Middle Class Progressives and the Armor of Imagined Virtue
How a combination of class prejudice, linguistic trickery, and straight up cluelessness have ensured suburban leftists remain blithely untroubled by own staggering hypocrisy
The librarian – a large, bouffanted lady of egg-shaped late middle-age – sat pinned against her swivel chair, eyes bulging in their sockets, the patchwork fabric of her mask indented from a gasp.
Her reaction, it must be said, was more than a little unwarranted.
Being both fully clothed and functionally sober, there seemed no reason why my arrival should’ve been deemed a cause for concern, while set against a hand-painted rainbow flag and multicolored crescent of stick-children, the woman’s revulsion stood in stark contradiction to the library’s professed admissions policy:
“Everyone is welcome here.”
Thinking, as happens sometimes, that my lilting Ulster brogue had been mistaken for something more sinister, I held up my daughter’s birth certificate, smiled my most effacing smile, and repeated, a touch slower this time, my request to use the printer.
“Little bundles of paperwork,” I added, nailing the quip I’d bungled at Staples.
The Librarian was unamused. If anything, ‘scared shitless’ might have been a more accurate descriptor. Her face, or at least as much as her face was visible, remained locked in an expression of undiluted terror, only the startled depression of her mask given way to a frenzied in-and-out. Such was its breathlessness, I was almost about to ask whether she might have some use for a paper bag when, at last loosing her grip on her pearls, the librarian muttered something unintelligible and thrust a quivering finger toward my side of the Perspex.
I considered the lady’s reaction as I made my paperless walk home, December all the colder after my second thwarted print job of the morning. It seemed almost incomprehensible to me how anyone could live in the same peaceful town I do – a town where the mass graves go unfilled and high school football seasons continues in full swing, where the Christmas markets operate without protection of hazmatted stormtroopers – and still remain convinced that the world was in the latter stages of the apocalypse. Seldom had I seen such sobering testimony to the influence of government and corporate propaganda, and yet what struck me most of all, ironic enough to merit a wry chuckle, was the image of the librarian glaring at me from in front of the “Everyone is welcome here” sign, frantically disinfecting anything I might have contaminated.
Of course, liberal hypocrisy is hardly much of a revelation. Having been a resident of the US for over a year now, and a user of the internet for much longer still, I have come to accept that the trait is not merely a temporary affliction but rather, an innate defect in the ideology.
But no matter how grotesquely fascinating it is to watch the Al Gore lecture us on climate change or to listen to Bill Clinton give speeches on the empowerment of women, it would be wrong to call them, in the truest sense of the word, hypocrites. They are and liars, phonies and fraudsters, charlatans, crooks, and bullshit artists, and while the assumed dishonesty of our political class should terrify all of us, what is arguably more troubling, in a kind of Lars von Trier sense, is how the garden variety liberal has allowed this culture of hypocrisy to so completely permeate their movement.
Perhaps the most charitable interpretation is that they simply aren’t capable of seeing it. After all, however little we might agree on the events that culminated in the political maelstrom of 2016, I think we can all acknowledge that in the wake of it, the media has done considerably less than fuck all by way of illumination. Although the issues on the ballot were Trump, Brexit, as well as a whole host of other populist causes, in reality, the elections of that year were referendums not just on the political status quo, but of also on Hollywood, the mainstream media, the banking establishment, and the ever-expanding powers of Big Tech. And those assholes lost. For years, the democratization of technology and the subsequent rise of New Media had chipped away at these traditional power centers until suddenly they found themselves jolted from their complacency by a cold bucket of reality, blinking into wakefulness and the void of complete irrelevancy.
Obviously, there is no need to rehash the ensuing histrionics. We are all familiar with the cynical attempts to gaslight the public, to shame, scare, and berate them back into political orthodoxy. For those who had already severed this digital leash, this ongoing media meltdown was merely the undignified death throes of an order they’d long known to be in decline, while for a great many others, the sheer vulgarity of the temper tantrum offered incontrovertible proof that civilization as we knew it was in a dire need of a good old fashioned boot ‘n rally.
Nevertheless, not everyone had remained so vigilant. The same advances that enabled some enterprising folks to grab a microphone, camera, and go out exposing the corruption of the elites had allowed the more feckless of their generation to stupefy themselves in front of endless on-demand Entertainment™, their regularly scheduled programming only occasionally interrupted to bring them breaking news that Obama was still super cool and totally awesome.
In a sense, you have to feel sorry for these gormless normies. There they were, just browsing Netflix for something to deaden the sensation of thought when, without warning, they were catapulted into a highly politicized world where half their neighbors were Nazis and they other half lay somewhere on the LGBTQAI scale. To these people, it was not necessary to remain logically consistent. They possessed neither political nous nor a grounded philosophy, no knowledge of civics nor even prior interest. Huge swathes of them had been emotionally shredded. A goddamned quarter of them had PTSD. Nearly the same again had no idea who America defeated in the Revolutionary War, let alone who their media gatekeepers like to party with, but now here they were being conscripted as the hysterical foot-soldiers in a battle against the incoming cultural paradigm.
