Why I Hate Liberals

By Brantley Thompson Elkins

There was a story in the news last year about the failures of the Head Start program. You remember Head Start; it was created to give disadvantaged pre-school children a leg up — teach them their ABCs, that sort of thing.

Only it wasn’t doing that. The kids weren’t learning their ABCs, or anything else. Head Start had turned into nothing but a baby sitting service. It was shocking news, but not half as shocking as the reaction from one of the teachers’ unions.

You mustn’t even try to teach these poor children their ABCs, the union people said; they’re too young, too vulnerable. It will destroy their self-esteem; they’ll be traumatized for life. They trotted out alleged studies to back up their argument. But they couldn’t hide the obvious truth: not only had they failed the children, but they were trying to make a virtue of that failure.

I already knew that conservatives didn’t give a shit whether children learned anything, as long as "Under God" was in the Pledge of Allegiance and nasty things like evolution were kept out of textbooks. But now it was clear that liberals didn’t give a shit either, as long as unionized teachers and bureaucrats got big raises and kids learned why Heather has two mommies, even if they couldn’t read the book about Heather.

Bilingual education, founded as a program to teach Spanish-speaking children in their own language only until they could master English, has similarly turned into a program that, effectively, prevents children from learning English and doesn’t do a good job of teaching them anything else. But again, it provides extra jobs for teachers, and the superficial impression that the country is "doing something" for disadvantaged minorities.

That was what welfare programs were supposed to do for the poor, and these seemed to be so essential to their very survival that when welfare reform was imposed in the 1990’s there were fears that millions would be dying of starvation. It didn’t happen, in part because privately funded food banks took up the slack. There are still serious problems with moving the poor back into the "heartless" private economy, especially now, but even when the welfare system was still entrenched, it was hardly a compassionate enterprise.

Some years back, I encountered a homeless woman and her children on the street, begging for help. She told me she’d been burned out of her apartment, and cut off welfare as a result. The welfare office refused to help her find another place to live, she said. She’d have go to some other office clear across town. Well, I gave her some money, but I also got the phone number of her caseworker.

That woman hadn’t been selling me a phony sob story; the caseworker confirmed her account in every detail. The welfare office wasn’t allowed to help her with housing, or even to contact the housing agency on her behalf. So here she was pounding the pavement, begging for help, because one city agency wouldn’t make a fucking phone call to another city agency. But I’ll bet they had plenty of time to call Dial-A-Joke or porno lines.

Liberals are supposed to be the friends of the poor and oppressed. Maybe they were, once. But many of them today are just social parasites, whose bureaucratic programs and earnest causes are devoted more to securing their own government jobs or making them feel good about themselves than to truly aiding the poor, the homeless, the unemployed, racial and ethnic minorities, gays, whatever, whoever.

When did it happen? Back during the Depression, when unemployment and poverty were far more widespread than today, liberals truly did represent the common man. Those were the days when unions organized major industries like steel mills, automobile plants and coal mines for the first time. Those were the days when John Steinback mythologized the Okies in The Grapes of Wrath and Aaron Copland composed a Fanfare for the Common Man.

Guess what? The steelworkers and autoworkers and miners joined the middle class. They weren’t poor and downtrodden any more. They bought decent homes, new cars, put swimming pools and barbecues in their back yards, watched sitcoms and soap operas on TV. A lot of the Okies ended up as successful farmers or skilled workers in California. They had committed an unforgivable sin in the eyes of liberal intellectuals: they had become bourgeois.

Just as the old-line right-wingers thought nothing could be worse than a Communist (Nowadays, they may be split between secular humanists and Islamic fundamentalists as bêtes noirs.), ivory tower liberals still believe that nothing can be worse than a bourgeois. It is a prejudice that has a long history, going back at least as far as French novelist Gustave Flaubert ("Hatred of the bourgeoisie is the beginning of wisdom.").

Of course, the liberal intelligentsia can argue that its contempt for the working class turned bourgeoisie is well-earned: just look at Archie Bunker. Anyone who thinks there aren’t still a lot of Archie Bunkers out there, even 20 years after All in the Family, must be living on Mars. But there is an obvious element of hypocrisy here: can anyone seriously believe that working class whites were more bigoted in the 1970s or afterwards than they were in the 1930s when they were celebrated in proletarian fiction?

