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IDENTITY AND HOW TO SWING IT
Carlye Archibeque, Non-Fiction, co-editor

artwork
artwork by Roland W. Coryel

The condition of being oneself, and not another.” —dictionary.com

Identity is a tricky subject. There are all kinds of identification: global, national, regional, local and personal. There is the identity you put forward when you are with your family and the one you toss around when you are out with friends at a bar. Only the most zen of us can claim to have one identity that follows them everywhere. But I believe, and I can say that because this is an editorial, that at the center of everyone is their core identity. Whether they or anyone else ever get to meet this core identity seems to be a crapshoot where the dice are preparation meets luck.

Growing up we have our identities given to us by others: parents, teachers, peers. Somewhere along the line we decide on an identity: geek, outcast, cheerleader, princess. In adulthood sometimes we rebel against our given identity, geeks start working out and the head cheerleader picks up a copy of “The Communist Manifesto” and suddenly there’s a change from one kind of “self” to another, or usually not. Geeks could go back to physical lethargy, cheerleaders could go back to Vogue, but occasionally someone really changes from one thing to another. They have a paradigm shift.

A paradigm is an example of something that becomes a model. Identity is often a paradigm that we have used to become who we think we are because of forces other than our own thought process. This is probably why most of us go through a mid-life crisis. We model ourselves early on using parents, teachers or teen idols as the example. Half a life later when desperation that life may end sets in we start to reevaluate our identity paradigm. Sometimes we change, sometimes we just buy a sports car.

Why do I speak of identity, models of behavior and paradigm shifts? Because our nation is badly in need of a change in the models of behavior we choose to form both our national and personal identities. But a nation is made of people and people are many and varied.

Since this is a political magazine, or we identify ourselves as such, I’d like to bring up an example from politics of a person who has changed their public and most likely their personal identity and by doing so has created the ripples of what I can only hope is a wave of change.

I’m dragging out the man of the hour, year and probably decade: Al Gore. A man who was attended Harvard since they accepted him and it was the only school he applied to; a man who was in the lower fifth of his class at Harvard two years in a row; a man who got bored with his English major only to switch to government found that he liked it so much that after a turn as a field reporter in Vietnam and being accepted a Vanderbilt law school, decided to run for an open seat in the Tennessee Congress instead. I’m talking about a man who can change not only his own mind, but, even slowly it seems, the minds of the entire globe.

Gore ran for president in 1988 and was going to run again in 1992 but when his son was injured he decided to pay attention to his family and start writing a book called “Earth in the Balance” which became the first NYT bestseller since JFK’s “Profiles in Courage.” He ran for president twice more, and won or was defeated or maybe both, each time. But a funny thing happened, instead of Gore becoming an ex-politician, he went on the road with a slide show and a passion for what he thought was really important: the Earth.

I would love to see a Clinton/Gore ticket come this election year, but I understand perfectly why Gore most likely will never run for president again. He has found the power of embracing his true identity. Al Gore is not a president, he is the leader of a movement that could change the world. His paradigm has shifted from the political to the personal and all that means. He could probably be president if he tried again, but he knows that at his core he is a geek with a slide show and a mission to make every person on Earth aware of their responsibility to the planet. Face it, it takes a lot of balls to be able to pick yourself up from two very public thrashings and go on the road with a slide show.

Perhaps it’s time for our nation to get some balls and to inspect its paradigm that the nation is made or broken by a man we call the president and that the only way for change to occur is by electing the guy who thinks like you. Maybe it’s time to start acting like we think, not just at the polls, but at the supermarket by choosing eco friendly goods, or while driving our cars by deciding that we are not going to threaten the lady in the mini van next to us with four kids who keeps swerving into our lane. Maybe it’s time to just slow down, look at who we really want to be and go be that.

I encourage everyone to embrace the self inside that is not another and take your show on the road.