Rod Dreher, The American Conservative, December 2, 2019
I received an interesting e-mail over the weekend. I share a portion of it with you with the sender’s permission. Let me sum it up before we get to the end of it, which I’ll quote.
The reader, a white male Millennial, said he was raised in a secular left environment, by liberal Boomers. Mom was an activist, dad was into the counterculture. Six marriages between them. They divorced when the reader was seven; he grew up shuttling between their homes.
He grew up thinking that “organized religion” was the cause of most of the world’s problems, and that specifically, Christian Republicans were the most to blame. Though white, he comes from a mixed-race clan, and grew up with one foot in the black community.
He studied education in college, and said that many of the materials they studied were preoccupied with “white privilege” and woke ideology. He didn’t think it was a problem, because it conformed to the view of the world that he’d been raised with. He ended up in the social work field, which was ideologically the same.
In college, he converted to Christianity, which radically changed some of his values. He now identifies as a conservative, though he has never voted Republican in a presidential race. He says he’s “kind of confused politically” because of all this.
He says that he’s growing increasingly angry by the relentless wokeness in popular culture. He gave a couple of recent examples of having a strong reaction at the overt liberal messaging in TV shows he and his wife watched. He says they talked about it, and she convinced him that the liberal messaging was based somewhat in reality (e.g., racism and sexism really do exist). What surprised him was how “black and white” his thinking has become on these topics, as a result of being on the defensive all the time against the overwhelming progressive messaging he sees.
The reader concludes:
I certainly feel like the progressive ideology is being forced down my throat at every turn. I have unfollowed basically everyone on social media and stopped using it except for work purposes because the stuff people posted made me like them less (both on the left and right). I can’t count how many times I have heard people make flippant comments about the taint white men and the patriarchy have left on our society. I don’t feel like I can express my thoughts about any polarizing topic because I will be dismissed due to my sex and skin color. It really is maddening. In many ways I align with left social principles (care for the poor, minorities, women) but more and more I feel like to support anything on the left is to support something that sees me and people like me as the problem and therefore of less value than other human beings.
I don’t know what to do with this. I certainly don’t want to be “pro-white, pro-male” in some sort of political manner, but I do feel like the left is forcing me into a corner I don’t want to be in. Of course, I recognize I don’t have to let that happen to me, and I don’t want to just sit here and say I’m helplessly being polarized by the rhetoric coming from the left. I won’t ever go down the alt-right road. I don’t want to watch shows and movies and feel so sensitive to what seems like a political agenda or start disliking friends who are left leaning and that I may even agree with about a lot of things! Even if they aren’t militant, I still feel threatened. I have a friend who is letting her 8 year old present as the opposite gender. She announced it on Facebook and got showered with praise. I have said nothing. How can I? I’m just a hater and bigot, right? I have some serious concerns about all of that, but I would be wasting my breath and inviting a lot of stress into my life if I confronted that.
I’m not sure how to conclude this which is why I just ranted a little right there. I’m not completely sure why I’m even writing this to you. I’m probably going to vote for Trump in 2020, so maybe this is about that in some way. I think he is a disaster of a human being and president, but you know, he doesn’t hate me and everything I stand for. I didn’t think the left did even as recently as 2016, but I don’t know what else to think based on their rhetoric and actions. But it’s deeper than just who I vote for. It’s permeating my whole life. I can’t even enjoy a good tv show without getting all fired up about some perceived propaganda. I say perceived because I think I’m looking for it more than I did in the past. In some ways I’m frustrated with myself even.
The reader’s story about how the overwhelming, increasingly militant progressivism of popular culture, and how that is replicated in the lives of many people he knows, rings true to me — as does his frustration with himself over having developed reactionary instincts out of self-defense. I think this is becoming common.
In 2017, Gallup found that nearly 2/3 of Americans who identify with a political party say that they would not want their children to marry someone of the opposite political party.
You’ll recall, maybe, the leaked transcript of the Times‘s internal town meeting earlier this year, in which the unnamed staffer challenged executive editor Dean Baquet, telling him that racism is in everything about American life, and that the Times ought to bring the racial angle into everything it covers. I’d bet my paycheck that the person saying that is a Millennial or Zoomer. The important thing about that exchange is that Baquet — a black man, a Boomer, and a lifelong journalist — did not challenge the assertion at all.
I don’t see an answer here, and I expect most liberal readers to deny the thing, or to admit it, but to resort to whataboutism in an effort to dismiss it. Still, it is worth talking about, because this dynamic is close to the heart of our social disintegration. You have in this letter the testimony of a young man who was raised a liberal, in a mixed-race family, and who acknowledges that the Left has some important and truthful insights to offer, and that conservatives need to hear. But he is also finding himself increasingly unwilling to hear them, because they come as part of a broader message that demonizes people like him. He has been pushed to the point where he is disinclined even to open his mind to any of this, because to do so, he feels that he has to buy the entire vicious narrative — a narrative that, in his view, is racist, sexist, and anti-religious, and, if it keeps growing, is going to make life in America for people like him unlivable.