely that next month she will be able to add First Lady to that list. It’s also obvious that she is rightfully proud of her academic achievements, as earning a PhD in any field is no small feat. But Joseph Epstein also has rights, and he has the right to his opinion and to express that opinion. Just because a white man criticizes someone who is not a white man doesn’t mean that criticism is rooted in bigotry.
Our friends on the Left need to come up with a new strategy, as their repeated engagement in identity politics has become tiresome. Not all opinions with which you disagree are driven by some sinister motives; sometimes people just think differently. Stop with the nonsense, and stop trying to divide us at every opportunity. We are all Americans, we’re not just pawns in your game of identity politics, and it’s OK if we disagree with each other.