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Has it really only been a week?
On election night, my life was an SNL skit. This actual SNL skit:
I’m not proud.
Because I should have known. I should not have listened to all those pundits and insiders guaranteeing Ms. Clinton would win. Why should I have known? Because though I live in liberal Massachusetts, where Trump didn’t win one county, and have all my life, my parents were life-long conservatives and would have believed Trump’s message. Why? Because they grew up working class. Working class Irish Catholic. They didn’t go to college. They adored Ronald Regan’s message of lower taxes. Having been raised strictly in the church, they agreed with many conservative social policies.
Now Trump isn’t really cut from the cloth conservative Republican. All this talk about white men, not college educated people, where were the Latinos and Black, why did this group or that vote the way they did. It’s not a clear cut as race, economic or gender issues. No one is just one of those dimensions and no one votes 100% of the time based on any one of those labels. It’s more complicated. What Trump did was find that economically disadvantaged people could be made to fear and dislike groups of people they do not know because they believe they will take what is theirs or worse they are being given something that they believe to be theirs.
Take my own community. The opening of The Departed is like listening to my grandparents all over again, except they would say two generations from No Irish Need Apply to an Irish Catholic President.
They would also say a facsimile of ‘no one give you anything, you have to take it’. My grandparents would say you have to earn it (because they weren’t mob bosses in Southie). But what does that say: ‘we fought hard to get what we have in this country and you’ll be God damned if you think we’re going give it away to other group’. That is the mentality of some groups. When faced with economic survival, there is a prioritization of what is important to you. Why did any woman vote for Trump? Watch in that Departed clip how Costello treats the young woman. Watch her father watch it, too, not do anything. That store is how they live. When people feel threatened in that way, they may act in ways that those of us who aren’t threatened find incomprehensible. It’s Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
It’s easy to stigmatize another group if you think they will take from you and yours, especially if you’re not exposed to members of that group. Trump played that fiddle perfectly. They believe he’s going to change trade agreements so their jobs don’t go abroad, that he’ll build a wall so immigrants can’t come here and take their jobs and that he’ll cut their taxes substantially. Even though similar things have been promised by Republicans before and their lives haven’t improved. Why do they believe it now? Because no one spoke to them so blatantly before? What happens when reality strikes and he can’t do any of those things to the extent he’s described is not something I’m looking forward to, though I’m sure blame will be deflected away from the administration.
It’s easy to label people as anti-this or anti-that, but doesn’t that also make people ‘the other’? How is that different? Shouldn’t we spend the time to understand their real concerns, complicated and interconnected. We may find a cesspool of hatred and bigotry, we may. But I suspect we’ll find a populace riled up on rhetoric which blames other groups without understanding those groups, something the men in charge have been doing since the dawn of time. If we fight each other, we’re not fighting them, and that makes it so much easier for them to stay in charge. When we give into fear and don’t work together, we get the government we are now facing. Let’s not do that. What we all need is more empathy. Empathy for other’s experiences, lives, opinions and beliefs. We need to actively fight those who do not want us to do that or will subjugate whole groups of people. We need a government for all of us.