I used to be a leftist. Slowly, over the course of many years, I stopped being a leftist. One of the bigger turning points occurred almost twenty years ago. I knew the name “David Horowitz” like I knew the name “Beelzebub.” Mention of Horowitz invoked sparks, the stench of sulfur, and the wailing of the damned. Horowitz used to be one of us – he was a Marxist! Then – horror of horrors! – he abandoned the shining ranks of the righteous and defected to the dark side.
Anticipating fire and brimstone, I attended a talk by David Horowitz on a college campus in New Jersey. I agreed with a surprising amount of what he said. I thought about other things he said for years afterward. That lecture, and other events, slowly but surely, shoved me out of the shining ranks of the Left.
My Front Page pieces have been written with potential leftist readers in mind. Leftists emphasize compassion and tolerance. I adduce facts when a given leftist stance is neither compassionate nor tolerant. I write about the agony of young people who were manipulated by health care professionals practicing “gender affirming care.” These kids underwent double mastectomies or castration. They now face lifetimes of unfathomable regret. I write about how Black Lives Matter ideology actually hurts, not helps, real, live, black people. I write about gender apartheid and courageous heroines like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Yasmine Mohammed. I write about what it’s like to be poor, and why a poor person might vote in a way that leftists arrogantly insist on labeling as “voting against your own self interest.” I mention that turning a violent criminal like Jordan Neely into a Christ figure, and a Good Samaritan like Daniel Penny into a KKK vigilante, is not helpful to poor people who are the most likely to be victimized by violent criminals. I write about being a former “unwanted fetus” and how that identity shapes my thoughts about abortion. I say that real respect for women must entail awe at women’s unique role as nurturers of human life, and must also entail respect for the lives women create and carry.
What I’m trying to say, over and over, is this: “My leftist friend. You say you value tolerance and compassion. Please see why it is tolerant and compassionate to consider these facts you have not considered. Please consider how some of your arguments and your philosophies can hurt innocent and relatively powerless victims, sometimes the very people you claim to be tolerant of and to feel compassion for, for example, poor people, black people, Muslim women, in fact all women, and so-called ‘trans kids.'”
I post these essays on social media. And then I wait, and I hope. I hope that the leftists I know might read them, and, if not actually change their minds, they might actually publicly acknowledge that there is a point of view, based in facts, not in ignorance or prejudice, sadism or superstition, that is not their own point of view, but that is equally worthy as their own. I want them to consider that perhaps persons with whom they disagree are worthy of simple human respect, and not knee-jerk contempt, and misrepresentation in hateful straw-man stereotypes. This has not happened.
The other day, my Facebook friend Merlin insisted that only racism, hypocrisy, and stupidity would cause anyone not to embrace The Little Mermaid 2023. I had just posted an essay addressing the multiple reasons why Mermaid 23 has been irritating to many people; none of those reasons had anything to do with white supremacy, stupidity or hypocrisy. I asked Merlin if he had read the essay. He said no, it did not interest him. Is it fair, is it really “liberal,” to denounce those you disagree with as stupid, hypocritical racists and then to refuse even to listen to what those you disagree with have to say?
My leftist friends’ posts conjure into a being an imaginary enemy. They are convinced that they know this enemy. Leftists’ posts describing their imaginary enemy remind me of the Scandinavian folklore I studied in grad school. Every Norwegian or Swede knew exactly what trolls looked like, how they behaved, and what magical powers they possessed. A good percentage of contemporary Scandinavians still believe in elves and trolls. If you can form a tight enough group that tells enough authoritative accounts of a shared, imaginary enemy, eventually group members believe in that imaginary enemy even more than they credit objective facts.
The enemy leftists imagine is white. The enemy is Christian. The enemy is stupid. The enemy is a hypocrite. The enemy lives in godforsaken places. Think Alabama, Ohio, Nebraska. I remember Bill Maher once saying that Pennsylvania, between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, “is Alabama.” If you don’t live in a Democratic city in a coastal state you live in East Bumf–k.
