Sometimes its hard to tell what our president is thinking. Sometimes I think he’s not thinking at all but reacting.
Yeah, I know, its been said before.
That’s why I haven’t been commenting much on Trump lately. There are far more people (both more qualified and less than I) making statements about and trying to guess what the president is thinking, probably more than at any other time since he’s been a public figure.
Just since November of 2016, the conversation has shifted from trying to do the math as to how he won in the first place to what he’ll do to where he was coming from to is he mentally fit to hold office. So many of these questions have obvious answers. He won by appealing to the baser instincts of a group of Americans who not only feel left behind but even if they voted for him, as many did, were swayed by the constant barrage of dog whistle idiocy that was the media during the Obama administration. They feel left behind by a country that always told them they were golden, chosen people, so when that promise was uncovered as a lie they rebelled. As with most popular rebellions, the scapegoat firewall lay between them and the people who truly fucked them over.
Never before in my lifetime have I seen the Country in such a state of reactionary fervor. If I’ve learned anything it is that you should never think things can’t get any worse, or any weirder. Sometimes being prepared for the worst is the best you can hope for. Not that you should abandon all hope or lose all sense of optimism, but keeping those things in the vacuum of the naive belief that “people are generally good” is downright suicidal.
I often try to look at recent history and try to draw a flowchart in my head to link all the things I’ve seen since the end of the Vietnam era ( I was born the year the conflict reached its Apex of 500,000 US troops) and remember middle-class. I mostly remember the palpable sense of dread that came with slowly admitting defeat in an unwinnable battle. I was born the year of nationwide unrest over the treatment of African-Americans (we were called negro, Colored or just Nigger at the time, in equal measure) and the year before the death of Martin Luther King.
I remember watching as the post-civil rights era played out, how legal segregation turned into redlining and blockbusting and I remember how the wash of irony felt as I sat in a real estate class 40 years later and heard my teacher discuss the practices as if they were ancient history (they weren’t, and aren’t). A few years before that I watched my Mom “steered” into a property in a mostly black part of town and in a double whammy also watched her sold a subprime mortgage with a huge balloon payment that would have kept her in permanent share-cropper status for the rest of her life. I watched as friends who had genius level IQ’s , but had little or no support at home, were shuffled into “alternative education” and taken out of the system of merit they would have all but taken over.
I watched the systematic dismantling of families, the ignorance of the problems faced by people who were just out of reach of the middle-class dream, not quite poverty-stricken, but barely able to make the rent, the car payment, and the heat, and often one or more of the above would suffer. (oh and food, let us not forget food)
I also remember being terror-stricken by television, the resurgence and resurgence, and further resurgences of “hate groups,” militias and various other largely white organizations whose members instinctively knew that their days as the majority were numbered. Who ignored the unequal application of benefits to them and cherry-picked statistics to bolster their own “superiority” (there is nothing funnier and scarier than listening to someone uneducated and unwilling to be, call me a monkey) even when they had an 8th-grade education and hardly a tooth to speak of.
I saw the 50-year slide into identity politics. WHITE identity politics. And now I shake my head when I hear someone like Richard Spenser, Alex Jones or any of their loosely affiliated internet sleeper cell operatives promote the narrative that Blacks, “the Left” and the “the gays” are the ones who started this whore identity politics shit. As a writer, I look out into the world, and it makes no narrative sense, as a truth-teller the story is flawed in a way that disqualifies it even as magical realism. There is nothing real about it.
As I look over all the historical links in my lifetime, I see definite patterns. Some overlap and others diverge, but a few, though taking up different sections of the page, clearly resemble each other.
Taking the experiences of poor White Americans and Poor Black Americans in snapshots of events, drug addiction, poverty, enslavement (Blacks by government mandate through slavery and its aftermath and whites by government mandate through union busting and land grants to wealthy corporations) they trace similar paths. The positive elements also converge, reverence for the elderly, a sense of community, developments in art and culture, resistance to undue authority…
But somehow, some way, the two rarely meet.
They don’t meet because one group, although downtrodden, believed that they were better by virtue of “whiteness”. That belief carried down through the years and was the current on the river to Trumpville.
This is not fake news.
Thinking for a second about some of the self-described leaders of these folks and their motivations there has to be something other than the endgame that gets them off. Even if they could eliminate or disassociate themselves from the rest of us there are still going to be sociopathic tendencies, violent individuals, and disagreements within their midsts.
I often wonder how an ethnostate of any sort would look. Having no skin in the game and no need to wish for such a thing I think I’m a bit freer than most to imagine a more realistic version of this utopia.
It would be like any other society, divided along some imaginary, or real but either way subtly enforced means, messy and stratified and pretty much just as fucked up as the one we have now. Either it would have classlessness imposed by a tyrant, or be capitalistic and leave some people behind. Either way, there is no escape from the same bullshit we face daily, it would just be whiter, or blacker. There is no way, through merely segregating “Europeans” or “Africans” to magically make everything better. The same power struggles, the same marital disagreements, the same arguments about government and what it should and can do will still exist.
Just because y’all look the same, does not make you the same.
Have you ever seen people who agree, are of the same background or the same political beliefs all in the same room together and NOT arguing? In most cases, intra-group disagreements are more violent than those between groups. Without the political or racial “other” to swerve the distraction bus towards, those conflicts would explode.
I guess perfect is the enemy of the good after all.