Walking around my sleepy, shoreline town in Connecticut, I routinely see Black Lives Matter signs outside the most opulent homes, whose residents are (I can attest) often white, over-educated, white-collar, impossibly snobbish, and perversely provincial. Next to the BLM sign — which reads “Silence is Violence” — might be a Biden/Harris 2020 campaign sign. And finally, a third sign, sometimes taped to a first-floor window but more often placed right in the center of the yard where everyone can see it, states very explicitly what the homeowners believed in, nay, fought for throughout the maddening era of Trump:
“IN THIS HOUSE, WE BELIEVE: BLACK LIVES MATTER / WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS / NO HUMAN IS ILLEGAL / SCIENCE IS REAL / LOVE IS LOVE / KINDNESS IS EVERYTHING”
More of these signs had sprung up weeks before the election, and even after. Some are placed outside boutique clothing stores, while others dot the town green. In every instance I saw the sign in a residential neighborhood, the home hosting it was quite nice, sometimes with Range Rovers or BMWs parked in the driveway. Through the windows, you could see people working remotely, in cushy home offices, safely quarantined from COVID and other stark realities.
The signs are my own daily reminder that the term “Orwellian” has become a go-to cliche to describe genteel progressivism in 2020. In George Orwell’s 1984, the ministries of the totalitarian Oceania display the Party’s slogans on the pyramid-shaped government buildings. “War is Peace,” claims the Ministry of Peace that engages in endless wars. The mendacious Ministry of Truth wants everyone to know, “Ignorance Is Strength.”
Rich progressives want others to know how superior they are, morally and intellectually. In practice, however, they undermine their most cherished slogans, like Orwell’s Ministries. Black lives matter! Never mind that they balk at the idea of building low-income public housing units in their own town. Science is real! Never mind that they believe in gender fluidity and various “isms” that defy the very real study of biology.
In the Biden era, how many more “In This House” signs will pepper the most affluent zip codes across the country?
Countless is my guess.
After four years of Trump, it seems like people who display the sign will want to protect the sense of superiority they cultivated when Orange Man was in office. The fact that over 70 million citizens voted for him confirms their long-standing suspicions about rural America, the South — MAGA country: it is brimming with backward, racist rubes. The rubes who follow a cult leader. If only they could code!
The “In This House” crowd will also want to forever signal their “radical chic,” to borrow Tom Wolfe’s phrase. At a certain point, when every house in the neighborhood has the traditional markers of suburban status — dazzling home renovations, big pool, big luxury SUV with bells and whistles, progeny with Ivy League degrees, and consulting jobs in New York — progressive sloganeering becomes the last best hope to outdo the next-door neighbor.