We, the enemy, are white supremacists. We are transphobic, Islamophobic … gosh, have I covered all the words they’ve invented to insult us? We are just plain “phobic.” We are heartless and mean. We are “fearful of difference.” We are “intolerant.” We lack “compassion.” Yeah, that’s us in a nutshell. In contrast, of course, the leftists using these terms in a ritual so predictable they could recite the litany in their sleep, are intelligent, enlightened, tolerant, and, above all, compassionate.
An interesting factoid about my tolerant, compassionate, leftist social media contacts. I’ve been having this same conversation with leftists on social media for the past twenty years. They always tell me how “fearful” I am and how “tolerant of difference” they are. I have never seen a black friend in any of their online photos. Never. Not a single one. In twenty years.
I Google the name of the town in which my leftist interlocutor lives. I investigate the demographics of the town on Wikipedia. One such person, Mark Shea, a Catholic author, lives in a town with a two percent black population. His entire state is about three percent black. Bashing whites and championing blacks is a big part of Mark’s social media output. I’m all for championing blacks. I don’t like Mark’s bashing whites. Wouldn’t having actual contact with actual black people increase Mark’s ability to champion blacks? Yes, yes it would.
The white leftist savior of black people, the white leftist teacher who will educate the white masses living their ignorant lives, typically chooses to live in neighborhoods, counties, and sometimes entire states with negligible black populations. Their personal photos often reveal extensive properties with gardens, trees, and even plots of woods. Their yards are not ground zero for the next Black Lives Matter riot, arson, or looting spree. These white leftist saviors live cushioned from the consequences of their philosophies. Me? I own no property. I open my door and I am immediately confronted with the results of decisions they made. What’s that like? Here’s a hint: as I turn the doorknob, I pray that God will protect me.
Unlike my leftist contacts, I have never lived in an all-white neighborhood. When I was a child, our next-door neighbors were black. They were lovely people and I played happily with the little daughter. My first job after graduating college was teaching in one of the poorest countries in Africa. I lived, alone, in a house without electricity, running water, and no phone. I say I lived alone, but of course there were giant cockroaches, rats, and hundreds of bats in the attic; their urine trickled down the walls and their droppings scattered on the floor. What protected me from the turbulence in a country without a government? What separated me from the bush rampant with predators, including crocodiles, hippos, and venomous puff adders? That protection was a bicycle lock holding my latticed French doors together. I lived among and relied on Africans for food, transport, conversation. I once hitched a ride, over night, through rain forest, with a caravan of Sudanese smugglers who spoke no English; I did not speak Arabic. For the past twenty years, I have lived in a majority-minority American city. Oh, but I’m fearful and intolerant. And the folks with the big, big yards, the blooming gardens, the expansive lawns, the pools, the backyard deer, these are the people who invite in the world. Okay!
Recently leftists have been circulating on social media a meme captioned “I’m with the banned.” The meme claims that Americans are banning books. I immediately noted two facts about this meme. First, it lies. Americans are not banning books. A given library decides not to purchase a book; a given school decides not to use a book in its curriculum. There are billions of books in existence. No one can use them all. To select some and not others is not to ban a book. Every book the meme references is, of course, available for purchase, and buying, reading, talking about and sharing these books will not result in legal penalty. It is illegal for adults to share porn with children, but that’s another matter.
Why then are the folks sharing this meme disseminating a charge that they know to be false? Because it helps them to buttress their shared, imaginary enemy, and, in contrast, their own elevated identity. Merlin blamed the imaginary banning of books on “Catholics” and “Protestants.” SV, another Facebook friend, blamed “morons” who read “their Bible.” Merlin and SV’s posts were followed by communal support. Yes, yes, others insisted. It’s those bad, bad white, Christian Americans once again, doing bad, bad things. It’s the trolls!
