I am writing this post with the intent of posting it on my alternate blog. I am not one to really comment on political issues, because I don’t really revel in making people feel uncomfortable. Politics and Religion are always issues that tend to divide people more than actually bring them together and this election cycle has made this even more so. Over the weekend I had dinner with some family, and I knew that several of them were Trump supporters. I literally stressed myself to the point of having an anxiety attack over the thought of that potentially coming up at dinner. The worst thing that happened was someone showed off their new Trump knife and then made a joke about it… since it said “Make America Great Again” on the knife blade… but on the back in big bold letters “Made In China”.
This is genuinely the first time in my life I have have been afraid of an election. Always in the past I might have had a favorite horse in the race, but I knew at the end of the day someone would cross the finish line and things would be largely the same. This time around… I am afraid that the horse track is going to get nuked from orbit, because one of the horses got into an argument with one of the spectators. This is being trumped up as a fight for a way of life… pun intended, and I guess in many ways it is. The problem being this is highlighting the fact that there are two very different narratives of what America is. What disturbs me more than anything is that in many ways I can understand where the other side is coming from.
Something you have to know about me is that my “Poor White Trash” roots run deep. My wife and I both come from extremely meager but equally loving beginnings. My family gatherings generally involved my mom’s siblings fighting over which brand of truck was the best… hint the stance changed to whatever they happened to be driving at the time. Other discussions were often filled with paranoia and delusions that some secret government force was working against them… specifically them not just in the general sense. I grew up in a small town… a wide spot in the road that happens to also be a county seat of some import from a bygone era. These days it is sitting at roughly 3000 people and when I graduated my class had 60 other students. According to the 2010 census the racial population goes a little something like this…
- 70% – White
- 16% – Native American
- 4% – African American
- 1% – Hispanic
- 9% – Biracial
Anything else is too small to actually chart. However suffice to say it is a lily white town and always has been. In my grade there were two students of any color other than white or some tribal background that we are so insanely used to that no one even thinks of it AS a person of color. I myself have an unproven Cherokee heritage and my wife has her CDIB card… so our vehicles all sport Cherokee Nation plates. There is zero public LGBT presence, and something else of importance to understand is for this town of 3000 people… there are at least thirteen churches and probably some smaller ones on the outskirts that are not getting caught in a google map search. This is bible thumping country, and both that and the whiteness creates a certain mindset.
How the hell I managed to grow up open minded to things that were different than myself is probably a miracle. I remember being completely baffled that my grandmother told me it was okay to be friends with the black children… because “they were just people too”. So there was always a quiet racism just sitting below the surface waiting to rear its ugly head anytime something didn’t quite go quite their way. Please note that I loved my grandmother, and she was one of the sweetest ladies ever… but she was absolutely a product of her upbringing and times in a way that I hoped I never would be. Getting out of the small town helped a lot, and as soon as I got to college and out into the real world it helped, but really for me my awareness of people not just like me… came when I first signed onto the internet. Instead of being frightened by it, I was constantly drawn to folks who had different backgrounds to the ones that I had gotten so damned bored of growing up.
So sitting down to write this I never actually intended to veer so far off course, but I am sorta going with it for the moment. Essentially I understand the mindset of Trump’s core voter. The rural poor specifically feel abandoned by the future in a way that they struggle to grasp. They see this person who panders to their religious beliefs and talks about making america great again… and they latch onto him with both hands… selectively hearing only the bits that they yearn to hear. They want someone to make this town they are inexplicably shackled to a thriving metropolis, full of job opportunities and industry. The thing is… that will never actually happen. I am a prime example of why that will never happen. When I graduated from High School I ran at top speed away from my small town because I saw it as the despicable singularity that it actually is. Staying there meant you were doomed to live the exact same lives that your parents and their parents before them lived.
In my class I would say about half of us actually went to some form of high education. By the end of that first year I would say at least half of those dropped out and right back caught in the trap of the town. Even of those of us who got college degrees… a disturbing number went back anyway. Between the 2000 and 2010 census the town lost roughly 10% of its population… and I am sure when the 2020 census happens it will be a similar if not more severe trajectory. So you look at this decaying husk of a town, and it can be easy to blame that slow death on someone else. I grew up hearing tales of the town in its prime… with four different movie theaters and restaurants and shops as far as the eye could see. Now we have I think three restaurants, a couple gas stations, a Dollar General and an Orscheln… and that’s it. So to these folks “Make America Great Again” means… magically fix my town and make it something greater than it will ever be.
The problem is… we cannot turn back the hands of time and no matter how much an Orange Demagogue tells you he can… he can’t. Change happens no matter how badly you want it not to, and it is time for us to embrace it. Once I left home, and broadened my horizons I met a lot of people who are genuinely oppressed by society. Not the sort of imaginary tin foil hat oppression that happened in my small town, but literal fearing for their lives sort of oppression. The last decade has moved us as a country towards righting some of these wrongs, and I do not want to see us roll back any of that progress. That said we have so much more that needs to be done, and miring ourselves in the past is not the way to accomplish any of it. To reprise what I said at the beginning… this is the first election in my entire life that I was scared for the future of our country. Either we will be choosing a cruel bully that cannot help but lash out at anyone who says anything against him, or we choose someone who has fought her entire life to help those who don’t have anyone else to speak for them. The thing that scares me the most is that there is literally nothing I can say however to dissuade the opinion of those that I grew up with. It is though America exists in two completely opposite but parallel dimensions… and I am scared that regardless of the outcome of today it will be impossible to bridge that gap.