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How this Web Site Evolved





I can date the beginning of this web site precisely. I was sitting in the bleachers at my step-daughter’s graduation from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. It was Saturday afternoon, May 25, 2006. The temperature was in the high 90s. My wife was in a wheelchair, having been injured at work a week earlier. I listened to a speech by the class valedictorian so blandly predictable that it was almost a parody of its genre. I don’t remember what made me think of identity then, but I did. I took the idea of creating a new web site from this event.

Identity Independence? It had the ring of speeches given on the 4th of July. “As an American, I demand my identity independence!,” I thought to myself. Were we Americans not politically and culturally independent? I had my doubts with respect to the Iraq war. A group of neo-cons with ties to right-wing Israeli politicians had maneuvered the United states into a war that was becoming increasingly costly in terms of budget outlays and human lives. And now people were talking about a war with Iran. A staff person at the local office of a U.S. Senator confirmed to me that the military option was “still on the table.”

Apart from the issue of nuclear capability, Iran threatened western hegemony in the Middle East. What was so bad about Iran’s president Ahmadinejad? He denied the Holocaust. So America was ready to go to war with a country in some part because its president denied the Holocaust? Was this an article of faith in our national religion? Under the U.S. Constitution, aren’t we supposed not to have state-established religions? What was happening here? What was happening, it seemed to me, was that the United States was losing its political bearings. We were becoming a political and cultural colony of another nation.

This was also a time when, as a member of a history association, I received a complimentary copy of a book from one of this organization’s board members who had written a book on U.S. history in the 20th century. What caught my eye was the statement that, while Charles Lindbergh was a hero for his solo flight across the Atlantic, he was Hitler’s dupe when it came to politics. This book stated that Lindbergh’s organization, America First, was financially supported by the Nazi government. I was sure that this statement was untrue. I wrote the author asking for evidence to support the statement about Nazi financial support. I did receive a response but it evaded the question. This was another reason to doubt the integrity of our present culture.

Lindbergh’s sin, of course, was that he actively opposed America’s entry into World War II at a time when American Jews were determined to overthrow Hitler. In hindsight, their cause was justified. But at the time, Lindbergh and others were patriotically seeking to spare the nation of the horrors that involvement in a war with Germany would bring. For his effort, he was viciously maligned. Even now, sixty years later, we have novelists like Philip Roth insinuating that the peace-loving Lindbergh was a Nazi. We have respected historians ready to embellish historical facts to make him look foolish. More ominously, we have politically powerful groups now pushing America into war against Iraq, Iran, and the Islamic world.

The task was to regain control of our own house. From the bowels of ithe American population there needed to come new leadership that would protect the interests of average citizens, finding the best in our heritage to rekindle community pride. What was this community? What was my own identity? As a college-educated person born and raised in Detroit and now living in Minneapolis, I needed to find some community somewhere that I could consider “my people”. But it was becoming increasingly difficult to find such a group.

With respect to identity, I would start with the fact that I am an American. Who else is an American? Since the 1960s, personal identity in the United States has become increasingly associated with race. Black Americans have a well-established identity as persons descended from slaves who have fought to secure their dignity and equality with whites. But I was a white person. If America’s central story is focused on black people’s fight for racial equality, what does that make me? As a white person, I would either be part of an oppressive class dedicated to keeping black people down or, to distance myself from this dismal image, I would have to demonstrate a John Brown-like zeal in helping black people in their struggle against repressive whites.

Many whites in my acquaintance have, indeed, adopted the second posture. It is an article of faith among many politically active whites that white people enjoy inherent “privilege”. They alone can be “racist”. And so my identity as a white American becomes someone loaded down with racial guilt. Since the Civil Rights model is so potent politically, other groups such as feminist women, gays and lesbians, and immigrants have also loaded me down with their kind of guilt. If race is a core feature of American identity, then for me my identity would be a source of shame unless, of course, I became an advocate for white people’s pride. If I moved in that direction, however, I would be seen as a white supremacist. Except for isolated groups here and there, this kind of community does not exist.

American identity can, of course, be associated with the American government and its history. I could be a “proud American” if I served in the Armed Forces and especially if I was wounded in service of my country. Is that what it would take to regain a positive identity? I, however, did not serve in the U.S. armed forces. While I was not a pacifist or conscientious objector, I have generally deplored the militaristic drift in U.S. foreign policy. While honoring our nation’s veterans, I could not honor the politicians who so lightly sent them off to war. President Bush’s misadventures in Iraq are especially appalling. If my identity were tied to such activities of the U.S. government, I would be ashamed to be an American. This bellicose President and his minions have squandered our national legacy.

