Reader Zapollo comments:
I’m a white guy. I’m a well-educated intellectual who enjoys small arthouse movies, coffehouses and classic blues. If you didn’t know any better, you’d probably mistake me for a lefty urban hipster.
And yet. I find some of the alt-right stuff exerts a pull even on me. Even though I’m smart and informed enough to see through it. It’s seductive because I am not a person with any power or privilege, and yet I am constantly bombarded with messages telling me that I’m a cancer, I’m a problem, everything is my fault.
I am very lower middle class. I’ve never owned a new car, and do my own home repairs as much as I can to save money. I cut my own grass, wash my own dishes, buy my clothes from Walmart. I have no clue how I will ever be able to retire. But oh, brother, to hear the media tell it, I am just drowning in unearned power and privilege, and America will be a much brighter, more loving, more peaceful nation when I finally just keel over and die.
Trust me: After all that, some of the alt-right stuff feels like a warm, soothing bath. A “safe space,” if you will. I recoil from the uglier stuff, but some of it — the “hey, white guys are actually okay, you know! Be proud of yourself, white man!” stuff is really VERY seductive, and it is only with some intellectual effort that I can resist the pull. And yet I still follow this stuff, not really accepting it, but following it just because it’s one of the only places I can go where people are not always telling me I’m the seed of all evil in the world. If it’s a struggle for someone like me to resist the pull, I imagine it’s probably impossible for someone with less education or cultural exposure.
It baffles me that more people on the left can’t understand this, can’t see how they’re just feeding, feeding, feeding the growth of this stuff. They have no problem understanding, and even making excuses for, say, the seductive pull of angry black radicalism for disaffected black men. They’re totally cool with straightforwardly racist stuff like La Raza. Why are they unable to put themselves into the shoes of disaffected white guys and see how something similar might appeal to them? Or if they can make this mental leap, why are they so caustically dismissive of it — an attitude they’d never do with, say, a black kid who has joined the Nation of Islam?
I’m sorry, but there are two alternatives here. You can push for some kind of universalist vision bringing everybody together, or you can have tribes. There’s not a third option. If you don’t want universalism, then you just have to accept that various forms of open white nationalism are eventually going to become a permanent feature of politics. You don’t have to LIKE it. But you have to accept it and learn to live with it — including the inevitable violence and strife that will flow from it.
If the Left can’t let go of identity politics, then let me be clear: What comes next is on THEM. A lot of us don’t want to live in a world of tribes, and we never asked for it. But people will like those young dudes attracted to white nationalism are going to play the game according to the rules as they find them, and they will play to win. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Pay attention. This is important.
UPDATE: From another reader:
I totally get where this guy is coming from. I’m in his shoes for the most part: white, Christian, male, straight. Add to that that I’m a Southerner. But I’m also a PhD candidate in the humanities, in a discipline where my whole demographic configuration is routinely and openly disparaged as being the fount of all evil in this world. So I have a front-row seat to all of this. I absolutely get it.
I remarked to my wife a couple of weeks ago that witnessing the left’s histrionics for the past several months has made me more racist, more sexist, and more homophobic than I ever would’ve been otherwise. Now, I don’t like that about myself, and I try to self-critique and keep in check some of the more knee-jerk impulses (I must strive for Christian charity above all else, of course), but that’s obviously way more than the left is willing to do. What the left doesn’t get is it’s turning people like me—reasonably moderate, go-along-to-get-along types—into full-blown reactionary radicals. Ideas that I once would’ve rolled my eyes at I’m now willing to give a hearing. I don’t think I’m some paragon of rational thought and self-control by any means, but it concerns me that if I’m willing at least to entertain some of these ideas (critically and deliberately), what about the people who embrace them more impetuously or because their circumstances seemingly leave them no other option? If the left wants to make this all about tribes, I’m siding with my own tribe. That means the Church above all else, of course, but it may come to mean some of those other categories, too. What follows from all of this cannot bode well.