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Big Easy Judgments


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Jonah Goldberg

BIG EASY JUDGMENTS
New Orleans is a fascinating place. I have never been to a city more dedicated to alcohol and tourists — except Tijuana. Admittedly, I spent most of my time in the French Quarter, so named for the 18th-century owners — who were less prone to surrender than their 20th-century counterparts. In the French Quarter, if you ask a bartender for a drink, he responds, “for here or to go?” Most of the food is fried and greasy. Comestibles which are un-fried and un-greasy can and should be eaten by hand or with a spoon. Public consumption of booze is unremarkable and public inebriation is unavoidable. Music, usually live music, is playing everywhere.

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In short, it’s my kind of place.

There is a small problem with the Big Easy — other than the stifling humidity, the crumbling infrastructure, the rampant political corruption, the incessant David Duke TV commercials, and omnipresent fear of street crime. That problem is the Goths. The city, or at least the Quarter, is overrun with kids who because — I guess — they got beaten up in study hall too much (or not enough), have decided that the best response is to dress up like mutilated corpses. For those of you blissfully unplugged from this segment of the culture, a Goth is someone, hopefully not your own child, who dresses all in black but paints his or her face rat-belly white. The women are usually boastfully fat and the men are usually compensating. They all wear black eyeliner and their faces are so pierced with studs they could never make it through an airport metal detector. They seem to be deeply invested in the “vampire culture” of New Orleans, or at least that is what I surmised from a safe distance.

On several occasions I have written in this space bemoaning the fact that the only thing which people can be judgmental about these days are people who are judgmental. I have long contended that this is bunk because what this really means is that people are expected to judge everyone the same way. If some celebrate the fact they’re as gay as a French horn, well, that’s great if you think that being as gay as a French horn is great. But if you have even the teeniest problem with homosexuality or its celebration, you’re a bigot, i.e., “judgmental.” If you think adulterous behavior is something to be denounced, well, you’re a prude, also “judgmental.” But, hey, if you’re the good kind of “enlightened” person who thinks sleeping around is a plus for left-wing celebrities and politicians — then you can still denounce the “mean-spirited” people for being judgmental.

This is going to be an increasing problem for the cultural Left.

Young people always want to shock older people. What is that shock but an attempt to draw an immediate judgment from someone? That is what bumper stickers, PLO scarves, Black Power gloves, gay pride triangles and flags, Christian fish emblems, Darwin-Fish emblems, and Confederate flags are for — to elicit some kind of judgement from people. What is the point of making a statement if no one is supposed to conclude anything from it? The Goths prove this point in spades. They crave to be judged. After all, nobody puts a horse bridal through his septum, writes all over his body like a jailhouse wall in tattoo ink, and wears a political T-shirt that says “Satan 2000,” who doesn’t expect to be judged.

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