It’s friday evening and I’m eating at Denny’s, alone. Deep in southern Indiana. The isolation is radiating. There’s a quiet pulse to it.
I’m going to eat a kale salad because Denny’s menu offers healthier options and I’ve been eating nothing but gristle and preserved meats for weeks. Sticks of deep fried starch and slabs of mysteriously cooked hamburger. I take my fruits and greens in powder form and drink 3 cups of acid piss coffee every day. So tonight at Denny’s I’m going to balance my diet with a kale salad, which happens to have four thousand dried cranberries, bacon bits, breaded chicken and a piercingly zesty and sweet dressing all over it.
I’m not done. I get the lava cake and when they bring it to my table it causes a small scene. People at other tables look over and whispers ripple through the diner. I lower my head in shame, unable to share in the exaltation over the pound of chocolate sauce and brownie and ice cream before me.
The lava part of lava cake isn’t an exaggeration. This chocolate sauce is sucked up from the center of the earth. It’s scorchingly hot. I wait for a few minutes and then eat as much as I can until I feel uncomfortable. The waitress forgot to put the dessert on my check but I let her know so she could charge me the correct amount. One of those moments you can beam with the pride of having acted like a moral man.
It’s another scenic evening in southern Indiana. I feel a moment of peace and gratitude for being somewhere quiet and pretty, with rolling hills and woods and melancholic sunsets. Fading light stirs my soul. My drive home is calm except for the unrest in my stomach and intestines from the bizarre meal I just ate.
Fox news was on at the diner. Speaking of unrest. They expect more clashes between protestors at upcoming rallies. Trump fired Bannon. Or Bannon resigned; I’ve already seen conflicting reports.
Anarchists against neo-nazis in the streets. It’s a battle that wrings the sympathy right out of your heart. I can’t imagine having a pleasant conversation with either one of these characters, much less an agreeable rally or protest. Why are they prominent and why is there a tendency to see everyone as these people right now? Why are we clinging to failed european ideologies. The thoughtless rush to apply ill-fitting and historically jarring labels to others and ourselves indicates a disconnect from organic American political traditions and widespread alienation from our culture and history.
If all we can see in each other are communists and fascists then what happened to us as Americans? We seem to be unaware that we spent a good chunk of the 20th century fighting fascists and then communists. Our historical irony is having found ourselves in the 21st century made up of nothing but fascists and communists. Why did we fight against those forces and what did it mean to defeat them?
Can we not draw on our own history, on our own people? It may be too late. Statues are coming down. History is being rewritten. Why would a black person want to stare at a statue of his oppressor everyday. I wish I felt such a strong connection to my ancestors that I could be oppressed by a statue. Maybe that’s why I used to look to musty europeans for my identity. Europeans don’t know what it’s like to have freed slaves in their streets.
And why do we demand that people disavow? It’s a strange impulse, a rabid reflex that doesn’t have much practical effect. When I disavow someone I don’t change the other person and I don’t change myself. It has a teeny, gossipy quality as well. What do you think about hitler? He’s so gross. Do you think he’s creepy? The left is always forcing apologies and disavowals, performing ritual acts of political humiliation; they’re the great speech and thought police, budding if not fully flowering totalitarians. They love superficial difference but crave deep conformity. They’re unblinking, effete fanatics, fainting, weak-kneed crusaders.
When you’re the president you have to be a leading moral light. And there’s nothing more moral right now than suppressing white supremacists. But it’s never suppressive enough. Trump could execute every last neo-nazi with his bare hands and they would still criticize him and question his leadership. Yeah but he didn’t mean it. He just did it to appease us. The left is like that imbalanced, manipulative girlfriend who says you don’t tell her you love her, and then when you do, accuses you of just saying it because you have to.
One of the perks of not having power is that you can remain quiet without offending people. Or at least the offense you cause by remaining quiet never rises to the pitch of pricking the ears of the mob. And one of the benefits of being unknown is that even if you say the wrong things, no one wants to shut you down.
What’s so wrong with being a hateful racist if you’re not threatening or hurting anyone. So what if you want to wave some torches and chant in the summer night. I thought people were liberals. I thought the liberal framework created a neutral social space where even odious ideas could be discussed and debated as long we respect the law as well as the safety and privacy of others. Even neo-nazis have the freedom to gather and protest what they see as injustice. The assault on free speech is another sign of rapidly decaying American political traditions. The stage is being set for more ruthless and searching inquisitions into our beliefs and feelings.
Why are we rooting around in the depths of other people’s hearts for traces of offensive material? Who cares if someone hates if they’re not committing violent acts?
Mainstream republicans and people in general are jumping on the anti-racist train because they think it will absolve them of their own sins of racism and bigotry. As long as the cartoonish neo-nazi is in the limelight then they can buy themselves some time. We condemn hatred and racism and the nazis. See we’re good people too.
But once the furor over the fuhrer dies down the left will go back to castigating systemic racism, implicit bias and other nebulous pseudo concepts that heighten paranoia, intensify distrust and increase their own power. And mainstream republicans won’t be safe just because they disavowed the nazis, just because they made a grand show of their disgust for the glaring bigotry of economically abandoned white men. They’ll still be racist, they’ll still need reeducation if not corporal punishment. Liberals too, especially if they’re white. There’s no white soul so pure that progressives can’t find a stain of racism on it.
They will ruin you financially, they will destroy your reputation and your business. Silence and exclude you unless you’re marching in lockstep with their maniacal progressive agenda. Even then your livelihood and safety will depend on your identity. Even what you say might not be enough.
But I don’t mean to wallow in fear or despair; there’s cause for hope and optimism. Because the left has a habit of overextending themselves and they’re doing it again. Ordinary people are becoming more aware of the freakish, elitist forces arrayed against them. They don’t want to live their lives under the constant threat of purges and show trials and liquidations. Americans aren’t communists; the majority of us have an instinctive contempt for it. We want to live in peace, love our families, worship God, have healthy children, work and create and say what we want when it suits us.
The removal of statues seems inevitable if you buy into leftist media hype but most people are against it. Those who call for the erasure of Washington and Jefferson from our history make themselves look ridiculous to all but the most fervent of ideologues. We have to stay strong and remember that opposing the left and their destructive tantrums doesn’t make us nazis or fascists. There is a political center and a moderate majority.
And life always goes on. There’s happiness, fulfillment and peace to be found outside the arena of ideological opposition. I have to remember not to pin all my hope and joy on the turbulent world of politics. That would make me some kind of progressive totalitarian.