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Liberals Abroad, Invited to Dinner

04/25/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

One of the cornerstones of the liberal belief system is an unequivocal respect for the diversity exhibited by other cultures, their mantra concerning those countries' habits, as compared to what we're used to at home: "It's not better or worse. It's just different."

Accept people as you find them. Anything less reflects cultural superiority. And that, liberals believe, is wrong.

Okay, here we go.

Liberal couple, taking in the sights of some exotic foreign land. Totally lost, they stop a passing stranger and ask directions to some off the beaten path sacred... something, a location indicating that the couple has done their homework and are deeply interested in the country they have chosen to explore.

The stranger is gracious and polite. Feeling comfortable in his company, the couple asks for a dinner recommendation, an eatery specializing in "authentic cuisine." The stranger immediately insists that the couple have dinner at his house. Since they are interested in the culture, here's a chance for them to experience how the people actually live. At the same time -- his wife being a wonderful cook -- they can experience a gourmet version of the country's most popular dish.

The liberal couple jumps at this opportunity. No exotic foreign land Burger King for them. Thanking him profusely, they enthusiastically accept his generous invitation.

After touring the sites of interest, the couple returns to their hotel to change. While there, they use their Blackberry, or whatever, to Google the country's most popular dish, eager to learn what delicacy they'll be treated to at their upcoming dinner.

The country's most popular dish is dog.

There is little question about it. They're going to have dog for dinner.

Now this is not a country that eats dog because they're poor, or lack dining alternatives. In their culture, dog is a delicacy. They serve it at birthday parties.

As for the couple, we're not talking about food extremists. They eat meat. Just not, you know... pets.

So what do they do?

They know what they want to do. They want to say, "No, thank you." But they can't. They're liberals. They have an ethos to uphold, an ethos that requires them to be nonjudgmental and flexible.

"When in Rome," go with the flow. Eat what you're offered. Even if it barks.

Looking for sunshine. Well, there's this guy on the Food Channel whose entire act involves eating "unusual" foods from other countries. It's usually not that bad. Maybe this won't be bad either.

Wait, we're missing the point here. It's not a question of how the thing will taste.

It's a question of what it is.

It's dog.

There seems no way of getting out of this without offending your hosts. What are you going to tell them? "I'm sorry, we had dog for lunch"? "My doctor told me not to eat anything you can train to bring you your slippers"? "In our religion, the canine is believed to be the embodiment of God"? They'll see right through it!

And by the way, "not offending your hosts" also misses the point, the point being you're either true to your "diversity" principles or you're not.

There is no way around it. This is definitely going to happen. Were the couple to be run over after their dinner, when the coroner performed the autopsy, they would discover, among the stomach contents, "substantial traces of dog."

From then on, it's pure agony. You dress as if you're going to your own execution, you pick up some flowers, when you step into their house, you remove your shoes, because that's what they do, and you do what they do, because that's who you are, dammit!

You meet the family. You make small talk. "You have a beautiful home. And those exquisite carvings. Are they teak?" Your mouth is on "automatic." While your mind is aflame with a single thought:

"We're going to eat dog. We're going to eat dog. We're going to eat dog!"

I wrote a chunk here, but it went too far, so I took it out. Not because I was afraid of losing your respect. I was afraid of losing my respect.

Dinner is served. The couple gets up and head for the table, their gait as unsteady as a sailor's on a turbulent sea.

It begins with the salad. There's a bug crawling around. But, suddenly, that's nothing. Compared to what's coming.

Then, there's the soup. Consommé. No chunks at all. Why is it that color? Why to think about that? You've had soup. This is soup too.

Of course, you can't really enjoy it. Because you know what will follow.

The main course.

I'll leave you to imagine the couple's barely concealed panic as their hostess backs in from the kitchen, carrying the object of their dread. What comes next? They eat it, they don't eat it, they try to eat it and gag. It's not dog after all, but an indigenous form of chicken; you can finish it any way you want. What's certain is, the couple had a very difficult evening.

By contrast, a conservative's response to this dining dilemma would be simple and direct:

"You want us to eat dog? Hell, no! What kind of people are you? Eat 'Buster'? Are you kiddin' me?"

The point is, in this matter, I side unapologetically with the conservatives, favoring honesty -- minus the bombast -- over "phony-baloney."

Earl Pomerantz's blog can be reached at earlpomerantz.blogspot.com

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