In the early ’80s (which now seems to be as long ago as the High Victorian era seemed to be to those looking backwards from the vantage point of the 1920s) acclaimed literary lion Norman Mailer took up the cause of a life-long convict, Jack Abbott by name … and discovered to his dismay that it was easier and safer to champion a violent felon at a considerable distance, than to actually wrangle the man close up. After being out of prison for a matter of weeks Abbott lost his temper and fatally stabbed another man … thereby demonstrating a certain drawback to an intellectual burnishing their public credit by adopting an edgy cause. It was liable to backfire, and make the adoptee appear to be a gullible prat. At about the same time, Tom Wolfe called it ‘radical chic’ and poured erudite derision on Leonard Bernstein for doing much the same with the Black Panther leadership.
Alas, since then, the politically trendy have taken to adopting more than single individuals and fringe elements as what a current wit termed ‘hood ornaments’ – to the point that an entire criminally-inclined urban underclass has been adopted wholesale by the civic leadership – adopted and excused every failure to be good and responsible members of the community. All this has made it interesting lately – not to mention dangerous – for an urban dweller working in retail, riding the public transport system, walking down the street, or even just living in an apartment building that doesn’t have iron-clad, 24-hour-a-day security. Ordinary people living in cities where defund-the-police and cater-to-the-homeless have become the primary focus of local government are on edge, unhappy, jittery … and in come sad recent cases, dead on a slab in the mortuary. It’s happened too often; an otherwise harmless person attacked for no particular reason by a street crazy. No wonder that Uber driver picking up a takeout order in a mall food court felt sufficiently threatened and shot the guy following him around the mall, shoving a phone in his face playing a nonsensical message. How can any sane person tell the difference these days between a genuine nutcase arguing with the voices in their head, and a prankster doing it for laughs and his Youtube channel? Hood ornaments are now the most valued constituency in just about every blue city.
And then there is the Portland (naturally!) school superintendent, more indignant about the public and parents of students having the nerve to be angry about a male student in a dress bullying and beating up genuinely female students. I definitely get the feeling that school superintendents and administrators across the nation have taken on gender-bending boys-claiming-to-be-girls as their primary hood ornament, such is the apparent enthusiasm for allowing boys in dresses and Maybelline to compete as girls on school-supported sports teams.
Comment and discuss. I should note that last weekend, I had a client meeting at a lovely venue on the edge of downtown San Antonio. We had arranged to meet in front of the Food Hall at the Pearl Brewery – a lovely redeveloped and very upscale reworking of a former 19th Century industrial brewery on the edge of downtown along the extended Riverwalk, which is now adorned with parks, lawns, ornate fountains, a boutique hotel and expensive apartment blocks over boutiques, restaurants and other upmarket retail. On weekends, there is a farmers market, rows of portable pavilions, with venders selling more gourmet groceries, meats, eggs, cheeses and artisan chocolates. People shop with their dogs on a leash or children in strollers; there is a splash fountain by the Food Hall that is very popular with children, especially on days as hot as last Saturday was. The Pearl was crowded with shoppers and their families – it was all very pleasant. And not an urban hood ornament in sight. I wonder why? Then again, this is Texas.