A word about hypocrisy … and guilt

“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
—Jesus, Matthew 7:4-5

So there I was at Safeway, fingers still sore from typing last week’s column, in which I’d ranted about electronic privacy and talked of my intention to go cash—to stop using grocery store cards, credit cards, club discounts that all feed some chunky and misconstrued representation of me in marketing and government databases.

So there I was, with my cheesy crackers and cranberry juice, on sale, cheap-cheap, if only one were to possess the coveted Safeway card.

So there I was, typing my phone number into the Safeway computer matrix, once again, to save a fat, juicy 45 cents.

I am a hypocrite.

I know some readers are waiting for me to write a feisty “conservatives are hypocrites” counter-indictment. “Fight back,” you say.

It ain’t gonna happen.

Not that I haven’t been tempted. I’ve downloaded those clever lists from the Internet. Hilarious bits. If you want to read that kind of thing, Google “conservative hypocrisy” and enjoy.

The temptation was stronger today when I read the latest installment of my favorite campus tab—the Pack Patriot. The paper is full of passion and naiveté, but I can’t mock it. It gives me hope to think that a few college students care enough about their world to engage in the exhausting task of compiling a 10-page Republican newspaper.

No, this space is for my confession.

Bless me, readers, for I have sinned.

I’ve bought and sold stock in Starbucks, a company I love to loathe. I’ve thrown plastic bottles in the trash. I’ve shopped at Wal-Mart.

Though I’ve written at least two columns about the evil empire, a friend from far away sent the family a Wal-Mart gift card for Christmas.

I hadn’t been in the place for two years. It smelled familiar, like French fries and fabric. I ducked in, wearing sunglasses and a scarf over my head, and bought household supplies for the adult children who’ve moved into their own places.

No one recognized me. I hope.

After my last Wal-Mart column, a single mom e-mailed me. She works overtime so that she can spend $50 a week on food, clothes, laundry detergent and toothpaste. Where should she shop, if not Wal-Mart?

Last semester, a student came by my office feeling glum. Her problem? Friends had observed that her vegetarianism seemed at odds with her leather shoes.

I tried to be reassuring. We make choices, I said, to live our lives at whatever level of conscious consumption we can manage. It’s better than giving up.

I think about this tonight, sipping cabernet under the stars. On my deck. Kicking back in my guiltiest of pleasures, a spa.

What authentic liberal can justify a 300-gallon tub of 104-degree water in the backyard? I don’t deserve this. People are dying of thirst in developing countries as I sit and soak.

So here I am.

The moon moves behind the clouds. Planes take off from the Reno-Tahoe Airport and fly overhead, banking along the ridge of hills east of my cul de sac.

A perplexing passage from the Tao de Ching comes to mind:

“Throw away holiness and wisdom, and people will be a hundred times happier. Throw away morality and justice, and people will do the right thing. Throw away industry and profit, and there won’t be any thieves.

“If these three aren’t enough, just stay at the center of the circle and let all things take their course.”