Back in my youth, we had a few people around that we referred to as "guilty liberals." Somehow they had come to believe that they were personally to blame for all of society's failings, and they then had the brilliant idea that the proper atonement for their sins was to impose more taxes on somebody else so that the money could be handed out by government bureaucrats as a penance. Or something like that. It never made any sense to me, but in my youthful foolishness I assumed that these were such dumb ideas that over time they would just fade away and be forgotten.
Boy was I wrong! In the intervening 50 years or so the level of guilt, and the number of people experiencing it, have grown and multiplied and mushroomed and exploded, until we end up with the so-called "identity politics" that have taken over today's progressive movement and Democratic Party.
For today's lesson, we will use as our text an August 14 post from a New York Times blog called "The Sweet Spot." As far as I can tell, this blog does not appear in the print edition. It is basically an advice column, written by two people named Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, and appears online roughly once a week. I do not think it is a parody, but with Pravda you never know. Mostly, the advice deals with issues of relationships. However, the August 14 post is titled "How Can I Cure My White Guilt?" It's too long for me to quote the whole post (and for God's sake, don't "read the whole thing" -- unless your are some kind of a serious masochist), but I'll give you some significant excerpts. First, here are excerpts from the question posed by our anguished correspondent, who signs himself "Whitey":
I’m riddled with shame. White shame. . . . I feel like there is no “me” outside of my white/upper middle class/cisgender identity. I feel like my literal existence hurts people, like I’m always taking up space that should belong to someone else. . . . I research proper etiquette, read writers of color, vote in a way that will not harm P.O.C. (and other vulnerable people). I engage in conversations about privilege with other white people. I take courses that will further educate me. I donated to Black Lives Matter. Yet I fear that nothing is enough. Part of my fear comes from the fact that privilege is invisible to itself. What if I’m doing or saying insensitive things without realizing it? . . .
[N]ow [I'm] attending an elite private college that is 75 percent white. . . . I don’t talk about my feelings because it’s hard to justify doing so while people of color are dying due to systemic racism and making this conversation about me would be again centering whiteness. Yet bottling it up makes me feel an existential anger that I have a hard time channeling since I don’t know my place. . . . I’m curled up in a ball of shame. How can I be more than my heritage?
If I were the advice columnist, the advice would run something like "Get over it and get on with your life." But this is Pravda. Here are some excerpts from the response:
Almond: What you really feel is trapped within an identity that marks you, inescapably, as an oppressor. . . . We do live in a culture steeped in white supremacy and class bigotry, as well as patriarchal values. . . . As a straight white male raised by two professionals in an American suburb, I know I was born into a life of extraordinary privilege. But it wasn’t always that way. It took me many years to begin to recognize these advantages as unearned, the product of corrupt systems stacked in my favor. The rise of political actors and demagogues who promote white supremacy, misogyny and racism is, in part, an effort by the privileged to reject these truths. They’ve created an ecstatic cult of victimization and recast the pursuit of justice as an assault on their selfhood. . . .
Strayed: As you seem well aware, your race granted you privileges that were and are denied to people who are not white. This is true for all white people in America, no matter how racially diverse their childhood neighborhoods were or were not, no matter how much money their families had or didn’t have, no matter how difficult or easy their lives have been. Every white person should be ashamed of that injustice. . . .
That's right, Whitey -- you are correct to feel guilty. In fact you should feel even far more guilty! You say you are "curled up in a ball of shame"? That's pitiful! What about a hair shirt? What about self-flagellation? So far in your short life you have done nothing more than innocently grow up and go to high school, but we're dealing here with original sin. You were born with it, pal. According to the now official progressive orthodoxy, you have been "marked," "inescapably," by your "white" and "cisgender" "identity," as "an oppressor." You may have thought that being "an oppressor" is something you do; but no, it's something you are. Despite your best efforts -- indeed, despite anything you could conceivably do -- you are inevitably from your very birth "steeped in white supremacy and class bigotry." Shame! Shame!! Shame!!!
And don't even think of trying to give any push back to this new orthodoxy as bogus nonsense. Anything other than full acceptance of your culpability and expression of remorse will get you labeled as a "promoter of white supremacy, misogyny and racism," and engaged in "an ecstatic cult of victimization."
So Whitey, I guess you'd better keep voting "in a way that will not harm P.O.C." -- by which I'm inferring you mean voting for Democrats. And in the current version, that means voting for more and more handouts for as many people as will take them: Free college! Free healthcare! Free housing! Free everything! And thus will perfect justice and fairness be achieved, leaving you nothing to be guilty about any longer.
But here's the funny thing. In the world of entrepreneurial capitalism, I notice large numbers of successful, and influential, blacks. Here's a list of black billionaires, and here's a list of black-owned venture capital and private equity firms. With a few moments' thought, you can undoubtedly call to mind numerous famous and hugely successful black business people and entertainers (not to mention sports figures) -- people including Oprah Winfrey, Jay Z, Kanye West, Robert Johnson, Dr. Dre, Sean Combs, Michael Jordan, George Forman, and many more. These people may not have started life with many advantages, but that didn't stop them. They clawed their way up, by some combination of talent, drive, and hard work.
Not so the people who go the handout route. The people who take the government handouts are permanently trapped at the bottom rung of society. The cities that are the capitals of government programs and handouts, supposedly designed to "help" -- the Detroits, the Clevelands, the Baltimores and the St. Louises -- just continue to circle the drain. Oh, but in socialist world somebody need to decide who gets the handouts, and pass out the goodies and "free stuff." Those people do just fine, thank you. Instead of leading to equality, the handout system creates a permanent insider class, and a permanent outsider class.
So, Whitey, it looks to me like a bunch of cynical hucksters are using your irrational guilt to manipulate you into helping them stay in power while they keep large numbers of blacks (and whites) trapped down on the handout plantation. Just a thought for you to consider.
UPDATE, August 16: This "Sweet Spot" column has now appeared in the Times print edition, in the Styles section, of all places.
Meanwhile, Karl Rove in today's WSJ pitches in with some choice quotes from current Democrat Senators and leading prospective presidential candidates, expressing their own deep guilt. Examples:
Cory Booker: "We are at a time where injustice has grown to be normal in our country."
Elizabeth Warren: "The hard truth about our criminal justice system: it's racist . . . . I mean, all the way, front to back."
Kamala Harris: "Our criminal justice system has failed."
Didn't some combination of you, your immediate predecessors of the same party, President Obama, and AGs Holder and Lynch just have eight years to fix that? Are you telling us that you and they only made things worse? Then you definitely should feel guilty! Whitey, not so much.