20 years ago I was living in a liberal America. Or at least I thought so. I was living in an open-minded college town in back woods Massachusetts that had constructed a beautiful utopia. It was a version of “liberal” made for itself, made to measure for the lucky few: The white. The artists. The academics. Those who can afford a higher education.
I foolishly believed that the little village of Amherst and nearby Northampton were a micrography of our bright future. That they, were the hothouses of a new, fairer society beckoning us from the not-too-distant future. That they, would eventually expand, spreading their “liberalisn” all over the world. But rather than hothouses, it turned out they were merely insular enclaves.
Because liberalism is not having the country’s only unofficial lesbian college. Liberalism is not offering Vegetable Jambalaya in the student cafeteria where white students can pretend they are having African food. Liberalism is not blocking Starbucks, McDonalds and Cineplex from setting up shop in your eclectic little high street, disguising this decision as a revolt against capitalism. Liberalism is not allowing me to attend class in full mohawk in broad daylight, as much as I enjoyed that.
Liberalism is not exceptionalism.
Liberalism is about fundamental human rights. It is about inclusivity, not eccentricity. Liberalism is about education opportunities for all, not just the rich, and the foreign students like me who felt more welcome in your country than some of your own more disadvantaged citizens. Liberalism is about universal healthcare. It is about equality not when you see it on paper, but when you see it on the street: when you compare adjacent American towns like Northampton and Springfield, who look like they belong on different continents: the former a bohemian utopia for the few, the latter, a shrine to America’s post-capitalist decline and failure to unite its races and classes.
Liberalism has no colour. Liberalism comes from the heart. Liberalism is socialism. Oh America, you’ve broken my heart, yet again.