Dallas, TX –
The recent elections prove anew, to paraphrase Lincoln: our house divided cannot stand each other.
My doctrinaire left-of-center friends dismiss evangelical Christians as cretins, for whom the only legitimate Big Bang Theory was Dick Cheney's plan to take Baghdad. My right-wing fundamentalist acquaintances think it makes perfect sense to hear our wartime president and his challenger debating the origins of sexual orientation. To my ears, from either side, arrogant presumption seems "born again" while the soul of my compatriot white middle-class yesteryear Kennedy Democrats lies dying.
In aging liberal minds, we're still fighting social ills we grew up knowing and loathing: racism, poverty, and intolerance. But the sad reality is that middle age and self-involvement has created a mutation - Armchair Liberals, as I call them. Synthetic activists who merely posture, espousing a sort of perverse reverse chic or, more likely, knee-jerk regurgitated doctrine. Actors whose dialogue rings hollow, like hearing Anna Nicole Smith recite Shakespeare. We may share a political philosophy, but these complacent ideologues were long ago absorbed into the vortex of detached elitism.
It's Vietnam deja vu when they rail against the invasion of Iraq. But this time around, Armchair Liberals are unlikely to actually know anyone like the "volunteer army" reservist who lives two doors from me, now on his third deployment. My more rabid AARP-age Democratic loyalists contend that our Iraqi involvement is an imperialist oilmen administration's pursuit of foreign oil resources, upon which we all agree we're shamefully dependent. Yet they buy SUV's, averaging maybe 12 MPG and willingly take the tax credit loophole the current administration they supposedly oppose created. These self-described environmentally concerned ignite like an eternal flame when one mentions the Kyoto Treaty. But few recycle or use this city's curbside recycling service. Anything other than money where that mouth is?
My progressive comrades denounce conservatives for their perceived antipathy for people of color. But, examine their lives. Most work in, live in and socialize in a colorless white-white world, where the chief reason to learn Spanish might be to interview a nanny, instruct a housekeeper or yardman. "Location, location, location" clearly means "white, white, white." In my 20 years living in a diverse white, brown and black neighborhood, not one person I know has ever looked for a house in my area, although they admire what I have, even envy what it offers. But watch these same people denounce as "stereotyping" any racial-cultural observation. Recently, alluding to my Hispanic neighbors (whom I enjoy and with whom I generally speak Spanish), I casually stated the obvious - that many have "huge families and therefore a lot of cars." My cousins recoiled in politically correct revulsion. Huh?
Politics has become a virtual reality for these baby boomer "idealists." By now, their idea of "involvement" is to swap outraged partisan emails with like-minded friends while sipping a third glass of Chardonnay. Small wonder then that, right or wrong, the President's strongest constituency, who believes and lives 365 days a year their rigid core beliefs, could overtake the "armchair liberals" whose senior years evolution has made their self-deluding self images transparent, like in that memorable movie when Dracula looked into a mirror.
Rawlins Gilliland is a writer from Dallas. If you have opinions or rebuttals about this commentary, call (214) 740-9338 or email us.