Lament for a Lost Liberal

See No Reason, Hear No Reason, Speak No Reason ~

It started more than thirty years ago. He was accepted into an Ivy League school and his little sister put him on a plane and said goodbye. Years later, she realized that the goodbye was permanent. He came home for visits, of course, but he wasn’t the same. She wasn’t the same. He was enlightened, progressive, better than she who had stayed behind. She was still Southern; he had left, gone far North to a big city. He was better than little sister.

Or so he reasoned. Only he who leaves this place can be successful; the farther the better, and this he still claims. Is he right? One can not argue if one is still in the South, if one does not have quite as many letters after one’s name. Such a stubborn rebel is pariah in his world, and yet he tried for years to change the little sister he had left behind, tried to indoctrinate her, but she grew up and saw the cloud over him. She stayed away.

They tried to remain close, but he was already lost. She remembers each moment of sad realization, even the simple things. He was visiting for the holidays, a rock video was on in the background. It was WASP. Do you know what that means? He hissed. No, she answered. It’s White Anglo-Saxon Protestant and they are racist and hateful, he spewed as if he had just spit out poison. She remembers wondering why it was bad to be white, Anglo-Saxon, or Protestant; for that is exactly what he was. Had he forgotten? This was the same blonde boy who read his Bible every morning. The same white boy who told her not to forget to say her prayers every night. This was the same green-eyed soul who descended directly from the Angles and the Saxons. Why was he ashamed of himself?

Years passed and it was more of the same. One Christmas, little sister recommended a book. He responded vehemently, I’ll never read that trash. A year later, he was reading that very book. Why? A colleague recommended it, and so he recommended it to little sister, having completely forgotten that she had read it before it was fashionable. She knew then she could never compete with one deemed a colleague.

More years passed and Big Brother seemed settled with the latest non-white boyfriend. No one in the family objected. No one was bothered. No one cared about his homosexuality. Still, we were backward Southerners. Still, his very young Asian boyfriend wanted to see all things Southern when he visited Atlanta the first time. Scarlet O’Hara? Let’s go the museum! Still, Southerners were somehow racist in their minds even as they expressed shock and fear at all the black people around us. I’m standing behind you, he said.

Little sister visited him in San Francisco and she noticed the difference in classes right away. All the brown people were driving buses, picking up trash, cleaning here and there. She asked, Where do they live? You can barely afford this place. Big Brother nonchalantly waved in the direction of the Oakland Bridge and answered, Oh, all those people live over there. Those people? In his mind it was reasonable to say that and at the same time excoriate the South for having racial tensions.

Just the same, Big Brother likes to travel and see where those people come from. Annually, he goes on planned tours with guides to expensive resorts all over the map. He calls this experience. He says he travels and knows what it is like out there. He says little sister should do the same, for if one rarely leaves the South one can not possibly have a learned opinion. Big Brother declares proudly that he knows what he is talking about; he does not live in a bubble like she does. Big Brother makes these assertions from his plush office on a liberal campus from a liberal city and it is the only job he has had since adulthood. In fact, he has been entrenched on a liberal campus since he first got on that plane. Big Brother just might be in a bubble after all.

Years pass. More of the same. Little sister expresses consternation at the overtly sexual spectacle gay pride parades have become. Big Brother says he can no longer take any more of her racism and bigotry. Big Brother says she is a Nazi. Big Brother refuses to try to reach her any more for her life is tragic. She is still in the South and she likes it. She is a lost cause. Big Brother does not know that he has been lost for decades.


Rachel Summers