Identity politics goes shopping


Jeff Bergner - The Virginian-Pilot



Whoever said that identity politics is taking over knows what he is talking about. These days we seem to be increasingly defined by our group membership, sometimes in surprising ways.

As I pulled into my grocery store parking lot the other day, I passed by the many rows of reserved handicapped parking spaces. As usual, most were empty. Indeed, a recent study by the leading analytics firm XYZ, Inc. estimated that the odds of every handicapped parking space being filled at once are less than being hit by lightning while shopping.

The one occupied space was filled by a sprightly middle-aged gentleman who bounded out of his car at near Olympic speed. He was probably late for his tee time.

As I continued past these reserved spots, I pulled into the next available space — only to discover that it too was reserved: for women with young children. Foiled again. But I am nothing if not polite to women and children, not to mention rule-bound, so I dutifully backed out and pulled in two spaces down the way.

But as I pulled in, I saw that this space too was reserved — for active military and veterans. I take a back seat to no one in my support for veterans, so I retreated once again. I did notice, though, that the uniformed military men and women shopping that day hadn’t parked in these spaces, somehow failing to appreciate the high honor they had been accorded.

My first reaction — admittedly never fully trustworthy — was that perhaps the grocery chain had taken things a bit far. But I quickly thought better of it, and decided that this practice of assigned parking spaces hasn’t gone nearly far enough. I need to get with the program; there are surely lots more groups out there who deserve their own designated spaces. Anyone who has ever suffered discrimination of any kind could surely make a plausible claim for a near-in parking space. Marginalized groups of all kinds should be fairly compensated.

While we are at it, surely all those Americans with Trump Derangement Syndrome should be accommodated. Haven’t these poor souls suffered enough?

As a white male, I have a pretty good idea where I will be parking when the smoke clears and each group has its fair share of reserved spaces. In the great scheme of things, being left-handed is far and away my best hope for a space within walking distance to the store.

So I took matters into my own hands and pre-emptively parked out on the parking lot’s fringe, out where the paranoid owners of slightly more expensive vehicles park sideways to avoid dents and dings.

As I walked to the store, I discovered that it was refreshing to atone for the many forms of privilege with which I have been blessed. Besides, I need the exercise.

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Jeff Bergner

The Virginian-Pilot

Jeff Bergner lives and shops in Norfolk, Va. He wrote this for The Virginian-Pilot.

Jeff Bergner lives and shops in Norfolk, Va. He wrote this for The Virginian-Pilot.

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