But if U.S. politics and our government are increasingly bad, that does not mean that goodness cannot be found among the American people. As Americans in search of a positive identity, we need to look for the good things in our society and in our history. So, early on, I wrote an article for this web site titled “Some American Identities”. How did Americans see themselves at various times in history? Reviewing the list, I thought that several of these identities were based on contentious comparisons with other types of people. My own preference was to find a character type that stood alone in its achievements. That led me to the creative persons in American history who were responsible for inventing products, founding industries, or otherwise contributing to a better society.

Having grown up in Detroit at a time when the automobile industry was in full bloom, I admired the people who had built and maintained that industry. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford would head the list. Others such was William Durant, Walter P. Chrysler, Charles Kettering, and William S. Knudson were also “captains of industry” who had played a pioneering role. In the 1950s, there were people like C.E. Wilson, Harlow Curtice, Henry Ford II, K.T. Keller, and George Romney. I honored them all.

America was in love with the automobile, and executives of the automobile companies were managing a creative function in society. Even those who put the high-horsepower engines and giant tail fins on 50s-era cars were displaying creativity. Labor leaders such as Walter Reuther and Jimmy Hoffa were creatively building organizations to protect workers in that industry. Ralph Nader was ably advocating for increased auto safety. They were all part of an America that was healthy and strong.

Beyond a certain point, however, managerial leadership tends to lose its creative edge as large organizations perpetuate what has successfully gone before. So if automobile-company executives ignore the signs of long-term limitations upon petroleum supply and build gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks instead of fuel-efficient cars to boost short-term profit margins, such activity is less to be admired. Corporate leadership in America seems increasingly self-interested, quick to reward itself monetarily while sticking with systems and practices developed by others.

When Wall Street analysts force top managers to seek increased quarterly earnings above all else and college professors presume to teach sage business practices, one can assume that this part of society is in decline. And when writers and academics malign historical figures such as Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford because they made public statements that offend certain groups or used their influence to steer their nation away from war, we have crossed the line into becoming a nation with a culture of back-biting and lies - not something on which to base my identity.

So I must ask once again: Who am I? Who are my people? The quick answer is that I have no people of my own. I have no real community to which I belong - only the false community created by government . Alternatively, education would seem to be a prime creator of identity. But is it not shallow to judge a person by the four years that he or she spent in college while ignoring the many years spent before and after that experience? Educational distinctions are an easy way to sort people out in our society, but they are largely unauthentic. We need to look more deeply into the human experience.

I created the web site, http://www.identityindependence.com, almost on a whim. Its focus on personal identity did not lend itself to an academic discipline which would allow it to be clearly positioned somewhere in the culture. But the topic had a life of its own. I found that, among my various web sites, this one was generating comparatively fast growth in the volume of traffic. I was constantly discovering new angles to the subject. Therefore, haphazardly, one new page soon followed another. There was no plan to develop the site in a particular way. It was spontaneous and fun.

A chart appearing below lists the pages of the web site and gives the sequence in which they were added. The first pages, created in early May, were focused on American identity and its various threats. But I did not want to harp on cultural enemies or get too heavily into identity politics. If my own identity was threatened, the solution lay with me rather than with someone else needing to be defeated.

As a stab in that direction, I wrote two articles concerned with the psychological effect of education: “The paradoxical disadvantage of education” and “In search of my own identity”, which was autobiographical. The idea here was that personal self-esteem depends upon having met a tough challenge whereas, for many people, society is organized to avoid the possibility that such challenges will appear. The educational system sets itself up as a guarantor of success, falsely I supposed.

Toward the end of 2006, quite by accident, I created a number of pages about my own ancestry and family history. The identity which one receives through ones parents, either genetically or culturally, exhibits much of that authenticity that I was seeking. It started with a computer search through Ancestor.com and was developed further through a collection of written materials and photographs stored in a file cabinet.

Then, in February 2007, I began adding newspaper articles with subjects that pertained to personal identity. They were proof that the topic has much relevance today. Whether in regards to the individual search for religion or spirituality or the “narcissistic” exhibitions of young women and men on MySpace.com, identity is important to people, both as individuals and as groups. Computer web sites lend themselves to reaching out to likeminded individuals, sharing an identity in common.

The following chart lists the pages of Identityindependence.com in the order that they were added to the site. The lefthand column gives an approximate date when each was added. The next column gives the name of the page file. The page title appears in the next column. Finally, in the column on the right the name of the summary page giving its category is listed.

