Tuesday, July 01, 2008

I WANT YOU TO HURT LIKE I DO. Crunchy Rod Dreher is back from vacation -- which was not spent, as I had hopefully fantasized, scouting locations for the New Jerusalem, but in such normal yuppie pursuits as wine-tasting, restaurant-hopping, and driving an SUV. No sooner has he unpacked his cilices that he starts bitching about other educated white people whose attitudes perversely differ from his own.

See, while Dreher enthuses over Jesus and Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, some honkies choose to enthuse over what they call their "vibrant" neighborhoods "where blacks, whites, gays and Hispanics all live together." Dreher thinks they're just trying to make him feel bad:
White people who use the word "vibrant" to describe a piece of real estate on which ethnic or tattooed people live really want to make a statement about their own broad-mindedness or social progressivism (versus the supposed fear and closed-mindedness of suburban white people). This is why I'm so fascinated by the word. It's an elite white-people social marker, a sign that one-upsmanship is being attempted.
It's not that Dreher doesn't approve of or use the word "vibrant." He just doesn't like it when folks use it on multi-ethnic neighborhoods.

How then should we speak of these neighborhoods? Emulating Dreher's own example, we might speak of our Hispanic neighbors as a potential threat to our real estate values ("We are close, though, to a barrio... should I sell my house while I still can, or risk putting up with crime and the degradation of the quality of life in the neighborhood?").

Or of our gay neighbors as disgusting perverts ("I was amazed by how a city park in my neighborhood became a popular cruising grown for gay men seeking sexual encounters after dark... what are the rest of us supposed to think about gay male culture, and the degree to which it self-defines according to behavior that most people rightly find repulsive?").

To be fair, maybe it's not the racial or gender-preferential identity of specific neighbors that bugs Dreher. In a 2007 column he says, "the day will never come when we give [our children] permission to play unsupervised on our front lawn," because his neighborhood contains "halfway houses for sex offenders," "stray dogs," and "dodgy older teenagers from someplace else." Dreher laments that his urban nabe is not like the rural Louisiana hamlet in which he was raised.

You can understand why he'd object to "vibrant," or just about any other positive adjective applied to such places. Poor Dreher just plain doesn't like where he lives. He would prefer to live in Bumfuck or Coon Holler, so long as he could also have access to all the conveniences of a large city. It's bad enough that he can't have it all, geographically speaking. That some people who live in cities are content, even enthusiastic about where and how they live -- well, that just steams his vegetable dumpling.

I really hope he gets to exercise his Benedict Option, not just for the comic potential but also for his own sake. No man can serve two masters, and Dreher's unappeasable yearning to have the bright lights of the big city and the ol' swimmin' hole will eventually drive him crazier than he already is.

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