This combination of emotional incontinence and political illiteracy was on full display as I reached the homestretch. Although local elections have been wrapped up some time ago (once again swept by the progressive incumbents), most of my neighbors, whether through laziness or jubilation, haven’t gotten around to taking down their lawn signs.
If the preponderance of BLM signs are anything to go by, they likely never will. This bric-a-brac style of Pinterest board activism pervades my adoptive hometown on a near chromosomal level, only the occasional “back the blue” or POW/MIA flag offering any kind of counter-narrative. The prospect of anything Trump-related is virtually unthinkable. For that, you need to get pass city limits, out into the undulating countryside, and even then I have a feeling I overestimate the number of MAGA signs I see during my explorative Sunday drives, so striking do they still seem to me each time I pass them fluttering from a trailer park window, rising above an otherwise empty prairie, or tied up against some colossal bales of hay.
I, like many immigrants, find the American custom of making public pronouncements of political affiliation fascinating. Coming from a society where political expression all too often comes in the form of a Molotov cocktail, the prospect that someone could just scribble their opinions on a piece of paper, stick it in their lawn, and go to bed without even a thought of being firebombed seemed like cast iron assurance that, for all the delirium of the last few years, Free Speech remains central to the cultural values of America.
I was a resident of my suburban blue enclave for scarcely a month before I was disabused of this pleasant fiction. You see, while the events of 2016 helped to further expose some of the depravity of the people who rule over us, so too did it uncover a very dark underbelly to the American middle class. After all, it would have been impossible for the media to covert their audience’s mere stupidity into a visceral, enduring hatred, had they not been planting their ideas in the fertile soil of class contempt.
The lawn signs that line my walk home practically drip with it. Written in the smug calligraphy of personalized Etsy seller and printed on planks of faux-weathered wood (always displayed artfully askew), these masterpieces in modern sanctimony could not be the celebrations of Free Speech I had first assumed, not least because many are openly hostile to the idea.
Their concern is instead with “Hate”.
Now, perhaps it is my natural distaste for slogans or perhaps it is my British sense of propriety, but it remains unfathomable to me how anyone could summon the requisite hubris to erect such a monument to self-congratulation. I mean, seriously, who the fuck are these people? Of course, it would take a thousand Victor Davis Hansen’s typing for a thousand years to untangle this mess of intellectual, psychological, and moral shortcomings that lead soccer mom America to believe they possessed the ethical authority to lecture passing dog walkers on racial equity but safe to say, there is no sign along my street – indeed, no lawn sign along any street in the United States – that embodies this finger-wagging spirit more than the near ubiquitous “In this house, we believe…”.
Listing progressive maxims like the bathroom rules in an Airbnb rental, these placards began popping up en masse in response to Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory. Strangely, nothing about them is expressly political. Ten years ago, you’d have struggled to find an Appalachian woodsman to take issue with the words “Black Lives Matter,” but after $2 billion worth of damage, dozens dead, and a message amplified by the government-corporate hegemon, it is absurd to claim that the term is simply a statement of belief.
“Women's rights are human rights” has an ever greater kill count. It is surely redundant to pretend this feminist rallying cry is anything other than a full-throated call for state-funded abortion, while “science is real,” “no human is illegal,” and “love is love” are all similarly turgid with significance.
It goes without saying that the progressive movement has long been known for its feckless reinterpretation of words. To these people, language is not some sacred manifestation of human experience, one of the few things we truly share, but rather a grease they can coat themselves with in order to evade the snares of their own flawed worldview. Their commitment to avoiding self-analysis is almost impressive. Cut off from dissenting opinions, these liberal suburbanites spent the next five years being bombarded with alternating waves of MSM fear-mongering and flattery, soon coming to believe, as no other demographic in America could believe, that they were those sole possessors of compassion, intelligence, and virtue. The fact this was a conceit common to a every genocidal regime in history did not prove off-putting. This was a fight, their Google homepage assured them, against an unprecedented evil, a villain of Homeric proportions, and a little hypocrisy wasn’t just forgivable, it was perfectly legitimate form of attack – the palpable insincerity of the sign’s final line, “kindness is everything,” once again greeting me as I came within sight of home.
This one had been erected by my neighbor, a man whose essence I feel encapsulated in the pseudonym ‘Alan.’ A collector of these these progressive lawn signs, and a staple of our town’s annual garden tour, he regularly enlivens his shrubbery with the latest in dogmatic lawn décor, his bespectacled gaze meeting mine as I offered my morning salute.
Whenever I first arrived in America, ‘Alan’ was, in his over-the-fence, socially-distanced way, friendly. It is a trait unique to leftists that they possess an unerring conviction that every foreigner is ‘one of them’, and yet, as my residence in America dragged on, there have been a number of instances which has toppled this tenant of ‘Alan’s’ worldview.
The first was the flag. Although, in my small town at least, the Stars and Stripes has not yet come to be regarded as the racist symbol of hate it has in some big cities, its presence out the front of my house, unmitigated by even an Elizabeth Warren bumper sticker, was enough to mark me as politically questionable. If any doubts lingered after my Fourth of July celebrations (in extravagant disregard of CDC guidelines) then they were surely dispelled with my shriek of delight the moment Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted, Alan’s predictably frosty response rather undermining the “immigrants have a home here” sign he keeps tucked among his azaleas.
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