Before there was the intersectional world wide web, there was conservative talk radio, and before there was “White Privilege,” there was “Liberal Guilt.”
The essence of liberal guilt is the idea is that liberals, who seem so affluent and educated to working class conservatives, often even ‘privileged,’ pay lip service to guilt they don’t really feel about their aristocratic lifestyles – noting at every point that many people are not able to enjoy the fineries of life which they enjoy at every job and school and meal at which they are invited to partake, while the vast majority of people are not. ‘Liberal guilt’ is a pretense to guilt to absolve themselves of guilt. A disingenuous absolution of culpability in how they continue all refusals to amend their ways to benefit to lower classes, and allows them to look at lower classes with distaste. And therefore they allege that liberals pretend to be angry about urban poverty while spending hundreds of dollars every week on dinner, pretend to want better public education while sending their children to aristocratic private schools, put public housing in every working-class neighborhood while they live in gated communities, and give plum jobs to people of color on the basis of their identity which conservatives feel white people have merited by decades of work. On every issue, the Rush Limbaugh/Fox News crowd believes that because of this ruse of guilt, elite/elitist liberals foist upon working class conservatives the full bill of a liberal lifestyle they have no interest in giving up.
Like so many things in life, it is uncanny how two diametrically opposed viewpoints sound so much like each other. And it is especially uncanny how much this notion of ‘Liberal Guilt’ sounds like White Privilege. and like White Privilege, the entire notion is as simultaneously true as it is disingenuous in who sends the message.
White Privilege most certainly exists. Look at where the protestors are right now, and look at where I am… And so too does liberal guilt. I always imagined that when the true anti-authoritarian protests of our time happen, I would position myself right on the front line, but reality never works so neatly. Every day I look at all those pictures and videos of the protestors, I look at the heroism of friends who put their bodies in front of cops holding night sticks and pepper spray in their hands, and I realize that aside from a three hour drive, all that holds me back from joining them, aside from fear – which I certainly feel, is despair. The nihilistic belief that these protests are just the first in an unbearably long line of protests and civil unrest. It is entirely an arrogant wish that prevents me: I would prefer to be around for the entirety of the generation-long struggle which I feel with every still unbroken bone in my body is coming, and observe on the sidelines so I may write it up, document it, survey all its nuances, and attempt some small and pathetic claim to the vindication of posterity for my all too privileged white life, and not spend much of that time languishing in a prison with no pen and paper. All I want to do is write, I my be deluded in believing that a contemplative pen may be of any use to the world, but somebody has to remain on the sidelines to think other people’s actions through. I am not like other people. One day perhaps my already much too narcissistic keyboard will relate the roller coaster of my privileged white life story genuinely, and perhaps through it I can show that my struggle too can have some small meaning to others. But in a thirty year struggle with organizational disability, with some of the most severe mental illnesses known to man, but as I have disproportionate incapacities, I too have disproportionate gifts which my maladies have put so almost to waste, and when I am called to account for my life, I would prefer to show that I have made something of those strengths which I have that other people do not. Such is my white privilege that I can have so many infinities of chances to get it right, and not let these abilities go to waste after so many times when my mental afflictions assured they would remain so. The casting aside of both white privilege and liberal guilt will be for other, more generous souls than I, who have no intention of casting aside either, and I will remain at a beach house either physically or in spirit, and perhaps vainly hope that what I write can be of more use than any presence I can hold on the front lines.
There is so much more to say, and I hope to yet have decades to say it.
See you soon, but in words only.