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Conservative Political Commentary

Quote of the Day

Lady Liberty

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Another Sip of Latte
posted by Bathus

Because it tends to encourage a more pleasing arrangement of wrinkles, in lieu of frowning I've learned to smile when I receive an invitation to self-reflection and find enclosed in the same envelope the standardized text of another lecture about "oppression" . . . especially when the teaching on oppression (abbreviated and second hand in this case) originates from a man who commands $15,000 a pop for the 120 public speaking appearances he makes each year.

I enthusiastically accept almost any honest invitation to reflect upon my own vices and virtues and how these have harmed or helped my fellow creatures. Yet my exceedingly impure blood, besides muddling my skin to a lovely shade of tan, also seems to have made me immune to infections of collective guilt. As a result, lucky me, never have I felt the urge to purge my guts in the convulsions of that contemporary hypochondria.

But I do talk with my liberal friends about oppression all the time. It's one of their favorite subjects. And though, as I said, I do not myself indulge in the mass hysteria, I always want to indulge my friends. Our conversation on this topic usually takes place in comfortable surroundings--a restaurant, a coffee shop (other than Starbucks), one of our own artfully yet modestly decorated living rooms, etc., with some fine music in the background and an inspiring beverage on the table in front of us. Notwithstanding our eschewal of Starbucks for a less globalistic purveyor, the typical setting tends to exacerbate their confusion because they wish oh so much to be able to think of themselves as oppressed. Yet in such circumstances, it is very hard to consider oneself oppressed unless one intends to assert how oppressive it is to have been served a latte at not quite the proper temperature.

Inasmuch as we are not oppressed, the alternative must be seized upon: We are oppressors. Yes, such is the perverse psychic refuge to which liberals always retreat in circumstances wherein, though they wish to remain faithful to the sacred religious tenets of victimology, it would be ludicrous to claim a heroic status among the oppressed. Theirs is a world divided between oppressed and oppressors. And because so few, if any, of them have ever truly been oppressed for more than the briefest moment, the only possible solution is a cathartic confession that they themselves are among the oppressors.

The expectation is that, if I were a decent fellow, I should join in their communal confession. The more civil of my liberal interlocutors apprise me of my probable guilt with a gentle and generic hint about the need for self-reflection: “we must always remember to look for injustice in our own lives and in ourselves as well.” But when the conversation takes this inevitable turn, I have an unfair advantage: my skin is more often than not a shade darker than theirs, and in every case dark enough to make them hesitate to overtly accuse me of oppressing anyone. I am similarly blessed with friends who are, for the most part, financially better off than I am, or at least have better and more regular incomes. If you knew my meager earnings, unlikely ever to be supplemented by substantial gift or inheritance, you would probably want to enroll me in the lists of oppressed. My liberal friends in their generosity stand willing to enroll me on the slightest evidence. But I'll have none of it. I've chosen this paltry life, I enjoy it, and I refuse to be classified as oppressed. I refuse that appellation not because I'm too proud to admit my lowly condition, but because I simply ain't. As to my being an oppressor, the truth is, as I have discovered after extensive self-examination, I am a tolerably kind and considerate fellow, if I do say so myself, and at all events rather powerless to oppress anyone.

It is impossible colorably to accuse me of being an oppressor except in the most theoretical and attenuated sense. You can try, but you will look mean and silly in the attempt.

So here I am, neither obviously an oppressor nor obviously an oppressed. But, with their lattes growing cold, my liberal friends take the predictable tack. While I am not obviously oppressed or oppressor, I am, they patiently explain, guilty (probably unknowingly) of collaborating with the oppressors. At this I do take offense because a collaborator is to my mind perhaps worse than an active oppressor, doing the same harm but with cowardice or laziness. The implication is that I am either a disgusting race-traitor or a feckless idiot. But wait a second, other than shopping at WalMart, what do I do differently than they that makes me a quisling? As it turns out, not much of any consequence.

So now we play tit for tat. For every sin of mine, such as my venal WalMart shopping, I can point to an equal or more egregious sin of theirs: they drive a car bigger than mine, work for a corporation, work in management, eat non-free-range chickens, wear leather, etc., ad nauseam. The list of sins is endless, and consequently, the conversation often takes a nasty turn downward at this point.

In the end the main difference between them and me comes to this. My liberal friends have confessed their sin of oppression, while I have not. I suppose that means they will be admitted by grace to a liberal heaven and I shall not. But, aside from that curious result, I swear to you there's hardly a dime's worth of difference in how we live our lives from one day to the next. My real sin, the only one that distinguishes me from them, is that I think differently than they do.

So I am desired to confess to a thought crime, and that really does make me begin to feel oppressed.

But another sip of latte makes me feel better.

Sadly, their next sip of latte doesn't seem to have the same effect on my liberal friends. Instead it makes them feel even more guilty. And then I see resolution forming in their tensed brows. Because I have pointed out how little we seem to differ in the way we actually live our lives, they are going to go out and do something--to prove me wrong, so they say silently to themselves, but in reality to absolve their guilt: recycle more scrupulously, attend a rally, sign a petition, work at a food bank, march in a protest, take public transportation. If you’re a liberal, you know the drills.

On a moment's reflection, I realize I've done them no good. I've succeeded only in pushing them deeper into their undeserved self-loathing, which the ceremonial scourgings and sacrificial rituals of the liberal religion of victimology (e.g., sorting the trash for recycling, marching in a protest, riding the bus, etc.) will not long relieve.

Their lattes sit there practically untouched, they have clammed up entirely, and I am beginning to feel guilty about making them feel guilty. This is not turning out to be the relaxing evening we had all hoped for. My wife is glaring at me. I want to make amends. “Look” I say to them (and I really do mean it), “you are a good and kind person. One of the best I know. Otherwise, I wouldn't be your friend. We are all doing the best we can. I honestly don’t think you oppress anyone and neither do I, at least not on purpose, so let’s forget this social politics bullshit. It's hard to know how to change the world; even if we could, it's hard to know what's the best way to go about it. No matter what you try to do, these things can get so screwed up. You treat me fair, better than I deserve considering how obnoxious I can be sometimes, so I know you try to be fair to everyone. And you are a great husband, wife, mother, father, teacher, friend, etc. It's not wrong at all to put most of your energy into those things. That's how the world gets changed for the better. Geez, with all this yacking, we've let our coffee get stone cold. I'm gonna go get us some fresh ones. Whadya want in yours?”

posted by Bathus | 5/03/2005 12:39:00 AM
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