Dominique LaPierre, White Guilt
A while back, in the late 80s, I stopped being a leftist. I grew up afraid of nuclear war but mostly non-political until I got to junior high school age when I began reading the copies of Newsweek and US News & World Report in social studies classes. I also began to listen to NPR's nightly All Things Considered radio show while I washed dishes.
The show was engaging and interesting, and I learned a lot, but I also was steadily tilted against Republicans, conservatism, and toward leftist ideology by my teachers and reading as well as NPR. I already was certain Reagan would destroy us all in a nuclear war but I was beginning to believe that heroic Democrats were waging a fight to save the little guy from draconic cuts by the cruel white house.
Thanks to the careful massaging of the news, heart-tugging man on the street interviews, touching vignettes read by caring voices of the downtrodden, and news reports of the terrible plague of the homeless on the streets, I began to buy into all this stuff. It wasn't hard; being young I was more inclined to think with my heart - what I wished to be true - than my head - what I knew. When people noted that the count of the homeless was much lower than advocates claimed, I cried "lies!" without bothering to think about it.
What changed me was a clash between what I knew to be true and what I wanted to be. I was never in support of abortion, because killing babies is a horrific, ghastly act no matter what age they happen to be. This was something I knew to be true, regardless of the emotional arguments I heard. I began to understand economics better as I entered the job market, and by the end of the first gulf war I'd come to see that America wasn't a force for evil and that the military was not an awful group of possibly psychotic hicks.
Books such as Brennan's War taught me about Vietnam from the inside rather than from people who stayed home and protested. Rush Limbaugh's radio show taught me much about economics. Study of the Soviet Union taught me about the consequences and end result of their ideology. And in time I came to understand that NPR had not been telling me the whole story, and what's worse, they held back key information on purpose. I always liked the radio shows afterward better anyway - I heard each episode of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in its original US radio broadcast, right after All Things Considered.
This road is not unusual. Many people who were once left leaning grew out of it over time. Some find a shocking event pushes them away such as the terrorist attacks on 9/11 - the proverbial "mugging" that turns a leftist into a conservative. For some, such as Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs, the conversion didn't last. For others, it is life changing.
There's an article at American Thinker by a former hard leftist about why she left the movement. Here's how she puts it:
How far left was I? So far left my beloved uncle was a card-carrying member of the Communist Party in a Communist country. When I returned to his Slovak village to buy him a mass card, the priest refused to sell me one. So far left that a self-identified terrorist proposed marriage to me. So far left I was a two-time Peace Corps volunteer and I have a degree from UC Berkeley. So far left that my Teamster mother used to tell anyone who would listen that she voted for Gus Hall, Communist Party chairman, for president. I wore a button saying "Eat the Rich." To me it wasn't a metaphor.
I voted Republican in the last presidential election.
For Danusha V. Goska, the change was not due to learning the things she'd been told were lies and distortions, but instead a growing realization of what she was aligned to in her political stance. She lists 10 reasons why she left the left, ten things she came to realize as she was in the university and teaching.
- Perpetual Outrage
- Selective Outrage
- Symbolism over Substance
- Spite Toward Blue Collar America
- Spite Toward Faith
- Straw Men Attacks
- Moral Pragmatism
- It Doesn't Work
- Other Approaches Do
The article is well worth reading each point in detail, as she gives example after anecdote after personal experience of how the modern left pushed her away. When I was young, the left wasn't as bitter, loud, angry, and hateful toward any who disagree. These were the days before rampant political correctness, and the left generally was positive toward America, even if they wanted changes.
These days, the left has gotten worse. Its possible all this was brewing inside - I know at least some was in me - but the mask is off today in a way it was not in my youth. For example, Goska brings up this story:
I was a graduate student. Female genital mutilation came up in class. I stated, without ornamentation, that it is wrong.
A fellow graduate student, one who was fully funded and is now a comfortably tenured professor, sneered at me. "You are so intolerant. Clitoredectomy is just another culture's rite of passage. You Catholics have confirmation."
Now, this story is not only likely true (I've read very close to this kind of argument online before in comment sections) but full of problems. This graduate student-now professor spoke not from knowledge of the topic, but a presupposition based on a leftist worldview. Everything for some people is broken down into categories of oppressor and oppressed, into heroes and villains. These categories are not of individuals, but of groups; they are divided not by action and behavior but by their identity group affiliation.
Feminist icon Germaine Greer writes of female genital mutilation in this manner:
In her recent book, The Whole Woman, Ms Greer argued that attempts to outlaw the practice amounted to "an attack on cultural identity", adding: "One man's beautification is another man's mutilation."
She said that women should have the right to undergo genital mutilation as a form of "self-decoration" and posed the question: "If an Ohio punk has the right to have her genitalia operated on, why has not the Somali woman the same right?"
Now, the fact that this is forcibly done to little girls either eludes Ms Greer or she simply does not care because the facts interfere with her basic worldview. Because if this was done to a 7 year old girl in Ohio, she would condemn it in the most vocal and angry terms - and rightly so. But being done to a 7 year old girl in Somalia is simply a cultural variation, because of this oppressor/oppressed calculus.
Arabic Muslims are an oppressed minority group so their actions are not judged as wrong. For this unfortunate student, the actions which are objectively evil and ghastly which any sane defender of women would instantly condemn without reservation, these actions are defended. Not because of anything about their nature, which is clearly horrific, but because of their status in this oppressor/oppressed system.