Notice that leftists do not implicate Muslims or Jews. In fact, just a short eight months ago, Muslim parents in Dearborn, Michigan, made international headlines when they vehemently protested the inclusion of LGBT material in their children’s schoolbooks. Jews have also been vocal in expressing concerns about what is taught in schools; for example, see the battle over California’s ethnic studies curriculum. Muslim parents care about what their children are taught. This is a fact. Jewish parents care about what their children are taught. This is a fact. My leftist friends ignore these facts, and communally erect and then burn their chosen straw man: the “moron” Christian.
My Facebook friend J is an important poet. I’ve posted positive reviews of his books. J does not reciprocate my positive regard. Recently J has been posting reprimands on my page.
J reprimanded me for pointing out that there are no banned books in America. J reprimanded me for mentioning that it is the Left that exerts pressure to suppress books, ideas, and freedom of conscience. To support this assertion, I did not resort to insult words for people unlike myself. I didn’t call anyone a “moron” or denigrate anyone’s religion. Rather, I adduced facts. I mentioned the many teachers who have lost jobs because they used accurate pronouns. In New York City, one can be fined $250,000 for using accurate pronouns. In Canada, Robert Hoagland was arrested and jailed for referring to his daughter as a “girl” and using the pronoun “she.”
I mentioned the leftist suppression of Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters. Chase Strangio, a woman who identifies as a man, and an ACLU Deputy Director, tweeted, “stopping the circulation of this book and these ideas is 100% a hill I will die on.” UC Berkeley Professor Grace Lavery tweeted “I DO encourage followers to steal Abigail Shrier’s book and burn it on a pyre.” Target stopped selling Irreversible Damage. Amazon forbade advertisements for Irreversible Damage.
In response to these objective facts and others, J posted, “You make all leftists sound evil.” In fact, I do not. I regularly both praise and criticize people on both the left and the right. Other than falsely accusing me, J had no response to the facts themselves.
J also disagreed with my take on the murder of Lawrence Herr, and the subsequent lack of media coverage of that murder. Herr was a 66-year-old handyman. He was shot in the back. His alleged killers were two black men who “wanted to kill a white person.” Subsequently, according to Matt Walsh, no major media outlet touched the story. I mentioned on social media that it is far more likely for a white person to be a victim of a violent crime committed by a black person than vice versa. I mentioned that media drills into us names like Michael Brown, who never said “Hands up; don’t shoot,” and who was a strong-arm criminal, not a “gentle giant.” But the media memory holes the names of Lawrence Herr, Ee Lee, Justine Ruszczyk, Christine Englehardt, Christina Spicuzza, and too many others.
And then there are the forgotten black victims of violent crime, including, horribly, Tyre Nichols, who was beaten to death on camera. It was Nichols’ misfortune to have been beaten to death by black cops, so his story received a fraction of the attention it would have received had his killers been white.
Here’s the larger point – it is compassionate to care about these victims. It is not compassionate to support the media shoving their names, inconvenient to a leftist master narrative, down the memory hole. It is compassionate to black people to help black people utterly to reject a culture that breeds violent criminality and steadily increases the number of innocent crime victims. It is compassionate to black people to militate for a culture that will encourage more young black men to become proud, content, successful, contributing members of society, rather than imprisoned criminals. America’s refusal to confront a violent criminal subculture, that results in, for example, young black men in some age groups to be twenty-two times more likely to be murdered than young white men, is not compassionate. It is a failure that destroys lives every day and will continue to do so until we reject the leftist narrative that insists that whites cannot state difficult truths about this black subculture.
J rejected this argument, and insisted that the real enemy of young black men are white police officers.
J reprimanded me for mentioning that Jordan Neely plead guilty after attempting to kidnap a seven-year-old girl, that he punched a random elderly woman in the face, breaking her bones, that he had a lengthy criminal record, and that he had been offered a kid-glove “alternative to incarceration” program, a program that he never completed. J accused me of “lynching Neely.” Of course I never “lynched” Neely. I was responding to leftist calls for violence and hate against Good Samaritan Daniel Penny, and misrepresentations of Neely as a “beloved street performer” whom Daniel Penny killed for no other reason than he was a white man predisposed to killing a black man.
