I’ve been thinking on this a while: What does it mean to be affirmed? You know, like the buzzword the Left loves to use to get everyone on board with one of their latest agendas. The official definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary is:
af·firm | \ ə-ˈfərm \
affirmed; affirming; affirms
1 a: VALIDATE, CONFIRM
He was affirmed as a candidate.
b: to state positively
He affirmed his innocence.
2: to assert (something, such as a judgment or decree) as valid or confirmed
The court affirmed his conviction.
3: to show or express a strong belief in or dedication to (something, such as an important idea)
laws affirming the racial equality of all people
I think the closest definitions the Left uses is #1. to validate someone, such as their identity. The Left loves to speak of how the “affirm” this group or that group based on identity, or “affirm” their commitments to diversity and the like. Now, I think we can all agree that affirmation of identities we hold personally significant, or the affirmation of a fair minded principle is no cause for objection. By human nature, we all want to feel welcomed and respected by others, and feel included. We want our values and choices affirmed by others. If that is all affirmation is, then why hold objections or reservations? Thing is of course, there’s always a catch 😉 Perhaps the better question is what isn’t affirmation?
For the first common use of what it means to be affirmed in the eyes of the Left, affirming one’s identity, they make it sound like one can only be “affirmed” in society if their group is given complete deference free from any sort of criticism or critique and that their opinions are treated as infallible edicts! A common example is the use of “affirm” in relation to LGBTQ groups. Many people and institutions declare they’re LGBTQ affirming, and most moderates interpret it to simply mean that LGBTQ people are welcome there, and won’t be discriminated against and treated with respect. Now the majority including myself, have absolutely no objections to that definition of affirmation for any group. I don’t object to same-sex marriage or to the existence of LGBTQ people and believe they deserve the same respect as everyone else. However, I draw the line at special privileges such as taking affirmation to mean that if someone has a criticism of the LGBTQ community, such as the nature of its often far left-leaning political activism for one example, they are automatically “homophobic” and non-affirming! Just because someone critiques LGBTQ as an identity to use in identity politics doesn’t mean they’re against people choosing same sex relationships or marriage as a personal life decision.
On a related note, regarding the “T” for transgender in LGBTQ, affirmation should not mean bending biological facts or enacting laws that disregard physical gender differences or the opportunity for non- transgender people to take advantage of trans-friendly laws for their own nefarious intentions (i.e. women’s bathrooms opening to biological males). Transgender people deserve respect and compassion and the right to be free from harassment and persecution as much as anyone else. I am not arguing for segregation or ostracism of transgender people from society. However, affirming their “right” to deny biological, physical and physiological realities as genetic males and females despite their new gender identity is where I draw a line. Sure, many transgender men and women can live lives that for the most part, harm no one or impede upon anyone else’s freedom. That does not mean issues such as bathroom access, or sports for trans women, or certain careers for trans men that require increased physical strength and stamina don’t exist and whose implications and unintended consequences can be denied. Do I think genuinely trans men and women have some nefarious intent in pushing for breaking these boundaries? No. They want a life according to their gender identity and I can understand that. However unintended consequences such as non-transgender (regular old cis-gender) men taking advantage of transgender laws to gain access to women’s spaces, or be able to beat every other female in an all women’s sport are still here regardless of intent. What about a trans man wanting to be in an elite SEAL unit but not having the requisite physical strength and stamina as other men? Must we admit him or lower the bar so “he” can get a spot on the team? Does affirming the transgender community mean we must affirm even the unintended consequences of their desires? Can we show them respect and affirmation without infringing on other’s rights?
What about affirming the “lived experiences” of many minority groups most often, that claim we live in a country steeped in white supremacy and racism? Do I think everyone who has had a bad experience is lying or wrong? No, certainly bias and prejudice does exist! However, there can be other explanations, other factors for why someone had a negative interaction aside from racism and bias. For a few examples:
Someone could have had a bad day and took it out on you unintentionally.
Someone was in a rush so they didn’t see you when you said hi.
Someone had a completely different reason for a disagreement or conflict with you that had nothing to do with your race or ethnicity.
Someone said a comment they had no idea would come off as offensive or insensitive to you.
You weren’t truly qualified for the job you interviewed for or they hired someone they knew or came more recommended. Same for higher education acceptances, scholarships, internships etc… Same for most opportunities. That has happened to everyone including white males…
Your teacher or boss criticized your work because it actually needed improvement, not because you look different than the rest of the class.
You didn’t feel welcome at work or school because maybe, the dynamic between those coworkers or other students/professors didn’t fit your style of socializing or learning. Not every workplace or school is right for you and you should find a better fit. Not that anyone specifically had an agenda against you, but your style of relating just didn’t mesh with theirs. I think everyone has experienced this at least once in their career/education. You won’t instantly connect with everyone you meet.
In the course of your life, you will be in situations where you feel more apart, or even alienated from others around you. Sometimes they are being exclusionary and closed minded and unwelcoming. Other times, you and they simply don’t relate to each other as well. Not every workplace is for you. Not every school is for you. Not every friend group will be yours. Not every opportunity will be yours. Often times, this will have nothing to do with your race or any other identity but is simply one of the many setbacks in life. When we affirm the more identity-oriented interpretations of these events/experiences, to the exclusion of considering other factors before jumping to the worst interpretation, is this what affirmation should mean?
It can be hard as many, including me, genuinely don’t want to invalidate or belittle what others say were painful experiences. We wouldn’t want others to do that to us either! Many who cite negative experiences at school, work or socially are genuine in their pain. I think we should acknowlege that they feel that way, but at the same time, not be obligated to take their every word as infallible truth! How many times have we been upset due to a misunderstanding? That did not make what we felt any less real, but the facts surrounding the feelings were misperceived. Is that distinction, while a delicate balancing act especially when we ourselves don’t know the full story, too hard to understand? We can affirm someone’s emotions as genuine, but not blindly affirm their conclusions. Hear them out, but then seek out the facts before passing judgment.
A final thought, what about affirmation for my identity? Affirmation of my identity as a conservative and other fellow conservatives? In most major institutions such as schools and our workplaces, the mainstream media, much of government, family and friends etc… there is little to none. I and many others have had the “lived experience” of feeling uncomfortable to express our views in the classroom or at work while those around us express their freely. We’ve endured snide remarks from professors, teachers, bosses, even “friends” about how backward people like us are. We see every other group be treated as if they were untouchable, free from any criticism or reproach while we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Don’t call out for affirmation if you happen to be white, male and especially both! Don’t call out for affirmation if you’re a minority who is also a conservative since the Left thinks they own you and you’re a “race traitor”. No professor’s office or boss’ office ever had a “(insert group here)-friendly” sticker for conservatives to show that they too are welcome. The Left thinks of us as a malignant majority, but how can that be when the mainstream media, every school and work place, every authority figure, tv show, movie etc… are all affirming of the Left but not of us?
So, one can safely conclude like all the buzz words they like to use to sway the moderates on the fence who haven’t looked deeply into them, “affirmation” for the Left translates to “agree with our select groups and causes or else you’re a big meanie!”