Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

The Road to Hell

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“You Americans are so obsessed about race!” He said, one or three drinks in him, “All you talk about is race. This is why you have such problems with racism.”

I had just met him, sitting at a friend’s birthday party in 2008 or so, held in some tony fried chicken joint in Koreatown. “We in France aren’t racist; it doesn’t dominate our discussion like it does here. We transcend race.”

“What about the riots in Clichy-sous-Bois?”


Here, have some frustrated fulmination with your barbeque. My friend had, to save money in our lovely New York economy and also perhaps meet some of those illustriously cultured foreigners we hear so much about, decided to open up her home to a succession of young, self-important backpackers – prior even to the popularity of AirBnB. Her latest charge was this 20-something French boy.

To his credit, he had, with an incredible command of concision, explained to me everything I needed to know about French liberalism. We are brothers, France and America; recognizably siblings but clearly raised in different households. However, this creature opened my eyes to the incredible gaps that can manifest in an ostensibly liberal worldview. He had remarkably insightful comments about Austrian economic policies and plenty to say about the evils of American interventionism, but there was indeed a hole you could land a Boeing airliner in.

He provoked a strong feeling in me to be better than him, to prove myself better than him, his system, his entire culture. To defend my culture, the first step was to figure out if we had similar blind spots. The answer is holy shit yes. Indeed, while I watch the slow, inexorable death knell of the Republican Party, I expect the future of the newly-inherited country to be dictated as to what manner in which the big tent of the Democratic Party splits. It will split exactly where our liberal blind spot sits.

There is something to be said about good intentions. If I were to put the finger on the issue with American liberalism it is our paternalist interventionism – both abroad and domestically. Just as it is impossible to treat a Muslim with equality if one believes Islam is a religion that is incompatible with liberal society, so too do I see the sin of lowered expectations concerning minority public school children in the eyes of self-avowed New York liberals. Why?

Why do self-avowed New York liberals who eschew the fallacy of our meritocracy still apply its falsehood to the disadvantaged? It’s a problematic within liberalism where one can shroud oneself in the balm of being a good person without examining one’s own biases. Indeed, the idea of “good white people” is that very conceit, the one where we can quote Voltaire against Muslim extremists and put up protections for Jewish communities in response to the attack when Voltaire was virulently anti-Jewish himself.

Does that aspect of his person destroy his works? Not especially, but it’s certainly something that infused his character. Such double standards are similarly infused in our satire, at least as an undercurrent. It is such that I see the Democratic Party splitting into two camps: Those who can see that undercurrent for what it is, and those who can’t. France is our brother, but I would like to prove that we are the older brother.

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