Daniel Penny, J wrote, “killed a man. He should be punished.” I note that when a white Marine is accused of killing a black criminal, the Left abandons its stance on restorative justice and suddenly supports punishment, a position it rejects when the accused is black.
J objected to my posts about trans extremism. In fact he questioned whether or not trans extremism exists. I pointed J to this and this. He did not respond. J objected to my using the word “Woke.” If I remember correctly, he asked me for a definition of the word. I offered a definition. Again, J did not respond.
J reprimanded me for posting about Antifa. I do not post about Antifa. This complaint is telling. As someone who critiques the Left, I am the enemy. The enemy is all alike. The enemy is obsessed with Antifa. Even though I don’t post about Antifa, J was convinced that I do.
Given that J has repeatedly reprimanded me recently, I did wonder if I was at least part of the inspiration of a poem J posted on June 5. J’s poem described “some friends on Facebook” who “deny the reality I know,” but who believe that “that God is as real as Coca-Cola.” In the poem, J describes himself as being “open to people who are different.” In contrast, the God believers who deny reality regard “openness to people who are different” as “a lie.” J describes himself as a dreamer, and those who disagree with him as “rude” people who want to flush his dreams “into the sewers.”
Comments below J’s poem were a communal “Amen” choir from other enlightened beings, so much better than I, so much more tolerant and loving and so highly intelligent that they would only mock the idea of God, a God who “filters up from swamps,” who is “rotting your teeth.”
One reader responded, “the masses are asses,” and “Don’t pay attention to these people, they aren’t worth your time.” One said, “The older I get the more I get angry at traditional religion people [sic]. It took me a lifetime of study to shed the pernicious claws, yet I expect everyone to have arrived at the same place as I.”
Well, golly. Maybe after a “lifetime of study” I can “arrive at the same” exalted place as someone who can’t differentiate between “religion” and “religious.”
I realized that in attempting to communicate with leftists, at least with Merlin, J, and SV, I’ve been wasting my time. These people hate me – even though I am, in their minds, nothing but a figment of their imaginations. They create their boogeyman version of us, and they erect that fantasy as a straw man, and they, as a group, clap each other on the back for how enlightened and superior they are, and then they burn the straw man they have erected. And that is the only reason we exist for them. I thought about that word “compassion.” The Left’s emphasis on “compassion” always attracted me.
As of ten years ago, two of my five siblings had already died young. Well, I had nine siblings, if you include the three pregnancies my immigrant mother lost to malnutrition. She and my father were poor, living in a cold water flat in Newark, and she was subsisting on “black coffee and cigarettes,” not exactly conducive to maternal good health. Ten years ago, I got word that my sister had a glioblastoma, a brain tumor known as “the terminator.” She had months to live. I don’t have words to conveys what it was like to watch my brilliant, older sister, the pretty one, the smart one, the one in charge of the world, succumb to a brain tumor.
On Facebook, I posted about loving my sister as much as I’ve ever loved anyone. I posted about changing her diaper. I posted about rubbing the soles of her feet as she breathed her last breath. I posted about our final visit to the Corrado’s produce store. We had selected pomegranates, an expensive treat I indulge in once a year, in autumn, if that, depending on harvest and prices. I posted about approaching the cashier, pomegranates in hand, and my sister coming up behind me, and grabbing the fruit out of my hands, and pushing ahead of me, and paying for my treat. She always did that. She always muscled her way between me and cashiers. At that moment, I realized that my sister would never buy me pomegranates again. Later, when I was home alone, I cried more after that realization than when I first Googled the word “glioblastoma” and the internet crushed any hope before I could even click on a link. I posted about all of that on Facebook. Just three years later, my eldest brother also died of cancer. I had regular nightmares for months. And I posted on Facebook.
