Previous Fairfax journalist owns up to the leftist disease, by David Leser, who now works as a consultant after 37 years in Australian journalism, much of it at Fairfax.
A few weeks before Donald Trump was inaugurated as 45th president of the United States, I played tour guide to my American cousin on her first ever visit to Australia. We’d met only once, 34 years earlier, on her family farm outside Birmingham, Alabama: she, the adorable, gummy-toothed five-year-old; me, the 28-year-old reporter visiting from New Orleans. Not once in the intervening years had we managed to meet, but here she was, an elegant woman, whip-smart and funny, sitting in the passenger seat of my car as I showed her the sights of Sydney. …
Somehow – and I guess this was inevitable given the recent political earthquake in the US – the conversation turned to politics and she said something that made me start.
“Oh God, you didn’t vote for Trump did you?” I asked, half in jest, because at that point in my life I’d never actually met a Trump supporter.
“As a mat-ah-fact aaah deed,” she said in her deep Southern drawl.
It was a glorious sun-kissed morning and we were actually cresting Heartbreak Hill, the two-kilometre stretch of road between Rose Bay and Vaucluse, when she uttered these words, and I had what can best be described as an “amygdala hijack” – a takeover of the brain’s limbic system. Faster, shallower breathing; increased heart rate; dilated pupils; a flood of stress hormones, mainly cortisol – all resulting in general loss of conscious reasoning.
“I can’t f…ing believe it,” I said, raising my voice and pulling over to the kerb. “You mean I’m driving around Sydney with a f…ing Trump supporter, and she happens to be my cousin.”
Her reply was mint-julep-on-the-front-porch composure, spiced with challenge. “Don’t tell me you think that woman would have made a better president of our country?” she said evenly.
“Are you out of your mind?” I screamed. “Donald Trump is a psychopath. He’s a sociopath. He’s a pathological narcissist.”
I can’t quite remember what else was said – a common occurrence, I’m told, among people whose amygdalas have been commandeered (think Mike Tyson chewing off Evander Holyfield’s ear during their 1997 heavyweight title fight) – but I’m sure there were words bandied about like “Mexicans” and “Muslims” and “pussies” and “walls” and “emails” and “barefaced lies”.
“Look, I don’t think I can do this,” I said, reaching across the front seat to open her door.
“Are you throwing me out of your car?” she replied with a look of pained incredulity.
“I don’t know,” I spluttered. “Yes. No. Of course I’m not.”
And then we resumed our journey around the foreshores, me anguished and white-knuckled behind the wheel; she seemingly self-possessed, but probably just as troubled.
“Wow, Cuz,” she said after a few minutes, obviously trying to light some kindling under our frozen silence. “Perhaps we should talk about something else in future.” …
How does this leftist comes to terms with his rotten, hypocritical behavior?
In the days, weeks and months following my conniption in the car I stewed over my reaction. I was ashamed of how I’d responded to my cousin, not because I thought I was wrong about Trump, but because of the way I’d expressed my views. Truth be told, I’d been violent. Violent in my thinking. (This cousin of mine is … what was Hillary’s word? Yes. Deplorable.) Violent in my speaking. (I’m driving around Sydney with a f…ing Trump supporter.) Violent in my actions (nearly ejecting her from my car).
I’d proved myself no better, no less self-righteous, no less dogmatic and contemptuous than those I’d criticised for their so-called narrowness or ignorance. In fact, I’d probably proved myself worse, given my job as a journalist is to seek views from all sides.
And therein lay the rub. I hadn’t even asked my cousin why she’d voted for Trump in the first place. …
I didn’t know because I hadn’t asked.
Well, nice to see one of them admit it and apologize. I’ve been through that scenario several times, like many of us unfortunate enough to mention something political around a virtue signaler whose identity is that they are a superior person because they believe in the PC myths.
Decades of virtue-signalling corrupts character. Living in the PC fantasy world distorts the impulse for truth terribly.
In the days and weeks after our trouble-filled car trip, my cousin and I met regularly for family breakfasts, lunches and dinners. We talked books and films and — with my daughters — music, fashion and dating. We exchanged private intimacies about lost loves. We explored issues relating to faith and reason. We laughed. We cried. We bonded. I grew to love her. …
For months I couldn’t stop thinking about my weaknesses — intellectual arrogance being just one of them — and how at the heart of my response to my cousin was the casus belli for every war, every act of religious intolerance, ethnic hatred, racial discrimination and environmental vandalism that had ever plagued human history: “I’m right. You’re wrong. I know the truth. You don’t.” That’s the hell realm of today’s political discourse: a crescendo of mutual disgust and loathing delivered in a forest of hashtags and 140-character assassinations.
Only for some Mr Leser, only for some.