What "Telling It Like It Is" Really Means
One of the things Trump supporters say they most appreciate about him is that "he tells
it like it is." At one level, this is a dizzying paradox since the man is so manifestly
challenged by the truth, whether hearing it or telling it. But what I've finally come to
understand about the "Trump tells it like it is" cliche is that it's not just some
good-old-boy embrace of crudity-spiced plain speaking. What it really says is they agree
with him: "He dares to say the things we've always believed anyway."
This explains something of the mystery of why there is little, if anything at all,
Donald J. Trump could do or say, including the countless moral outrages that have
already emanated from his Presidency in just its first year, that supporters would find
reprehensible enough to reject. It also explains how it is that hate speakers and attackers
and scofflaw political personalities such as Arizona's formerly discredited Joe Arpaio
have been emboldened in the cultural climate of Trump's rule. This is a central irony of
contemporary America: Having grown up in a nominally democratic country, many of
our citizens now embrace an American fascism that agrees with Trump to such degree
as to be totally impervious to arguments from the Constitution or reason or ethics
or, for that matter, religion, for all such Americans lay claim to "Christian values."
American Fascism and the Disaffection That Feeds It
Trump's support among a significant number of blue collar white males (and "their women")
arises from their alienation, disillusionment, and an aggrieved sense of being discounted
and disrespected - which is not, coincidentally, unlike what makes some young Muslims
susceptible to the appeal of Islamic extremism. Part of fighting American fascism is
acknowledging that the complaints of its adherents are not entirely baseless.
Among the underprivileged of all races and ethnicities, many poor and working class
whites have also been left behind in the swamps and mudflats lining America's economic
superhighway. Most of these whites are informed and heavily influenced by Right
Wing radio shock jocks and the oxymoronically named genre of "reality TV" in shows from
The Apprentice to Fox and Friends. They are Americans who have been
conditioned by the circumstances of their lives to a deeply ambivalent mix of fairy tale
faith and rank cynicism about a so-called American Dream that seems always beyond their
reach no matter how hard they work.
American fascism is based in a white supremacist ideology that does not understand
white privilege and how it works. It's hard for struggling whites to see themselves as
privileged characters while living barely above the poverty line, without access to
decent health and dental care, in one of the states with a deficient education system
and few job prospects that pay a livable wage. Asking such folks to understand how their
own white power and privilege are disproportionately amplified in the current Congress
and White House is a bridge too far.
When a Lie Is as Good as the Truth
The world of Trump supporters is limited to their own direct experience and the "news"
that social media and underground sources feed them. They know what they know and they
don't believe in facts or stats that contradict what they know. They believe that they
are the true victims of discrimination and that "liberal" women and people of color and
immigrants are getting ahead at the expense of white men. In Trumpism, there's no such
thing as truth; there are only "alternative facts." His supporters believe that any
critique of Trump is "fake news," even as no conspiracy theory about Barack Obama or Hillary
Clinton is too outlandish for them to devour like hungry fish jumping on a lure. All of which goes some way
to explaining why Trump himself can successfully lie to his base so hugely, so shamelessly,
and so often.
Given the socio-political narrative his supporters tell themselves daily on awakening,
it is nearly impossible for them to see themselves as sharing common cause with immigrants
and refugees or people of color or people poorer than they or any group upon whom
they can look down from their next-up rung on the social ladder. Ultimately, their rage
will have to be addressed in a way that acknowledges and does something about what they're
really pissed off about, which is their exclusion from the goods of a society that is too
often indifferent to their legitimate human needs.
Neglecting to Vote Is a Vote
Fighting for equal access to society's goods for all Americans is a longer range
strategy for loosening fascism's growing chokehold on the American psyche. The most
immediate way to fight it is by outnumbering it at the polls in 2018 and 2020. The
Electoral College works in favor of Trump and his political enablers and against the
majority of Americans only because, whether through self-indulgent indifference or
self-indulgent disillusionment, too many citizens with humane hearts and reasonably
informed minds - of both major parties and neither - fail in their responsibility
to get out and vote. That failure has the effect, if not the intent, of "agreeing with him."
More Peg's Blog Spot Posts
· The Trouble with That Anonymous Trump-Circle Editorial
· Breaking News: We're All "Values Voters!"
· Monuments Flap Is Not about the Monuments
· Have We Always Been the Disunited States of America?
· A Humble Defense of the Constitution
· The Trump Presidency: Bigotry's Cause or Only Its Effect?
· Race, Class, and Access to Women's Health Services
· Trying to Learn from the Holocaust
· Trump's Angry White Folks
· Whatever Happened to "Look It Up?"
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