A few weeks ago, my wife and I were preparing to go to a book sale. As I dressed, she persuaded me to change the pants I’d put on and wear a different pair of pants. And to wear a different pair of shoes.
I put on the pants and shoes, then asked her if she thought the shirt I was wearing was OK. She said she thought it was fine.
At some point, I must have stated the obvious by saying something such as, “It makes absolutely no difference to me what I wear.”
My wife then commented, “You may not know it, but people know who you are and have an image of you.”
It’s easy for me to believe that all over the area I am known and what I am known as is The Liberal. People see me and recognize me. They may not even know my name. But they have a name they use to call me. The Liberal.
They talk about The Liberal and all the outrageous liberal things he’s writing, saying and doing — about the way he’s using his elitist bully pulpit to wreck everything that’s good and decent.
To take a hypothetical example, I imagine a couple talking in the kitchen of their South Lake Charles home. The husband has just returned to the home from his day of labor. He’s filling his wife in on what’s happened to him since he last saw her.
“I saw The Liberal today,” he says.
“In the bookstore.”
“The bookstore. What’s that?”
“Oh, yeah. Lemme guess. He bought a book.”
“What was it — The Satanic Bible?”
“Well, I had a hard time seeing the book cover. But I saw the word CLASSICS on it in big letters.”
“CLASSICS. See, he’s a pseudointellectual. These liberal elitists always want you to think they’re reading some complicated intellectual frou-frou.”
“I did manage to see the name of the writer. Henry Adams.”
“Henry Adams. I gotta remember to Google that.”
“Don’t bother. You know it’s just going to be some leftist bleeding heart academic with the 10,000 dollar words; some guy who calls himself a humanist when he’s really just a socialist.”
“Socialist … communist … same thing. I never can remember that.”
I imagine another couple talking in Moss Bluff.
“I saw The Liberal today.”
“In that yogurt shop Kaitlyn and I were going to. He was eating some food and talking to the guy behind the counter.
“What was he eating?”
“I’m not sure what it was. It looked like a hot fudge sundae.”
“I’m surprised he wasn’t eating some kind of froo froo health food yogurt with lots of fruit and nuts.”
“He kept talking about some friend of his.”
“I guess some radical friend he knew in one of his old leftist hang-outs like Portland or Berkeley.”
“No, I think it was a friend he has now. Sounded like it was somebody around here.”
“Whaddya mean ‘around here’?”
“I don’t know. Sounded like his friend lived in this area. Maybe in Lake Charles.”
“Oh great! So now there are two liberals here! We’re moving.”
“Oh, yeah? Well, where are we moving to, big shot?”
“I don’t know. Maybe Iowa. Jennings. Some place that’s really conservative and not just pretend conservative.”
“No sir! If we’re going to go to all the trouble of moving, we’re not going to move to just some other bump in the road. We’re moving to Baton Rouge at the very least.”
“Baton Rouge! But baby, you know that place is full of … ”
“Well it is.”
“I don’t care. I’m not taking the trouble of moving to one more place where the big excitement every week is waiting for a table at Chili’s.”
I imagine another couple discussing their day in a comfortable den in a spacious Shell Beach home.
“I saw The Liberal today.”
“Walking down the street. Down Ryan Street. He had his fingers in his ears.”
“His fingers in his ears? What in the world?”
“I guess it was because of the ambulance going down the street.”
“Aw, him’s afwaid him’s goin’ to hurwt his sensitive wiwwle earwdrums. Him’s dewicate!”
“Walking around in public with his fingers in his ears. Little freak.”
“Yeah, a freak. Was he wearing Birkenstocks?”
“Uh … no … uh … I … uh … I don’t think he can afford ‘em … I mean, judging from the way he looked and all.”
“But if he could afford to wear them, he would.”
“It’s hard to pull yourself up by your bootstraps when you’re wearing Birkenstocks. ”
“Ha ha. That’s a pretty good one.”
As sorry as I am to say it, I fear I’m sometimes the source of dissention in a relationship. I imagine a wife greeting her husband as he comes home from work to the family home on Lake Street. As soon as his wife utters her usual domestic greeting, the husband tells her his news.
“I saw The Liberal today.”
“Yeah, what was he doing?”
“He was standing in line at the drugstore, buying some chocolate biscotti. As a great big liberal, he’s probably always telling people how horrible processed junk food is.”
“Sounds like a hypocrite.”
“If he weren’t a hypocrite, he’d want to pass laws against junk food, like that mayor in New York. Imagine —government telling people they can’t buy food. Socialist!”
“But dear … are you really sure he’s a liberal? I mean, he’s always writing such horrible things about Obama.”
All of a sudden, her husband falls silent. All his features have dramatically altered so that they reflect the feeling of disappointment … and a little sadness. The wife, slightly scared, says, in a tentative voice,
“Dear … is anything wrong? Did I say something wrong?”
“Is it too much for a guy to ask to have a cold beer when he comes home from work?”
“No, no, no. Of course not. Now you just go in the living room and sit in your chair. I’ve got the TV turned on to Fox News.”
“Don’t want Fox News. Want ESPN.”
“Well, that’s fine. I put the remote on the arm of your chair. You just watch whatever you want. I’ll bring your Bud lite and put your favorite camo LSU sleeve on it. I’ll be there in just a minute, pumpkin.”
And then, I think there may be times when I bring couples together. I imagine an impatient husband, waiting for his wife to return to the couple’s Kirkman Street apartment. At long last, she’s home.
“Finally got back from the grocery store. Well, you sure took your time.”
“Aw, don’t be mad at me. I got you something special.”
“The new Lagniappe.”
“Aw. Good. What’s The Liberal got to say this time? Read it to me.”
“OK. First headline. ‘Obama Little Sissy Compared To Putin.’”
“Naw, naw, naw! Skip that one. What’s next?”
“’Jindal Budget Cuts Short-sighted, Cruel.’”
“Ah, this is going to be great. Hold on a second. I want to get a fresh beer for this one.”
Sometimes I wish I could tell people around here that I am The Conservative, and not The Liberal at all. But I just don’t think I could master the conservative ideology — or any ideology for that matter. I suspect I just don’t have the brainpower for it. And I know I’m not going to spend the time it would take me to get even a facile understanding of the very rudiments of an ideology. I just don’t think it’s in me.
A few days ago, a guy walked up to me in my yard and asked me if I would give him $10 if he raked the leaves. I told him I didn’t mind the leaves; kind of liked them in fact. But I told him I’d give him a crisp new $20 bill if he just looked at me and told me I had no political ideology of any kind. He just bowed his head and walked away, obviously disappointed.
My wife’s also told me that I’m like the boy in the back of the crowd who yells out that the emperor has no clothes on. That little boy doesn’t yell out political slogans. He just yells out descriptions of what he sees.
I don’t know. In the end, I’m not sure whether it would be better to be called The Little Boy In The Back Of The Crowd than The Liberal.