"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Liberals Love Quiche–And Other Quizzical Oddities Of Being Right

Martha Roberts was shopping at Whole Foods and chatting with a neighbor about the marvelous selection of locally-sourced, organic foods the store was now carrying.  She remembered the ‘Whole Foods, Whole Paycheck’ days before the movement for more responsible marketing got underway, thanks in no small part to her efforts.

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Martha had lived in Northwest Washington, DC, the white, wealthy quadrant of a mostly black, mostly poor city.  Of course things had changed in recent years.  Former slum neighborhoods were being transformed into attractive places to live for young families, and any remains of formerly nasty neighborhoods were pushed east and south.  

In the early days of the COVID vaccine when the only slots available were in the deepest, most crime-ridden wards of the city, Martha refused to go.  She swallowed her carefully honed liberal sentiments – Black is ipso facto good – and confided to her closest friends that there was no way in hell she would be seen within five miles of Anacostia.   It gave her pause to feel this way and she felt a bit shy and timid about expressing such anti-progressive feelings; but the catharsis felt good.  It was the first step from knee-jerk sympathies to more reasoned consideration.

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Martha had, like most of her neighbors been content to deal with social issues from afar.  Her front yard was festooned with Black Lives Matter, Hate Has No Place Here, Honk If You Love Dr. Fauci, and rainbow signs.  She never flew the American flag for fear that it would send the wrong message – it had become a thinly-veiled Trump symbol, and despite her patriotic childhood of Fourth of July parades and fireworks, the flag was absent from her home.

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In any case, there was no doubt about where she stood on political matters.  In fact her community was so like-minded that people were loud and open about their opinions. She was proud to say that she had never even heard of a Trump supporter.  

Friends automatically talked of Trump’s evil predation on the poor, his virulent misogyny, his crassness, bourgeois taste, and insufferable arrogance without concern for rebuttal or reprisal.  It was a happy, congenial crowd, who laughed at the buffoon in the White House, and the crackers, swamp rats, and hillbillies that had put him in office.

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It was a pleasure living in Pinewood Park.  The sense of right living, proper behavior, and political consensus was comforting – an added plus to the already attractive upscale, leafy neighborhood.  The Priuses parked in every other driveway, the reusable bags brought to and from Whole Foods, the filled to overflowing recycle bins in the alley were confirmation of her own principled values.

She remained active in the PTA of the local elementary school long after her children graduated.  She championed the admission of ‘out of bounds’ students, children from poor minority areas who were, thanks to the School Board, no longer required to attend school within the limits of their local jurisdiction.  Despite the growing evidence that these children performed far worse than those of Pinewood Park families and were disciplinary problems, she continued to rally the flagging support of her neighbors. 

 “Give them time”, she said, but in her own mind thought otherwise.  The seeds of doubt expressed finally and conclusively in her later vaccine experience were sown at Lincoln Elementary.

As much as she had been a very local supporter of public education while her children were at Lincoln, she quickly changed her mind once they were in the sixth grade and the idea of sending them to the dangerous, poor-performing, ‘ethnic’ majority public junior high and high school was never even considered.  Out of bounds children at Lincoln were one thing, but a whole school of them was another thing entirely.

She and her neighborhood friends never gave a second thought to their decision to send their children to private school.  Hypocrisy, double standard, turncoat were words that never came up in discussion.  Only the debate about which of the many Washington private schools were best was heard.

There were a few holdouts.  A family who had teachers, police, and firemen as close relatives; and who, somehow, despite their modest, working class background had found a way into Pinewood Park, was the most outspoken.  Public school was a matter of principle, not choice.  There was no question that their children would go to public junior high and high school.  

Neither Martha nor her friends paid attention. The family had never been really a part of the neighborhood, were never members of the babysitting co-op, had suspicious political leanings, and did their shopping at the Walmart across the river.

This family, however, not unlike Martha and her clique, had their own hypocritical notions.  They lobbied long and hard to get their children into the high school’s new ‘International Program’, one designed for accelerated learning and which was, although no one was willing to admit it, largely white.  

Nevertheless there is no such thing as racial insulation in Washington and not surprisingly the International Program was quite porous.  The girl became a black wannabee and the boy a truant; and despite the pleas of their more well-to-do relatives, the family refused to place them elsewhere.

Despite the warning signs, the chinks in the wall of progressivism began to show.  Maybe there was something a bit off about promoting public schools while sending children to private; or shopping for Chilean specialty items at Whole Foods while families in Wards 7 and 8 had trouble finding fresh anything; or having two Priuses in the driveway instead of one beater 20-year old Corolla parked on the street.   Martha and her friends kept buying and trading in Priuses, shopping for organic, locally-farmed produce, recycling, voting for the most progressive candidates for city council and school board; but were beginning to have their doubts.

The City Council was spending thousands on failed pre-school programs, more money per capita than any other municipality in the country for public education, and siphoning off taxpayer dollars for ‘social’ programs which, since the days of Mayor For Life, ‘the bitch set me up’ Marion Barry, were simply vehicles for passing out walkin’ around money.  Crime was resurgent but Defund the Police initiatives were promoted. 

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At the same time Martha and her friends were over the moon after the Biden victory over Donald Trump.  Now, finally, a reasonable, compassionate, understanding, tolerant man was in the White House and the country would get back on course, on an even keel, and sail in untroubled waters.   They put DC politics, mismanagement, and racial divisiveness aside and looked instead to national leadership.

One year into the Biden Administration, it was clear that it would be no panacea for the nation’s ills.  The chaos on the southern border, the precipitous and calamitous pull out of Afghanistan, the crushing, authoritarian response to the pandemic, the trillions of public funds for social programs and historically corrupt ‘infrastructure’ programs, and the promotion of transgenderism, racial politics, and sexual ‘alternatives’ in the schools have resulted in the worst approval rating of any recent president at the one-year point of his term.

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Unbelievable as it would have been during the Trump Administration, Martha and her friends dared to consider conservative responses to pressing national and international issues.   They would never, not on your life ever have voted for Donald Trump, but they might now consider a centrist Republican.  

Of course they never admitted this to each other, and went on commiserating about the oppression of black people, male patriarchy, misogyny, and homophobia in the aisles of Whole Foods, at the Dupont Circle farmers’ market, at the Prius dealership, or at parents’ teas at St. Albans and Sidwell Friends schools.

Nobody’s perfect, and most people become more conservative as they get older; so Martha’s change of heart is not surprising.  But still, it is hard not to smile at the vagaries of the liberal mind, and its willingness to accept unholy contradictions.

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