The Left's All-or-Nothing Mentality

Marchers participating in "Our Feminism Must Be Intersectional Rally/March" in East Liberty, Pa., Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. (Lake Fong/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

These days we’ve almost become immune to the stunts that members of the left in this country pull to get attention. Nothing liberals do seems far-fetched anymore. That’s what made the suicide by immolation of LGBT attorney David Buckel so shocking.


Buckel set himself on fire and ended his life not over the issue of gay rights but as an environmental protest. As the New York Daily News reported:

The charred remains of David Buckel, 60, were discovered shortly after sunrise when firefighters responded to a 6:40 a.m. blaze in the southwest corner of the sprawling Brooklyn park.

“I am David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide,” read a hand-written suicide note left near the blackened circle of burned grass. “I apologize to you for the mess.”

Buckel rose to fame when he served as the lead counsel in the lawsuit involving the murder of transgender teen Brandon Teena, the subject of the Oscar-winning film Boys Don’t Cry. He also worked on same-sex marriage cases in multiple states.

His suicide note stated that he had burned himself with fossil fuel to serve as a metaphor for the destruction of the planet and that he hoped his death would serve others and be seen as “honorable.”

I certainly won’t make light of a man ending his own life, but there’s more to his suicide than a desire to be a martyr—or even a metaphor. Buckel clearly had some deeper issues, as my friend Steve Berman wrote over at The Resurgent:

In any sane, objective view, Buckel’s death was the result of mental illness. Nobody types up a long screed about the environment, global warming, calling his own death “honorable” and hoping it “might serve others,” without facing some serious emotional and mental challenges.


Factually, Buckel did nothing to lower his own carbon footprint, and actually chose the most carbon-producing (and gruesome) way to bring attention to his cause. Add to that the fact that this man felt his own death was required in service of his beliefs, and it’s apparent that he needed help (which he did not get).

David Buckel is one more example of the all-or-nothing mentality of the left in America. To borrow the old phrase from the ’60s, the personal is political for American leftists, and the political is personal for them too.

Witness the tribalism in this country. Yes, we see it on the right too, but the smugness of liberals and their seeming willingness to shut down all debate raises the stakes of tribalism. Taking a look at the aftermath of the 2016 election as the best recent example, Pew Research revealed that almost half of liberals surveyed said that a friend’s support for Donald Trump would “put a strain on friendship,” compared to only 13 percent of Republicans who said the same about friends who voted for Hillary Clinton.

This mentality is the same one that led New Yorker writer Dan Piepenbring to label Chick-fil-A as “creepy” in a recent piece. It’s not possible to enjoy some of the best fast food around if you’re a liberal. No, Chick-fil-A must be rejected because its founders are Christians who take conservative positions on social issues. All or nothing!

The desire of so many on the left to achieve totality is so great that it turns many leftists against each other. The concept of intersectionality allows left-leaning “victims” to trump others because some fit into more minority categories than others. These grievances often lead to squabbles within the communities of the left.

“Citizen journalist” Steve Williams explained how intersectionality affects left-wing causes these days with an example rooted in the gay community:

Take the gay rights movement that is often called upon to speak for the wider LGBTQA community. These figureheads are overwhelmingly white, cis-gendered, able-bodied men and women — and that can be a problem, given that they are representative of only one aspect of the LGBT community.

After all, one can’t speak for everyone if one holds one form of “privilege” over others. It’s all or nothing to the left even when it comes to dealing with each other!

It’s true that extremists sit on both sides of the political aisle, but we see so much more behavior like this from liberals. I believe that this all-or-nothing attitude on the left stems from the fact that the so many on their side are activists, while the majority of conservatives are out living their lives and only touching on politics from time to time. The idea that liberals tend to associate with others like themselves feeds this taking of politics personally.

David Buckel’s case does represent the all-or-nothing mentality of the left to its extreme, but given how the personal and the political collide for so many on the left, how many more cases like his will we see?



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