Muslims are deemed an oppressed non-white protected group, only engaging in these actions due to white oppression and evil over the centuries, and besides, they are simply following their cultural mandate just as we do. We see it as strange but if you are truly enlightened and understanding of the other cultures of the world, then the strangeness becomes simply unique and different, not wrong.
As I've written about before, this acceptance of other people's cultural behavior suddenly ends when it comes to white people. As oppressors, the left believes that alternate cultural practices of conservative rural America must be stamped out as evil and corrosive. They understand the principles of patriotism (I love New York) but consider its application to America at best vulgar and most likely dangerous and crazy. When Brazilians wear face paint like their flag and sing at the World Cup in praise of their nation and team, that's wonderful and uplifting. When Americans chant "USA! USA!" that's awful and jingoistic.
What Goska noticed wasn't merely the stupidity of defending something so evil, but the inconsistency in which this defense is applied. It is bad enough that someone could possibly compare confirmation with deliberately and grossly mangling a girl's body without anesthesia when she is only a child in order to reduce her pleasure in sexual activity. But to do so in a pattern of inconsistent, illogical, and blatant contradiction offended Goska.
The thing is, not all leftists engage in all the things she lists. Some are more thoughtful and rational than the extremists she faced regularly in college. Academia is the breeding ground of leftist thought, its where the crazy is dreamed up and sent out into the world. But all leftists in the west today do many if not most of the stuff she found troubling.
I watch in sad dismay as the leftist friends I have on Facebook deny without cause or warrant any evidence that makes Israel look good and palestinians look bad. The tunnels are lies. The weapons caches are faked. The intelligence gathered is distorted or invented. The coverage of anything awful the palestinians do is biased. They come to this conclusion not based on careful examination of the facts or reading the story but an instant kneejerk response: palestinian good, Jew bad.
When it comes to almost every issue of the day, every new story, every topic, that's the immediate response. Its the same as my response to Homeless counts in the 1980s: if you question the party line, you lie. I didn't stop to find out, I didn't study the data to determine the truth, I even would stop reading an article that brought this up because I knew it was totally trash from that point on.
The modern left is not much different than the left in the past, they're only more so. The boundaries keep being pushed further, so what was once agreed as being unacceptable now is demanded. It was the 1990s when Hawaii had a vote on allowing homosexual marriage, and it was shot down. Even the news commentators sort of chuckled at the idea of two men being married. Today if you even donated to someone who disagrees with homosexual marriage you are a monster that must repent or be destroyed.
The illogic, contradiction, bitterness, and continual outrage Goska describes in her article is not isolated, its almost perpetual in the left these days. And what's interesting to me is how she describes the people on the right. She admits they aren't necessarily better people and notes that they aren't always consistent, but she points out that they lack the almost continual anger and hate the left displays.
Its not hard to see. For the left, anyone who disagrees in any way with their positions isn't just mistaken but evil that must be destroyed. Anyone who agrees with them is totally pardoned and defended of all horrors they commit. Its not really rape rape when Roman Polanski drugs and rapes a teenager in his hot tub. Ted Kennedy's murder of a woman and serial sexual harassment and likely rape is meaningless, he was the "lion of the senate." Robert Byrd's leadership of a Ku Klux Klan group is brushed aside as youthful highjinks and he's called the "conscience of the senate." Bill Clinton's lifetime abuse and even possible rape of women is shrugged at and he's lauded by feminist groups as a hero. On and on it goes.
The right, on the other hand, is immediate and forceful in their condemnation of those on their side who do wrong or are corrupt. The left has no enemies on the left and no friends on the right; the right has some friends on both sides, and enemies on both sides.
Goska saw a contrast between the left and the right. Her friends on the right seemed more interested in love, they did things that helped those in need, they reached out and donated and volunteered, not protesting and to organizations to destroy that which they hated, but organizations to help those in need. She writes:
Recently, I was trying to explain this aspect of why I stopped being a leftist to a left-wing friend, Julie. She replied, "No, I'm not an unpleasant person. I try to be nice to everybody."The smile covers a yen to destroy. The nice slogans are disguise for hate. The bitterness and rancor runs very deeply, and is innate to the movement at this time. There's so much fear beneath the rhetoric, so much vicious sadism in their unguarded comments its hard to bear. MSNBC has to routinely have one of their talking heads apologize for something shocking and outrageous they said, but reading comments on leftist blogs and facebook posts you can tell that MSNBC guy thought he was showing admirable restraint.
"Julie," I said, "You are an active member of the Occupy Movement. You could spend your days teaching children to read, or visiting the elderly in nursing homes, or organizing cleanup crews in a garbage-strewn slum. You don't. You spend your time protestingand trying to destroy something -- capitalism."
"Yes, but I'm very nice about it," she insisted. "I always protest with a smile."
The contrast is one that is growing in profile. As I (and Goska) note, there are those on the right who are filled with rage and fear, too. I reject the cutesy names for President Obama, the hysteria behind the "he's a crypto-Muslim trying to destroy America out of malice" rhetoric. Because not only is it ridiculous and false, but its harmful to what we represent and want to do.
The contrast between the way the left acts and speaks... and the way the right should act and speak (and often does) is informative and attractive. There's only so much reactive bitterness and hateful destructive fury people can take. Yes, the left's unrestrained, insane fury helped get President Obama and a commanding majority in congress elected, but that kind of thing has no legs, it cannot last.
And in the end, while you can get attention and some power by being such a monster, people tire of it and begin looking for someone who smiles once in a while in a non-ironic, non-smug manner. As long as the right can offer real hope, real joy, real love, and a contrast from the bitter anger and hate Goska writes about, that's something people will inevitably turn toward.