Like many suburban kids, I spent a lot of time at the mall. There was one in particular in a neighboring suburb that I went to more than any other. As a child, I would accompany my parents and grandparents while they did their shopping, all the while doing my best to divert them into the toy sections of Gimbel’s, Boston Store, Sears, and the other department stores. I could usually finagle a G.I. Joe figure or some other small toy out of these trips, in exchange for my being reasonably well-behaved and putting up with being dragged along through endless aisles of clothes, appliances, and other things that mean absolutely nothing to a six year-old.
As I got older, and became less interested in toys and more interested in girls, the mall was still the place to be. My friends and I started going there in the evenings, first on the bus and then driving just as soon as one of us had access to a car, and we did our best to act cool and impress the girls from other schools that we met there. Mall security was not terribly fond of us, but we never did anything too out of line.
Our neighborhood mall used to be pretty nice. It’s always catered more to working and lower-middle class people, and so it’s never been upscale, but back in the 70s and 80s it was kind of a community hub for several of the outlying suburbs. It was a popular spot for senior citizens, who would go there in the mornings and often spend the whole day socializing and getting exercise by walking around the mall. They didn’t add a “food court” — those obnoxious fast food dystopias that are now ubiquitous at malls everywhere — until the late 80s, and so the food options were instead the lunch counter at Woolworth’s or the handful of restaurants scattered throughout the mall, some of which were located inside the large department stores, like cities within cities.
I’ve long since moved away from my old stomping grounds, and I did finally outgrow hanging out at malls, but the other day I had occasion to visit the old neighborhood mall again to do some Christmas shopping with my mother. Somehow, somewhere in the course of the last fifteen years or so, the place has become multicultural hell.
As we stood in line waiting to check out at one of the stores, the Mexican father behind us loudly spoke Spanish to his rambunctious children. When we got to the counter, the polite but incompetent young South Asian checkout guy fumbled around with the scanner and the register, perhaps still learning the ropes on his first day of work or something.
Outside the store in the main mall was a diverse palette of human colors, not like a rainbow or a pretty flower garden, but rather like a Jackson Pollock painting – a chaotic, violent assortment of blacks, browns, yellows and whites, speaking different dialects or even different languages, and having no common culture save for base consumerism. No one group was numerically dominant – whites and Mexicans were probably the two biggest groups — and no one seemed especially comfortable.
Coldly surveying the whole scene from a second-floor balcony was a police officer, obviously ex-military, armed with a Glock 9mm pistol.
Welcome to the future. What was once a decent place that served a real role for a community is now just an economic zone where strangers exchange money and goods. There’s no point trying to strike up a conversation with your neighbor in line, because he doesn’t even speak the same language as you. (Fortunately for him, many of the stores now have bilingual signs.) Does the store really expect me to get in the holiday spirit when I’m wished “Merry Christmas” by an immigrant who neither celebrates Christmas in his native country nor speaks my language well enough to say it properly?
My mom and I left the mall and walked back to our car in the parking lot, not saying much. Finally I said, “It sure has changed a lot since I was a kid.”
“Yeah,” she said. “It’s just that . . .” She struggled with the words for a moment, trying to express her feelings but also suppressing them somewhat. “Where did all those people come from? So many of them don’t even speak English. I don’t mean to sound bitter, but … Yes, actually I do mean to sound bitter because I am. It’s nothing personal against anyone, but what the hell happened?”
I knew exactly what she meant, of course. White people in America are taught that any desire on their part for a traditional, homogeneous community is morally wrong — somehow an affront to the rights and dignity of others. And so they remain silent while this kind of displacement and deconstruction goes on all around them, suppressing their natural feelings which tell them the truth about it.
The truth is that such a desire is present in all peoples, and is natural and good. The truth is that none of us are better off in multicultural hell, because cultural bonding only occurs between individuals within a common culture, not between different cultures.
People in multicultural hell are not as at ease as they were in traditional cultures, because they do not have the same bonds of trust and affection between one another. So everyone just wanders around the global mall, half trepidacious and half numb, trying in vain to make themselves feel good about life by buying more useless crap.
I had a good conversation with my mom about the politics behind these changes, and explained the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act to her. In many ways, my mother is entirely typical of white Americans, in that she doesn’t bear any particular grudge towards immigrants or non-whites, and certainly doesn’t want any innocent people harmed in any way. But at the same time, she knows in her heart that her country — her neighborhood — is being changed beyond recognition, and it feels wrong.
No one ever consulted her about it. She never had the chance to vote on it one way or another. And now she doesn’t know what to do about it or even what to say about it, because no one in the mainstream media will so much as mention it. So she goes about her life, maybe letting slip the occasional racial slur among close friends, almost as a way to relieve a little of the pressure — the bitterness — that keeps building up as the situation gets worse and worse.
Conventional thought holds that people like my mom are evil. Her inability to bask in the wonders of diversity clearly indicates that she wants to enslave Africans, stone homosexuals, roast Jews in ovens (then deny it), and probably even take away her own right to vote, being a woman and all. But she doesn’t want to do any of that and she’s not evil. She just wants to be left in peace among people she feels kinship with, and wishes the same for everybody else.
Santa, if you’re listening, please give my mom what she wants for Christmas. And please get all these minorities out of my mall.