Among European intellectuals, there has long been a contempt for the common people almost as virulent as that of British aristocrats of old. "A tepid mass of flesh scarcely organized into human life," Virginia Woolf called them. But perhaps even more virulent has been the liberal intellectual romanticization of the antisocial and even the criminal as preferable to the bourgeois, which has crossed the ocean in recent decades.

Jean Paul Sartre once wrote a hagiography of Jean Genêt, the thief turned poet and playwright, who had demonstrated his authenticity by "choosing" to be a thief. Without arguing about the literary merits of either writer, let us imagine that Genêt had "chosen" to be a doctor — not a Park Avenue plastic surgeon, mind you, but a doctor dedicated to service of the poor. Would Sartre have canonized him?

More recently, Norman Mailer canonized Jack Henry Abbott, a convicted violent criminal he knew had to be a sensitive intellectual type because he’d regurgitated Mailer’s own ideas in a book. Even after Abbott, paroled in large part because of Mailer’s intervention, murdered an aspiring actor who was waiting tables for a living, Mailer continued to defend his protegé, as if he agreed with Abbott’s assessment that his bourgeois victim’s life was worthless.

Just as conservatives long imposed a double standard for sexual behavior, placing the burden of "immorality" entirely on women, the liberal establishment has imposed a moral double standard as strict as that which once divided nobles and commoners. Imagine how they’d react if a "bourgeois" writer like Stephen King or Dean Koontz murdered his wife in a William Tell stunt. Yet Williams S. Burroughs, a darling of the intelligentsia, did just that -- only his act became part of his heroic literary mythology.

One of the favorite liberal catchphrases during the Vietnam protest era was "ad hoc" -- there were all manner of ad hoc committees and coalitions for this and that. Maybe there was even an Ad Hoc Coalition for a Viable Alternative. But now ad hoc morality seems to be the thing. This is supposedly in the name of multiculturalism and political correctness, but what it amounts to is an ad hoc moral absolutism as tendentious as that of the religious right.

Sometimes this is a simple reverse absolutism, as if Hollywood had suddenly decided to make white hats a symbol of evil in Westerns. White people are evil; people of color are good. Men are all testosterone-crazed rapists and murderers; women are all nurturing. Gays are more sensitive than straights. But it gets more complicated in some cases. Anti-Semitism is still evil if it comes from the Right, but understandable if it comes from the Left: hence the Left's acceptance of the John Adams opera The Death of Leon Klinghoffer that characterized Jews as vulgar money-grubbers and implied that Klinghoffer deserved his fate at the hands of Palestinian terrorists who hijacked the Achille Lauro.

Whites in America owe reparations to blacks for the past crime of slavery; this is no longer even considered a subject for debate on some college campuses, where newspapers have been suppressed for running ads by a right-wing gadfly attacking the idea. Yet present-day slavery in countries like Sudan is no big deal, because it is imposed by Arab Muslims rather than white Christians -- or was American slavery another conspiracy by the Jews? And nobody seems to think that whites in Brazil and other countries that once held Africans in bondage owe reparations.

In American Gypsy, a documentary about a king of the gypsies in Spokane, Washington, who had run-ins with the law, there are clips from local newcasts that jokingly suggested recent fires and plane crashes might be the result of a curse he had placed on the city. The Spokane news anchors would have known better than make fun of blacks or Latinos or Asians or Native Americans in such a manner -- they were on the list of those protected by Political Correctness guidelines. But gypsies weren't on the list, so they were fair game.

Too many ordinary Americans believe that they too are fair game. They may not read the academic journals or books, but they can sense the condescension and contempt in which they are held by those who write them off as incurably vulgar and small-minded, or even as incorrigible racists, sexists and homophobes. Today's liberals are addicted to rhetorical overkill over public controversies -- remember how they compared New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to Hitler for attacking an art show he thought was anti-religious? Or how they thought that only a bigot could possibly be offended by a photo of a crucifix in a tank of piss? What if it had been a menorah, or a portrait of Martin Luther King in a tank of piss?

Liberal intellectuals are so alarmed by the rise of the Right that they don't even want to be called liberals any more. There aren't any liberals, in colleges or campaigns; just moderates desperately fighting the neo-Nazi juggernaut. But they themselves helped create the atmosphere for the resurgence of the Right through their elitist alienation from those they once called the masses, and even today they are too obsessed with their self-righteousness and the supposed purity of their political correctness to offer a viable alternative. They hate everyone but themselves, and have thus become hateful to everyone but themselves.

P.S.: Are you a smug conservative reading this? Read "Why I Hate Conservatives."