To the reader: I begin this conclusion of my Why Trump? series with 3 brief excerpts, all slightly paraphrased. The first is nearly 2,000 years old. It is taken from a Greek philosopher’s contemptuous descriptions of the early Christians of Palestine. The other two, eerily similar to the first, are recent public dismissals, one liberal and one conservative, of those who comprise what I call Old America.
“Who can imagine anything good coming from such a backward, nothing location populated by primitive nobodies?!” (Celsus, 175 AD)
“The “losers” of the American culture wars—i.e., Orthodox Jews, Roman Catholics and Evangelical Christians—should be considered the functional equivalent of racists and Nazis.” (Mark Tushnet, Harvard prof)
“Nobody did this to the dysfunctional, stupid, lazy, American white working-class. They did this to themselves. (It’s great) these communities are dying out because they are an economic dead weight. Theirs is a warped, indefensible morality. The white American under-class is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and meth labs. They deserve to die.” (Kevin Williamson, conservative intellectual)
Having read these epigraphs, I ask that you take a moment to reflect on this question: other than smokers and pedophiles, is there any other single group, even one, that could be publicly abused—and not in fringe but mainstream media—with such victim-blaming, invective-filled contempt, loathing, and ill-will with absolutely no fear of condemnation by society’s leading lights?
Of course, the angry working class is not innocent of blame. (To begin with, those who make up New America are after all at least partly Old America’s offspring…) Befuddled by the rapidly changing world I described in Part II, their woes are self-induced to the extent that they failed to adapt.
But plenty of other groups in society could quite justifiably be publicly insulted for one “sin” or another. Moreover, not only are such other groups beyond public shaming—much less told they should simply die as soon as possible—, their deficiencies—all at least as self-induced as those of rednecks—are typically excused, explained, often subsidized, even, for heaven’s sake, applauded.
A few examples off the top of my head: We out-of-shape fatties (nowadays, sigh, almost everbody except the sick and the athletic) clog up everything from airline seats to the health care system, but can you imagine a public figure condemning us as “greedy lard-butts?” And how about we elderly: we gobble up far more than our share of medical attention and dollars, but woe to him or her who calls us selfish geezers or, for that matter, even uses the dreaded E* word. (*”elderly”)
Our inner cities are often no-go zones of violent crime but even an African-American president treads very softly about calling out these men for their predatory irresponsibility, much less referring to their behavior as thuggish.
And how about the mostly-liberal upper and upper-middle classes who never stop chattering about consumerism and “it’s all about the kids”…but drive through their neighborhoods and you’ll see huge houses, fancy cars and dog breeds you never heard of, but damned few Big Wheels or kiddy pools, children being oh-so-terribly inconvenient to personal choice as a way of life… Don’t hold your breath, however, waiting for a politician, preacher or pundit to describe them as narcissistic, self-indulgent lifestyle addicts.
All these folks get public sympathy and, one way or another, public support, whether Medicare, affirmative action, or tax breaks for hybrids. Mostly okay by me although, as a bleeding-heart conservative, I sure wish the help and encouragement were accompanied by some strong words of tough love.
By contrast, I think that any fair-minded observer has to agree that while the mainly white lower-middle and working-class Trumpites have been the recipients of a ceaseless chorus of condemnation by the Beautiful People, sympathy and support—much less “love,” tough or otherwise—have been next to nonexistent.
So, yes, Old America is upset: It resents the idea now common among elites that the country they still consider uniquely good should be ashamed and repent of its countless sins. It’s angry about the globalization and massive illegal immigration that have so profoundly altered the country’s economy and culture, changes that were imposed on it (a) without anybody ever asking it’s opinion, and often (b) by means of misrepresentations and outright falsehoods. And it’s afraid, very afraid, a fear hugely exacerbated when its peaceful and law-abiding expressions of unease are met with a response—totally unlike demonstrations by such other groups as Green Peace, Black Lives Matter or abortion choice advocates—of hate-filled vilification.
(The role of two consecutive profoundly divisive “failed presidencies”—to quote liberal columnist Nat Hentoff—has of course played a role in the rise of the Trumpites. However, because the cultural “climate change” impact of this double-whammy—back-to-back “worst presidents of all time”2—has a dark cloud hanging over far, far more than just the white working-class, the subject requires its own treatment in a future column.)
Hardly surprising, then, that its mood is one of dread and despair, abandonment and anomie. Every social group under the sun, the privileged as well as the disadvantaged, seems to get aid and comfort, but the technocratic elite of New America that has benefited so richly from a radically transformed economy and culture hasn’t lifted a finger to help Old America adapt in order to survive, much less thrive.
Just the opposite. I think that, deep down, most folks in Old America sense that their civilization, like the Native America civilizations their ancestors overwhelmed, is doomed. They know that they inhabit an alien new nation of fewer and fewer good unskilled and middle class jobs, ever-wackier culture, and different-looking citizenry. Like Moses strangers in a strange land, except for them this strange land is, or was, home.
If we could read their minds, what would we hear? I believe it would be something like this:
We lost. So be it. Allow us to hunker down like Native America(ns) did before us, living fossils in our flyover backwaters, preserving our ways and values against the time when you, our strange children, need them most. You may nod approval when you see our preachers arrested for denying the teachings of your anything-goes culture, but beware. In the long run we fear for you even more than for ourselves. When your brave new world tumbles down and/or is overrun, we artifacts will survive. Absent all the fancy technologies by which the real producers provide you with the real necessities of food, shelter, water and security, you’ll be as helpless as your exotic toydogs in a crowd of wolves. But those of us who still survive will do our best for you. Strange children indeed, you are ours nonetheless. It is our duty. (“Duty”: you could look it up.) Meanwhile, can’t you just leave us alone. Is that asking so much?
But dear reader, you already know the answer: no way no how. Remember the subtitle with which I began this series about the Trump phenomenon? Now the Cowboys are the Indians. So, the rest of the answer the dying civilization hears from the new is this:
We’ll spend your legacy—yes, the same one we ceaselessly condemn as immoral and ill-gotten—but don’t expect us to mourn your passing. The only good Old America(n) is a dead Old America(n).
Till next time, blessings and Memento mori2
1. From Leszek Kolakowski’s wonderful book of the same name.
2. Bush43 so-described by more than 50% of liberals, likewise Obama by conservatives.
3. Memento mori—“remember you must die”—was to ancient and medieval thinkers a reminder to seek your true heart’s desire, i.e., the highest, most permanent, things.
4. Texas A&M System regents professor emeritus, now living with Lottie, his wife of 50 years, on Oologah Lake. Zophar (one of Biblical Job’s blowhard neighbors) Boanerges (“windbag”, the name Jesus gave James and John, the sons of Zebedee) is Jim’s pen name.
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