When he beat her, I was in disbelief. Where did things go wrong? How out of touch am I that I was so mistakenly comfortable and ignorantly confident that I almost didn’t go vote? The choice just seemed like such a preposterous no-brainer. They’re so wrong and we’re so right(eous). I recently re-visited San Francisco/Berkeley and have come back woke! Berkeley’s always doing that to me – dagnabbit. Last time I went, I was downing burgers and prime ribs and now I’m a card-carrying rabbit.
So here’s my new perspective. Or whatever. I consider that area to be sort of a liberal-leaning mecca. A liberal arts university in a town with an enlightened populace. Organic, sustainable, local, humane, compost, kombucha on tap, marijuana, right-to-die, united against hate. You know what I’m talking about. Alla dat. The town is plastered with signs touting their social liberalism. Their woke-ness so to speak. “Everyone is welcome here” (except the haters, because we don’t hate.)
But here’s what I saw. (Multi-)Million dollar homes with a close to 10% sales tax. Who can afford a 10% sales tax on everything except the wealthy?! Side walks in such disrepair that you have to be in decent physical condition to navigate it. Traversing the area is like an obstacle course. Used needles strewn on the streets. Dodging loogies and dog shit. Pot holes and cracked sidewalks with all manner of flora overtaking what little sidewalk there is.
It’s a great town of love and acceptance and equality and social consciousness but woe to anyone who doesn’t have money or isn’t able-bodied. I walked from areas with cardboard box encampments to areas with posh fair-trade crafts shops in a matter of minutes. It’s all love and kumbaya as long as it’s convenient and the rich don’t have to actually deal with the riff raff. I don’t know why this is. Maybe in human nature, when we do something we perceive to be righteous, we feel like we have the social currency to spoil ourselves a little. I buy fair trade organic coffee so I get to eat meat and wear leather. I don’t exploit animals or drive so I get to exploit children halfway around the world for cheap fast fashion. I hang a sign supporting religious or ethnic acceptance so I can refuse service to anyone who doesn’t share my beliefs. Instead of buying indulgences from the Catholic church, people are now buying signs, humane animal products, fair-trade/organic whatever stuffs. We’re comforting ourselves that we’ve done something good so we can do something expedient. And obviously, I don’t think it’s as direct as that kind of logic. But I wonder if subconsciously, there is that bartering and internal negotiating going on. Self-control is supposedly something we have to use judiciously. If I use it on denying myself a cupcake, by tomorrow my self-control is spent so I’m taking it out on my credit card.
So how did I, a left leaning liberal, lose touch with the other half, the right leaning conservative? Well, now I understand a little better. Nobody gives two hoots about the suffering of agricultural animals when they’re trying to eke out a living in a million dollar neighborhood. And I can go ahead and get my electric vehicle, or donate my hair to children but it’s not going to make a lick of difference except to buy me some indulgences. Now I can go ahead and get that package of flawless clam-shell encased fruit shipped from halfway around the world with a clear conscience. Or clear enough.
And also, something else that bothers me a little. An extreme liberal town is just as disturbing as an extreme conservative town. Homogeneity of thought, no matter if I agree or not is a little creepy. So if even a place of learning can’t allow for civil discourse, we’ll never bridge this widening divide. I don’t know much about Milo Yiannopolous except to say I probably don’t have the same political leanings as him. But how can we ask for acceptance of differences if we can’t even hear out different views?