The great social sin of the left is gentrification, something that liberals are particularly heinous about. Growing up in Buffalo, I remember being quite conscious that the suburb in which I lived, Williamsville, was populated by the grandchildren or children of immigrants who at some point fled urban conditions. Still carrying inside them the Italian, Polish, German, Irish, Russian, Jewish, and Greek strivings that had brought them to America, they wanted spacious lawns, fancy cars, and shimmering pools. The generation of spoiled children of such strivers (myself included!) found Williamsville’s whitewashed pretenses embarrassing and swiftly ran off to colleges where they were taught to despise their own parents’ upward mobility.
Finished with college, almost none of them would move to Williamsville, even if they could afford one of the many duplexes in the town on entry-level salaries. No, no, they had to prove to WASPy America (the people who didn’t strive, but just sort of existed) that they weren’t tainted by the shameful compromises and failed assimilations of their grandparents.
So where did they move?
They moved to downtown Buffalo! Returning from New York City to my hometown in 1998, I found the neighborhoods like Allentown, Elmwood, and West Side overflowing with white liberals, many of whom I’d known in high school. I remembered them with upturned bangs, dungarees tapered with safety pins, and overpriced sweaters from the Limited, circa 1986, when they wouldn’t be caught dead on some street like Fargo or Ferry or Franklin.
But now, toting their bachelor’s degrees from places like SUNY Geneseo and Niagara University, they were reborn as über gay-friendly, metrosexual artsy parvenus, the hipsters immortalized in fin-de-siècle studies like Urban Families. They’d spent their teenage years distinguishing themselves from uncultivated peers by showing they had more money, less ethnic habits, and stauncher Republican values than those they condescended to. Now, still the snobs but in different apparel, they were spending their young adulthood distinguishing themselves from uncultivated peers by showing that they knew people at bodegas, could score pot on the West Side, and could eat with chopsticks.
This is how gentrification works. It’s a horrible white liberal game. First, there’s a stage where a young white liberal is born, usually in some painfully monochrome suburb where people argue about lawn care, get riled up about school board elections, and still go to church. The white liberal will later reject all the outward appearances of such a dull life, but the white liberal will never reject the craving to be better than neighbors: more of something–more hip, more educated, more successful, more popular, more stylish.
At some point the white liberal’s parents send the little parvenu off to college, where the white liberal meets people who grew up in Manhattan. Suburb shame sets in. The white liberal feels the poisonous class guilt for four years, dreading the moment when Mom and Dad will come for graduation and talk about their used car dealership or civil service job in front of classmates.
With diploma in hand, the white liberal wants to move to some area where he will be around other white liberals and will get cable access, decent internet service, safe transit, and affordable rents. But he must have other stuff too, which is less tangible: moral credit for living somewhere rugged, some interaction with expressive ethnic people, and close proximity to homosexuals who go “antiquing.”
The neighborhood that will best fit these requirements is often a place like the West Side of Buffalo, where I was born way back in 1971. There are historic homes where white liberal men can learn how to fix pipes and revive their fading sense of masculinity. On their block they will interact with Puerto Ricans, Vietnamese people, homosexuals, and a few black folks. They will feel oddly at home because it reminds them of their ethnic grandparents who immigrated a gazillion years ago to just such a run-down neighborhood. They will feel, however, safely removed from the stifling conformity they associate with their bourgeois parents and their Weight Watchers, cable satellites on the roof, and tacky gazebos.
There is a problem with this model of gentrification. It’s great for landlords, zoning regulators, and white liberals. But it drives up the rent and turns otherwise normal neighborhoods into neurotic extensions of the university multicultural centre (spelled “re” not “er”). Suddenly white liberals want to become your friend but they can’t help lecturing you about how oppressed you should feel and how you should join this or that urban movement for world peace, gay marriage, or Planned Parenthood. As the rents get higher, old greasy-spoons close down, and fake ethnic diners with overpriced menus abound, you make the decision my immigrant wife and I made in 2002–we decided to move out of the West Side of Buffalo and back to Williamsville, where I could get a break from the gentrification.
In the same way that white liberals have gentrified cities, they gentrified schools, the military, and businesses. Basically, anything that can be spurned and then suddenly deemed relevant in the mind of the ever-anxious and constantly evolving white liberal. Look at how the Intelligence Community and its 17 Big Brother organs have gone from being the greatest evil of the Bush Era to the perpetually cited authorities on Russian election fraud in the Trump Era. The CIA got gentrified.
So now, as I discuss in this video below, the last great frontier to be gentrified is church. HILLARY CLINTON WANTS TO BECOME A METHODIST MINISTER. Oh my heavens! They’re treating Christianity like an urban renewal project to score political points. We must stop this. If they ruin the churches there will be nowhere for us to go.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.