Quick note: The paperback version of my collection, The Face Maker and other stories of obsession, will be available this coming week.
I’m pretty liberal when it comes to social issues, but last week I found out just how not-liberal I really am.
My wife loves the NPR show “Snap Judgment,” and when a live production came to Ann Arbor, she bought a couple of tickets. All I knew of the program was that it was an outgrowth of the popular “This American Life” and “The Moth” shows, which are some of the best things on radio. So I was looking forward.
But a half hour into the show the only thing I was looking forward to was going home. Unlike Moth, which offers fascinating stories related by fairly average people, “Snap Judgment” was a procession of professional comedians doing what passes for standup these days—pointless, self-indulgent shtick. I was a fat kid until an accident made me lose weight; I wanted to be an artist and really had to struggle; I had illicit sex and went public with it. Good for you, but what’s the point? The one exception, which shook me from my stupor, was about teaching creative writing to kids held in juvenile hall, mostly because it wasn’t about the speaker, but the kids.
The most telling presentation was by a woman of Indian heritage, recounting her first sexual experience (yawn). She mentioned talking about condoms and tampons with her mother, an old-fashioned woman who responded to each product in the overused Indian accent of pop culture, “Oh no, those are for prostitutes… and white girls.” The crowd, which was at least 80 percent white, went wild with laughter. Me? I sat there thinking, what if she’d said, “black girls?” I think you know the answer to that one. Is this the kind of guilt-riddled white social conscience it takes to be a liberal? Sorry, but count me out. A racial slur (which is exactly what that was) is a racial slur, no matter who the target is. Seriously, the self-appointed intelligentsia who think this show is so highbrow should stop congratulating themselves over their “open-mindedness” and ask themselves why they’re guffawing at such bottom-scraping material, at something they would no doubt condemn had the target been another group.
There was more, after the show, as cars queued up to exit the parking lot. At the only outlet, the gate arm malfunctioned after the first few cars had left, and blocked the way. The people in the eight or so cars ahead of us sat there, waiting. The people behind us sat there, waiting. No one moved. No one honked. Had it been a tractor pull or a Megadeth concert the people in back would have been all over their horns. The person in the first car would have bulldozed the gate out of the way. After a few minutes of watching this embarrassing display of submissiveness, I asked my wife to take the wheel. I walked up to the gate, yanked it up and held it there (against its will, mind you) until my wife and the cars ahead of her drove through. At that point the gate seemed to get the message and stayed up, at least until we drove out of sight.
I am still trying to understand the mindset. It seems to come down to this: Don’t you dare insult anyone who qualifies as a minority, but please insult my ethnic group because we deserve it. Bash us, ridicule us. We will take it, whether it comes from a person of color, a person of non-color, or even an inanimate object, such is my guilt over the abuses wrought by my ancestors. After all, the only way to build the self-esteem of those poor people is to show them we can handle what they had to endure for centuries.
As I’ve written before, a level playing field does not result from turning it upside down. And I’m sorry, but you can take that kind of liberalism and stuff it you know where, and I’ll bet they’ll take that, too, and probably laugh at it to show their willingness to get along.
If it helps, I’ll bash conservatives next week—but they’re such an easy target it’s not even a challenge.
 Although my wife assures me the actual radio show features average folks.