If you’ve ever read anything written by any progressive over the age of forty, chances are pretty good that you’ve been exposed to a certain weary, self-indulgent, spiritually-agonized tone. It is very recognizable, like the smell of decay that’s characteristic of a swamp. By comparison, leftists under the age of forty are likely to have more-or-less the same tone that they were born with — the high-pitched tone of an infant that is not getting its way. Older leftists have usually run out of this youthful vigor, just like the rest of us. They do not participate in Antifa riots on the streets. They think about such youthful protests with a sense of nostalgia, remembering their wild, radical college days — whether they actually experienced them or not. Lost in a kind of communal introspection, they gather to have a coffee and a chat about how infinitely, heartbreakingly hard it is to endure the misery of the world. It would be vulgar to point out that a nice income and a nice house in a nice neighborhood can do a lot to ease this unbearable sense of soul-wrenching angst. Moral anguish can actually be quite comfortable if you can manage to do it safely at a distance.
A few years ago, while researching an entirely worthless opposition article claiming Trump supporters are characteristically authoritarians, I ran across an editor at a progressive publication whose full title was “Senior Sadness Editor”. That’s exactly what it said: “Senior Sadness Editor.” No other title has ever so perfectly captured the tone of the intellectual left. A career of virtuous weepiness. A bleeding heart that suffers theatrically for public consumption. Christine Blasey Ford really should, and probably will, get an Oscar for her performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Or is it an Emmy, since the movie version isn’t out yet?
To someone raised in a leftist family, the drill is all too familiar. There may be variations, but my experience went something like this:
One is immersed from birth in Marxist critical theory like a chicken cooking slowly in pot — not that one is ever told explicitly what Marxist critical theory is. In practice, the dogma is practiced as nothing more sophisticated than a lifestyle of continual dissatisfaction — of one long sad and negative discussion after another. The ideal setting for such discussions really has become the coffee shop — now a kind of secular parody of a church. There, one can ruminate, virtue signal to one’s fellow left-leaners, and sip slowly at the bitter cup of fair-trade, overpriced java picked by scenically depicted (but always comfortably far away) peasants from a third world hellhole du jour. If you miss the wafer normally offered in a more traditional sacrament, have a biscotti. One can tip the transgender barista graciously, earning a kind of progressive equivalent of merit, though not the least shred of actual grace. One can snub America simply by occupying the repackaged equivalent of a European institution. This is leftism by association.
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