I don’t think we get it about liberal guilt -- and by the way, it isn’t just a liberal phenomenon, though liberals display it more conspicuously than most.  As a society, we love to be condemned, so long as everyone knows that we join in the condemnation, everyone sees us beating our chests, and everyone knows that we want someone to do penance for us.   We convince ourselves of complicity even in things we haven’t done.


Many say the guilt arises from a sense of undeserved affluence and good fortune.  After all, isn’t the accusation “privilege”?  Affluence may be a contributing factor, but I don’t think it explains liberal guilt all by itself.  Perhaps such guilt has something to do with failure to use affluence for the good of others.  On the other hand, those who are most afflicted by it do claim to use their affluence for the good of others.  Don’t they support all the right causes?  And don’t they let everyone know it?

It seems to me that we are most likely to feel guilty about affluence if we are already disposed to feel guilty for other reasons.  What other reasons?

Clue:  The people we are talking about don’t usually accept every accusation; they don’t feel guilty about everything whatsoever.  They convict themselves of all charges except the ones that are most obviously true.  Why?  Because they deny the ones that are most obviously true.

The nail driven into conscience seeks relief.  We are a people who slaughter our babies and the babies of the poor, so we accuse ourselves of white supremacy instead.