I post about moments of joy, as well. When I was invited to speak about my book Bieganski at Georgetown University, and also in Poland. When I saw my first snowy owl. When I visited the spectacular Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, and shared my clunky amateur iris photos taken with a not-great phone camera. Facebook friends responded. They cried with me. They laughed with me. They ooo-ed and aaa-ed with me. And they did more.
Karen – and her name really is Karen and she really is a white woman – sent me one of the most poignant gifts I have ever received. She sent me a box of pomegranates. Katie, a big-time Trump supporter, sent me one of the most sentimental gifts I have ever received. It was a package bursting with little odds and ends she went out and purchased that spoke, to her, of my relationship with my sister. My sister and I both loved music; Katie filled the package with metallic confetti in the shape of musical notes. We loved to laugh in bed; she sent me photos of young girls laughing in bed.
Karen and Katie are both conservatives. We do not agree on everything. We had knock-down, drag-out disagreements. But in the gifts they sent, they acknowledged that they saw me as a full human being. I wasn’t someone they imagined to fit a self-flattering narrative. I was three dimensional. I was more than my political positions. Karen and Katie extended compassion to me. “Compassion” wasn’t just a word on a screen.
The other day, a leftist I have been Facebook friends with for over a decade posted on my page for the very first time. She protested my posts about trans extremism. This person had said nothing to me when I was sloppily spilling my guts in public over the deaths of my siblings. This person said nothing to me when I was bathed in floral beauty. For ten years, this person said nothing to me. This person spoke to me only to object to my resistance to trans extremism.
I recently griped on social media about my twenty-three-year-old car, bought ten years ago after my sister got her diagnosis. I knew, after a lifetime of car-less-ness, that I would need a car to take care of her. Once I, terrified and ignorant, hit the used car lot, my Facebook friend Scott, who used to be a car salesman, counseled me via telephone. Scott told me which used car to buy, and how much to pay. Without Scott, I would have paid twelve percent more than I did. Scott is far to the right of me. Conservative Scott’s behavior was compassion in action, rather than a word on a screen.
I don’t know anything about cars and I discovered the other day that I’ve been driving around without brakes, necessitating expensive repairs. I had an emergency medical appointment and the state ride service never showed up. In fact this taxpayer-funded ride service is notoriously lousy. Without my knowing it, four Facebook friends, all political conservatives, took up a collection and covered the brake repair. I don’t feel comfortable accepting charity but they conspired secretly, leaving with me a fait accompli, in the form of a fistful of cash that I couldn’t easily reject. And every one of these four friends is someone I’ve disagreed with passionately about important matters, for example for whom to vote in a presidential election. I debate fiercely and tenaciously and we really went to the mats. When I was desperate, they exercised compassion. Not a word on a screen. An action.
I’m not claiming that there is no compassion or tolerance on the left or that all conservatives are good people. No, no, no. I’m just reporting, here, anecdotes of my own experience. Needless to say, only a major study could provide clues as to whether these anecdotes are representational of wider trends. A 2021 study reports, “Our meta-analysis results suggest that political conservatives are significantly more charitable than liberals at an overall level.” Philanthropy Roundtable reports, “People with a religious affiliation give away several times as much every year as other Americans.” People who mock God and mock believers with Coca-Cola metaphors don’t give much to charity, we can conclude.
I’m going to continue to address leftists who reprimand me. I’m not going to do that because I think I can change their minds, because I’ve come to realize that they don’t hear me. It is more important to them to cling to their stereotypical straw man than to hear anything I say, because their straw man version of who I am proves their superiority. “The masses are asses,” as J’s friend said in response to his poem that may have been inspired by me. If the masses are asses, J is so much better.
No. I won’t continue to respond because I think I can change their minds. I will respond because responding helps me to challenge and improve my own position. It keeps me honest.
Danusha Goska is the author of God Through Binoculars: A Hitchhiker at a Monastery.