date introduced file name title summary group
       
late May 2006 identity Identity Independence summary
late May 2006 index Identity Independence summary
late May 2006 americanidentity Some American Identities American
early July 2006 fordlindbergh Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, Jews, and the Fight to Define American Identity PC
early July 2006 mystory In Search of My Own Identity principles
early July 2006 whoami Who am I? principles
early July 2006 educationparadox The Paradoxical Disadvantage of Education principles
mid July 2006 boycrisis Boy Crisis / Man Crisis PC
mid July 2006 contact Links and Contacts  
early Aug. 2006 threeprinciples Three Principles of Personal Identity principles
mid Aug. 2006 ingersites Inger Sites’ Take on American Identity American
mid Aug. 2006 detroit Detroit Chauvinism American
mid Sept. 2006 globalization Our National Identity and Globalization American
mid Sept. 2006 microtarget Techniques to Define Political Identity principles
mid Sept. 2006 myspace Teen Identities in Cyberspace principles
mid Sept. 2006 tecumsehbrother Tecumseh’s Brother, the Shawnee Prophet American
late Oct. 2006 black&white Black and White Identity PC
mid Dec. 2006 citizenship The Government’s Idea of What it means to be an American American
mid Dec. 2006 raceworkshop A Neighborhood Workshop on ending Racism PC
mid Dec. 2006 jewishconspiracy Is there such a Thing as a “Jewish Conspiracy”? PC
early Jan. 2007 familytree My Family Tree case
early Jan. 2007 fatherfamily The Birth Family of William McGaughey Sr. case
early Jan. 2007 motherfamily The Birth Family of Joan Durham McGaughey case
early Jan. 2007 ourfamily The Family of William and Joanna McGaughey case
early Jan. 2007 resume William McGaughey's Resume case
early Jan. 2007 documents Some Documents Establishing Personal Identity case
mid Jan. 2007 case Case of Identity: William McGaughey, creator of this web site summary
mid Jan. 2007 politicalcorrectness Political Correctness as a Threat to Authentic Identity summary
mid Jan. 2007 someprinciples Some Principles of Personal Identity summary
mid Jan. 2007 thoughts Thoughts on American Identity summary
mid Jan. 2007 fouradventures Four Adventures case
mid Jan. 2007 mplscommunity Everywhere a Stranger American
mid Jan. 2007 communityperspectives Perspectives on Community Life in America American
mid Feb. 2007 obama Senator Barack Obama and Racial Identity PC
mid Feb. 2007 religion Pick your own Religious Identity principles
late Feb. 2007 character Identity through one's place in a story principles
late Feb. 2007 purpose Seminar on Purpose for Persons Approaching Retirement Age principles
late Feb. 2007 spirituality Children's Spirituality principles
late Feb. 2007 narcissism Are Today’s College Students too Narcissistic? American
early March 2007 gender A Priority Put on Gender-Neutral Language PC
early March 2007 racialbias The Discrimination Casino PC
early March 2007 neocon The Neo-Cons PC
early March 2007 shopping Grocery Stores as Indicators of Personal Identity principles
mid March 2007 diversity Questioning Creative Diversity PC
mid March 2007 georgewbush Neo-Con Intellectuals Seduce Bush with Leadership Talk PC
late March 2007 branding Personal Branding principles
late March 2007 wrongwithpc What is Political Correctness and what's wrong with it? PC
late March 2007 archbishop A Discussion of Race at Lucille’s Kitchen PC
late March 2007 disclaimer A Disclaimer PC
late March 2007 unequal Unequal Identities principles
late March 2007 unconsciousbias Unconscious Discrimination PC
early April 2007 bandc Efforts to Promote American Identity American
late April 2007 blackness Speech on Forced Identity Wins First Place in State Contest PC
late April 2007 thymos The Need for Personal Recognition principles
late April 2007 african African Students Talk of Themselves and America American

Prior to creating this web site, I had created a number of others. The most important one was http://www.worldhistorysite.com, which was originally created in 1999. Traffic has been building on this site to the point that it now averages more than 1,500 visits per day (compared with nearly 300 visits for Identityindependence.com). Still another web site, http://www.goldparty.org, was created mainly in 2005, suggesting a new approach to politics.

All three web sites contain parallel pages in five other languages - French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, and Italian - in addition to English, the language in which they were written. The Babelfish language translator on Altavista.com created the pages in languages other than English. While English speakers are by far most numerous, the web pages in these other European languages represent an attempt to break out of the provincialism of our culture and achieve a certain global reach.

The following table summarizes the volume of traffic to http://www.identityindependence.com from the summer of 2006, when the site first appeared, through March, 2007. “Visits” gives the number of times the site was entered. “Pages” gives the total number of pages that were visited. “Hits” also counts graphics and, for that reason, is rather misleading as an indicator of traffic. Even so, as one can see, there are sharp volume increases in all three categories.

month / year
average daily
average daily
average daily
 
VISITS
PAGES
HITS
       
Mar. 2007
241
479
600
Feb. 2007
194
426
536
Jan. 2007
155
252
331
Dec. 2006
121
181
243
Nov. 2006
87
154
203
Oct. 2006
65
127
155
Sept. 2006
42
83
103
Aug. 2006
31
67
86
July 2006
39
118
136

 

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