Friday. July 22, 2016.
All straight, white, American men spend the first twenty years of our lives thinking we’re destined to be heroes.
Doesn’t matter that for most of us the evidence begins piling up while we’re still in grade school that we’re not going to be. We grow up convinced of it. We’re going to be the envy of other men and an idol to women. We’re going to be rock stars, movie stars, star quarterbacks, business tycoons, astronauts, generals, President of the United States, inventors of better mouse traps and curers of the common cold. We’re going to write the Great American novel, make Academy Award Winning motion pictures, found start-ups that will change the way Americans live, work, and play. We’re going to climb mountains, explore oceans, set records of all kinds. Secretly, many of us believe that in one real way or another we’re going to be superheroes.
The vast majority of us spend our twenties having it continually and brutally proved that we were wrong!
We learn that to a ridiculous and embarrassing degree we overestimated our talents and strengths and intelligence, our good luck, our merits, and our privilege. We learn that we’re not the geniuses and prodigies we thought we were, that we are, at best, mediocrities. We learn that relative to what we expected to be, we’re failures.
Those of us who don’t learn this in our twenties, do in our thirties and forties. Some lucky or just stubbornly obtuse few don’t learn it until they’re in their fifties or even their sixties when it dawns on them their youth is well and truly over along with their careers and they haven’t achieved what they set out to achieve and that what they have achieved doesn’t amount to as much as it seemed it would during the achieving and gives them less satisfaction than they assumed it would.
This means that that most of us spend our middle age coming to grips with disappointment and a sense of failure and loss. We learn to live with what we have and what we’ve done and accept our lot or at least resign ourselves to it. We find solace and contentment and the strength to keep going in friends and family and small pleasures. We even enjoy our lives and count ourselves lucky. Sometimes, often times, we’re actually happy. Some of us even feel blest.
But then there are those of us who don’t.
Many men spend their time brooding on their miseries and making themselves more miserable in the process. They grow bitter and sour, angry and vindictive, nursing grudges, storing up grievances, sinking into self-pity and self-contempt, which is no fun so they project it onto the world which they see as against them for no reason except malice and spite. They look for reasons to be mad and sad and sorry for themselves. They are constantly gathering evidence that others are to blame for their failures and disappointments. They go out of their way to get even. In---usually--- little and petty ways, they do what they can to make the world pay.
This is what those idiots marching around Cleveland with their guns strapped to their backs and their hips are trying to do. It’s not about their Second Amendment rights. It’s their way of making the rest of us feel as weak and afraid and at the mercy of other, more powerful people as they feel themselves. But it’s also what’s going on with the guy driving the over-sized pickup pulling up too close behind you at the light and then leaning on his horn when you’re not quick enough on the gas when it turns green. It’s what’s eating at the relative who ruins family get-togethers by spouting off loudly, rudely, and relentlessly about whatever he’s seen on TV or public offense he’s observed, or slight he’s suffered that’s proved to him that THEY are wrecking the country, the town, the schools, the sport, the food, the movies, the music, the economy, the whatever it is others are enjoying and benefiting from that he thinks they shouldn’t.
This is the core cohort of Trump’s voters. Angry, resentful, disappointed, vindictive, and frightened middle-aged and elderly white men looking for someone to blame and take it all out on.
Trump is a clown. And a con artist. And a dishonest salesman of shoddy merchandise. He’s a fascist, if he and his followers only knew it, but it doesn’t matter if he meets anyone’s textbook definition of one because he’s openly and consciously a would-be dictator, although more of the Banana Republic variety than anything else, authoritarian, self-aggrandizing, capricious, self-indulgent, vindictive, and dumb. He’s a malignant narcissist and quite likely a madman. But what worries me most about him is that he’s an infection.
He’s injected himself into the body politic. That is, he’s let loose a virulent strain of the hatred he’s infected with himself which includes a mix of envy and self-pity and---despite all the professions and demonstrations of self-love and the monuments to self-idolization he’s built---self-doubt and self-loathing. He’s set out to make people feel their anger and their disappointment and frustration and fear and succumb to it. But in order to do that he has to first make people feel disappointed, frustrated, and afraid, and to do that he has to play on their self-doubt and self-loathing. He has to convince them that they’re failures before he can assure them they’ve been unfairly denied the success they grew up believing they deserved. He has to make them feel like losers in order for them to be open to his promise to make them all winners. The germ at the center of the hatred he’s attempting to spread is self-hatred.
He was at it again in his acceptance speech last night, spreading his diseased view of America degenerating into a failed state of violence, crime, and disorder, a land of lost---stolen!---opportunity, with its people---its white people, the only people who count---at the mercy of thieving and murderous enemies without and within and prescribing his own wonderfulness at the only cure.
The fact is, however, he doesn’t have to work hard at spreading the disease, because people spread it themselves. They infect each other.
They infect each other while sharing complaints and anxieties and resentments in the break room at work, at a bar, on the sidelines at their kids’ soccer games, and while sitting in doctors’ waiting rooms with clipboards in their laps, filling out forms that don’t make sense. They spread it while standing in line at the bank or the grocery store or the DMV or the unemployment office. They incubate it within themselves while alone behind the wheel at a long light, late for work at a job they hate but don’t dare quit and pray won’t be taken away from them or on their way home to a house that’s underwater where an irritable spouse equally worried, dissatisfied, and distressed is ready to tell them all about their bad day. They aggravate it and inflame as they’re hunched over the kitchen table late at night with the checkbook open and a stack of bills in front of them, some of which, most of which, all of of which, won’t get paid.
I think I’ve made it pretty clear in past posts I don’t have much patience with calls by political analysts and journalists that we liberals should be sympathetic to Trump voters and their plight. The truth is I am sympathetic because just about all of us share the same plight. But I’m sympathetic only to point, right up to the moment someone says, “Fuck this! And fuck THEM! I’m voting for the racist demagogue and hate-monger promising to get revenge!”
This is the TRUMP brand. This is what he’s selling. Success as revenge. Success as getting some of your own back. Success as throwing it back in THEIR faces. Success as who the fuck cares what YOU think! Success as spite. Success as making THEM pay!
It’s a disease he’s selling. He’s the disease. And it’s catching.