My Identity Problem

Alan Shapiro in The Hedgehog Review:

If childhoods have leitmotifs, mine was the steady, subtle, though sometimes bullying insistence on the unsurpassed importance of my Jewish American identity. On one side of my two-track upbringing, there was the uncontested conviction that Jews were the chosen people, the main players in God’s plan for humanity; on the other side, the daily pledge of allegiance to the American Republic, in all its shining-city- on-a-hill exceptionalism. How it is that my self-importance is not positively Trumpian is as big a mystery as why Muammar al-Qaddafi took over Libya and declared himself colonel, not king, or why, as John Berryman once wondered, cats love fish and hate water.

Unfortunately, and for reasons I don’t completely understand, my emotional investment in these and other inherited identities didn’t extend much beyond my immediate family, which was anything but coherent or harmonious.

More here.