The Magazine

Living Like A Liberal

It’s hard work, politicizing your whole life.

Jul 19, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 41 • By MATT LABASH
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There are now 330 Living Liberally chapters in 50 states and around the globe. It’s no longer just a few longhairs knocking back pitchers of cheap suds, bitching about the Patriot Act. Living Liberally has become a way of life. There’s even a Liberal Card, a membership card which is “about showing your liberal pride, joining the liberal community and claiming your liberal discounts.” It’s printed on renewable green “CornCards,” rather than the petroleum that is blackening not only the brown pelicans of the Louisiana marshlands, but also our souls. 

As Krebs writes, Drinking Liberally “has never been about drinking .  .  . it’s about progressive politics in a social setting.” It’s about all of us being “in this together.” It’s not just about “how you vote on Election Day.” It’s about “how you vote with your wallet every day.” It’s not just about “what you chant at a rally, but what you laugh at or rock out to on your iPod.” It’s about saying “it’s about” a lot, and then saying something real meaningful afterwards. Like this: “Living like a liberal is never just about making politics personal, but about making personal politics public.” It’s about alliteration. 

I’m just going to be honest again: All this alliteration wet my whistle (see, it’s catching). I wanted to find out what it was all about. Krebs’s book was due for release on July 4, the day we gained our independence as a country. But I was ready to gain my own independence as an individual—independence from this disengaged, right-leaning, but mostly apolitical way of life I’d been enslaved by. So I secured an early copy.

The 538-item checklist was daunting. As Krebs admits, “Some of the ideas are hard, or even uncomfortable. You don’t have to do them all. Just think about them.” So I did. For roughly 10 days, I thought about them and undertook a good many of them. There was no way I could tackle them all. But it was clear that if I wanted to gain my independence by Independence Day by biting off a representative sample, I’d still be busier than a one-legged Obama in an ass-kicking contest. Time to get to work. 

Eating Liberally

Before I get started, it’s honesty-time again. If I’m going to adopt a new conscience, I have to clear my old one. Back when I was a conservative, I did, to my credit, have a few liberal tendencies, all of which are on Krebs’s list. I’d listen to NPR in the car, at least for as long as I could stand Ira Glass’s nasal voice. I’d read the liberal mainstream media—for fun, not to file bias reports with the Media Research Center. I’d recycle everything: newspapers, plastics, material (Don’t believe me? Read my piece from last year on spending a week eliminating my carbon footprint—it’s strikingly similar to this one). 

But the one very unliberal thing I did was shop at the philistine Safeway grocery store. I didn’t look to see if something was shade-grown or grass-fed. I’d just slap it in my cart like a careless drunk waving a loaded gun. So much of being a Krebsian liberal boils down to following your mother’s advice when, as a child, you’d chew on a plastic toy: “Don’t put that in your mouth, you don’t know where it’s been.” As Krebs writes in one of his frequent sidebars concerning conservatism, if you were spending conservatively, “you would never wonder where your purchases come from” and “would be more susceptible to being poisoned, damaged, or fatally injured by your food and children’s toys.” 

If I am to be a good liberal, then, I can no longer be a conservative child, harboring trace amounts of arsenic and ignorance. I have to think harder about what I am putting in my mouth. So no more Safeway for me. Krebs urges joining a food co-op. I check out the Maryland Food Collective, a “not-for-profit, worker-owned and operated organization” providing “quality, organic, seasonal, fair-trade, and healthy food” at affordable prices. I scout them using the Internet, because it’s 40 miles away, and I’m trying to drive less and “shrink my hoodprint” (whenever multiple Krebsian commandments are in conflict, I usually err on the side of laziness). 

Most of their recipes have offputting names. Food incongruity dominates the menu: “Famous Nut Burgers,” “Peanut Stew,” “Rainy Day Chili of Doom.” But with a full price list, I set about making my fantasy liberal sandwich with my fantasy liberal fixings: Three Seed Healthy Loaf Bread (90 cents), baba ghanoush (60 cents), four slices of tofurkey (80 cents), hummus (60 cents), bean spread (60 cents), tzatziki (35 cents), three slices of soy cheese (90 cents), and “goddess dressing,” which is like Thousand Island to non-Gaia worshippers (25 cents). It comes out to five dollars on the nose, without tax. What corporatist chain would’ve thought of making fantasy sandwiches with fresh ingredients for a mere five bucks?

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