I’m A…

Identity (film)
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I’m not wild about labels. On cans, sure.

But people?

Here’s an interesting Slate essay about the difference between Latino/a and Hispanic.

I met a woman recently who said she was a “moderate Republican.” It’s fair to describe my sweetie as a “devout Buddhist.” I know a woman, an artist, who could fairly say she’s a “passionate flea marketer.”

In an era of identity politics, when identifying as member of one group can alienate members of another, how “loud and proud” are we?

My first book, “Blown Away: American Women and Guns” is about the intersection of women and firearms in the U.S. I was fascinated — and depressed — to find that most people assumed I must be a gun-owner, user or even fanatic.

Not!

I’ve never owned one, nor plan to. I did shoot a bunch of different handguns as research, but am quite able, as a career journalist, to write about all sorts of issues without attaching myself to them emotionally or investing in that identity or personal allegiance.

That’s what being a traditional news journalist means — finding and reporting stories, not signing up for every cause or group.

Other than our work titles or job descriptions, or our family relationships (Mom, husband, sister, nephew), how do we choose to define ourselves to the wider world?

Words can have such different meanings to many people; one person’s definition of “conservative” (fiscally but not socially) might signal the red flag of a very different belief system to someone else.

I’m liberal in some ways, politically and otherwise, but quite conservative in others, like finances and the way I often dress.

I’m comfortable saying publicly I’m a(n):

feminist

traveler

athlete

aesthete

foodie

volunteer

ex-patriate

creator

Francophile

artist

I recently took the vows of a bodhisattva. Gulp. Big job!

I doubt I’ll be using that one in social conversation any time soon, but it’s a role I’ve felt strongly about for a while.

How about you?

What are some of your identities?

Britain's Election Set For May 6 — With 82 Percent Of Voters Dissatisfied And A 167 Billion Pound Deficit

Houses of Parliament
Image by wwarby via Flickr

The word everyone is using is “Presidential” — that the upcoming British election will focus more than ever before on personality, not policy. For the first time, the contenders will hold a televised debate on the issues.

For anyone who’s missed it, many British politicians were found last year to have been profoundly abusing their expenses — cleaning the moats or swimming pool at their country homes, for example. Public fury, fairly enough, was huge.

Growls Chris Moncrieff in The Daily Mail:

There will be no weeping, wailing or gnashing of teeth when this Parliament finally croaks its last. Nor will there be any mourners around its death-bed.

Rarely – if ever before – in this nation’s history has a Parliament earned so much contempt and scorn from the people it is supposed to represent.

I have been reporting at Westminster for just a few months short of half a century and never, during that time, has there been such a backlash of fury from the British voting public.

For this Parliament has been unmasked as the home of an ugly mob of scoundrels, vagabonds, thieves, fleecers, spendthrifts (of other people’s money, of course) and Artful Dodgers.

And on top of the expenses outrage, we now have the far-from-pretty spectacle of former Cabinet ministers – like cabs for hire, as one of them put it – grubbing around for money to use their ‘influence’, such as it is, on current and future ministers.

Since time immemorial, the great British public has looked with disdain on its Members of Parliament. They have always been the natural Aunt Sallys of our society, the people who could be blamed when anything went wrong.

But that disdain has never before exploded into the kind of contumely we see today.

Here’s a great graphic showing the datasets voters need.

Writes Rachel Sylvester in The Times:

It’s as if Labour has turned into a magic mirror that shows you what you will look like when you are old, whereas in 1997 it was like the Mirror of Erised in the Harry Potter books, which reflects back the deepest desires of everyone who looks in it.

After 13 years in government, the party is older and wiser, but also more jaded. The excitement and energy of 1997 have turned to disillusionment and exhaustion. Some of the once bright young things who made their names in the Blair years are leaving Parliament altogether. The expenses scandal has added yet more lines to the Government’s face.

The camaraderie of opposition was lost long ago in the corridors of power. “It’s not the same as it used to be,” says one longstanding Labour strategist who is back in No 10. “It’s more like a job than a vocation now. There isn’t the same level of trust.” Although a truce has been declared between Blairites and Brownites, the old feud simmers beneath the surface.

The truth is that Labour is conducting two battles simultaneously — one is a general election campaign, the other is a fight for the future direction of the party. As long as the polls continue to be volatile, discipline will be maintained. If there is a chance of victory, or a hung Parliament, the competing factions will hold together. But if the Tories manage to secure a consistent lead, then cracks will begin to show.

Red, a national British women’s magazine polled its readers and found 86 percent plan to vote — while 46 percent haven’t decided for whom. The top five issues readers named? The National Health Service, the recession, state education, climate change and immigration policy. “I wouldn’t trust the Tories [Conservatives] with the NHS,” says an occupational therapist from Glasgow…the NHS needs major investment.”

Ninety-five percent say there is no female Member of Parliament with whom they identify. Says a 33-year-old financial industry executive in London: “Until we have more strong women in the House of Commons, a woman’s perspective will be a small voice in a room of chanting men.”