Writing recently for the online Ideas section of Time, Jeffrey Kluger took on the "We are all X (now)" trope, or as it's called in these parts, a snowclone. "This increasingly common trope has an easy, fill-in-the-blank quality to it that allows us to affect a bit of purloined heroism, put it on the credit card of someone else, and feel pretty darned good about ourselves in the bargain," he writes. Kluger quotes me on the history of the snowclone (which I looked into for a 2006 LL post), and its ready adaptability to various expressions of empathy and solidarity. Now, in a thinkpiece about Obama's re-election, David Simon (creator of the HBO shows "The Wire" and "Treme") takes the snowclone to its logical conclusion: "We are all the other now."
This election marks a moment in which the racial and social hierarchy of America is upended forever. No longer will it mean more politically to be a white male than to be anything else. Evolve, or don’t. Swallow your resentments, or don’t. But the votes are going to be counted, more of them with each election. Arizona will soon be in play. And in a few cycles, even Texas. And those wishing to hold national office in these United States will find it increasingly useless to argue for normal, to attempt to play one minority against each other, to turn pluralities against the feared “other” of gays, or blacks, or immigrants, or, incredibly in this election cycle, our very wives and lovers and daughters, fellow citizens who demand to control their own bodies.
Regardless of what happens with his second term, Barack Obama’s great victory has already been won: We are all the other now, in some sense.
Here are relevant OED senses for (the) other:
9 a. Chiefly Philos. Usu. with the. Freq. with capital initial. That which is the counterpart or converse of something specified or implied; (spec. in structuralist and post-structuralist critical and psychoanalytic thought) that which is not the self or subject; that which lies outside or is excluded from the group with which one identifies oneself; (in Lacanian thought) the unconscious, the symbolic order. Now usually opposed to self.
1863 E. V. Neale Anal. Thought & Nature 205 It is the essential character of thought to set itself over against itself, as the ‘other’ of itself, which yet is itself. All our thoughts..are a something set over against our thinking being by its own action; different from itself and yet one with itself.
1876 A. M. Fairbairn Strauss ii, in Contemp. Rev. June 136 He has eternally to cause the other of himself, Nature, to proceed from himself.
1940 Mind 49 177 The otherness of ‘self’ and ‘other’ need in no wise conceal the inseity of the ‘other’ from the ‘self’.
1993 Diacritics 23 18 This ‘lack’ of the Other is a question of/about the Other that remains fathomless and untamable.
2000 S. Connor Dumbstruck xvii. 388 The enactment both of severance and continuity between self and other.
b. A person other than oneself; a person or group that is outside or excluded from one's own group.
1910 R. M. McConnell Duty of Altruism iii. 54, I reply that other individuals are also illusions, and I will not sacrifice any enjoyment of my illusory self for any enjoyment of an illusory other.
1964 M. F. Lowenthal Lives in Distress vi. 93 It was an impersonal other, such as a physician or social agency representative, who first became concerned.
1988 P. Brown Body & Society (1989) ii. 39 Slaves were the second inferior other in the world of the free male.
2009 M. Gubar Artful Dodgers Intro. 22 The strand of Romantic rhetoric that sets the child up as an uncivilized Other.
Also related is the verbal noun othering:
The perception of an entity as distinct in relation to other entities; (in later use) spec. the perception or representation of a person or group of people as fundamentally alien from another, frequently more powerful, group. Cf. other pron. and n. 9.
1910 A. W. Moore Pragmatism & its Critics iv. 81 The process of ‘othering’..is the essential contribution of Hegelianism to logic—the insistence that an idea is not a mere algebraic symbol, but that it is an act in which things pass into new interaction.
1939 Philos. Rev. 48 135 Croce rightly criticizes Hegel for confusing distincts, opposites, and contradictions. They are all ‘others’, but the ‘othering’ is very different in the three cases.
1958 P. Weiss Modes of Being i. 93 There is no knowledge unless there are at least two items interrelated. Because the items, to be two, must be other than one another, the relation which connects them is a form of othering.
2003 S. Morton G. C. Spivak iv. 88 This othering of the non-western woman has contributed to the larger justification of British imperialism as a social mission.
But if we're all the other now, is there no one left to other? Or will every other other another other?