Live Blogging the Coronavirus Outbreak from Ashland, Oregon: This is Why Your Parents Support Trump.
It feels good to be a hero. Until you realize that everyone has feelings - even the people you don't like. - photo credit: TK Hammonds
As a society, how well do we tolerate change?
My dad is the perfect example. Was. Beautiful man - loving, responsible, humble. But he found himself in a bubble, one that stretched from the Reagan years all the way to Fox News, one that was slowly inculcated by a sense of lofty isolationism, and a worship of the past. From 'City Upon a Hill' to shows like Homeland, and Seal Team, my father and a large share of his generation fell in love with a dream and a story about this country that fetishizes militarism and a common-enemy mentality as a pretense for heroism, and in doing so perpetuates the deep cycle we are in of endless war. As a country we will always need an enemy, and we the people will always be forced to stand back and let the captain(s) decide; the Fox News broadcasts are very effective at cultivating an over-simplified narrative that can be irresistible to many. The story always involves a bad guy, a slightly-hesitant hero, and a reverence for 20th-century topic favorites like physical dominance, cleverness, and intrepid colonialism. My dad grew up without television, and loved old Westerns; he was not ready for the power of modern, persistent, on-brand messaging. He had been taught to trust what he heard on the radio, and by extension, the voices and faces on the News. Broadcast television was a vital source of information. Why would they lie to him?
Björn was born in 1927, Leksand, Sweden. Maybe your parents are younger, by a decade or four. Maybe they still wear their Berkies (my dad wore tennis shoes). It doesn't matter, in the sense that this message just gets more attractive as you go along: as parents, as planners, as employees, every day we put aside our worries just to get through the day. And that can become a habit. We learn less and less about what is happening in the world, because we are busy changing diapers, or putting gas in the car, or doing laundry. So often, we just want someone to tell us what to believe. Here's my theory: the key here is simply a tolerance for change.
What if I told you everything you were taught about finance was a lie?
What if you knew that you only had 10 days to live?
If those questions were boring and ridiculous, then so be it. If you spent a minute thinking either one of those through, even just a little bit, then that's entirely something else. A capacity for introspection, you might say. It exists on a spectrum. And I think, like many things in life, we'd be surprised, collectively, at how bad we are at it - individually. There are not enough moments in the day, in a modern life, to take appropriate pause at every important decision, and to deliberate over every detail. Can't we just stop asking questions?
Better to be the hero. Better to remain a fan of the fuzzy red-white-and-blue, than to come to terms with the modern history of our body politic and the often-bloody results of international kingmakery. I feel it already: at a certain age you get tired, pushing against the mountain. Remind me again why they would lie to me? And, who is they - the 'deep state?' The 1%? The members of FAANG?
I am 45 years old. When my dad was this age, it was the 1970's. That was a crazy decade, for music. Not his thing, really. He never had a taste for rock and roll. But he loved anyone in a suit. In 1975 there was no internet, only a handful of national TV networks, and newspapers were largely autonomous. Online trolls hadn't been invented. You weren't forced into permanent, wide-eyed cynicism about the world around you because of all the obvious cognitive dissonance. You could just lay down in the warm lap of nationalism and have a snooze. It feels good to be a hero. Until you realize that everyone has feelings - even the people you don't like.
When you lose your ability to embrace change, what does that even feel like? Does it have to do with the inability to handle even mild self-criticism?
We had it all figured out.
But now, in the era of coronavirus, our hand is forced. Everything was perhaps already at a tipping point, but now we cannot but see the truth, in the sense that our 'attention' economy has begun to bottom out, and we can no longer lie to each other about how well we are doing. Mile-long bread lines; right wing foolishness; neoliberal 'heroes' putting their thumb on the primary scale because socialism is a bad word, in some circles. Never mind that Democratic Socialism is exactly what a majority of our citizens want from their leaders.
What kind of role-modeling is this? How can you even call this a Democracy anymore? In the USA, politically, we have 3 camps - the right wing (#MAGA), the neoliberal right wing (#BlueMAGA), and everybody else. Now, you get to believe what you want to believe; that is the American way. But if you are singing the praises of Trump, or getting ready to hold your nose and vote for Biden, neither of those two choices are substantially different from one another. You probably don't feel that is true - you may, in fact, be very distressed by that statement. You may even feel the need to attack me for saying that. Well, hear me out.
An aside: when I write about politics, almost nobody reads it. Part of that has to do with the fact that most of my readers visit CHILLFILTR to find new music, and part of that has to do with the fact that I run ads every week to prop up my traffic, and these blog-style think-pieces don't convert very well. Yet, I continue to write about American political dysfunction, mainly because I want to get on the record, and say the things that no one else is saying right now. Maybe one day independent blogs like this one will reach a larger audience, again. In the days before Facebook and Twitter, blogs were a thing. Now, not so much. But I still love to write, and I will continue to do so.
I don't need no stinkin' audience.
Anyway, Joe Biden is just a bad candidate - and the steps that were taken to anoint his candidacy touch on the holy trinity of political malfeasance: voter suppression; vote tampering; and media manipulation. In short, the blatant manufacturing of consent. So here we are.
And this is where the rubber meets the road: either you look at 2 cycles of the Democratic primary, and admit that the Hillary Clintons and the Barack Obamas of the world will stop at nothing to maintain their Vader-style death-grip on the entire DNC, and thus our ability as citizens to affect the political landscape is non-existent, or, you fall in line with the whole 'lesser-of-two evils' mentality. That's it. That's the devil's bargain, and it ain't pretty.
So, before I get back to why your parents are Trump supporters, let's acknowledge the ideological divide that lives beyond right-wing Trumperism: I, and many people like me, have had enough of a party that only pretends to support progressivism, Medicare for All, and a Green New Deal. Bernie was a good compromise, in the sense that he was, and is, very acquiescent to the DNC in a way that made many of us nervous; but now that he is gone, there is really no way to win back our votes. It feels clear, at least to me, that the Democratic Party is more committed to stamping out populism than it is to defeating Trump. That is the only reason for putting up such a weak candidate. We needed a Bernie; instead we got Joe.
We have many months left before this all comes to an inevitable, horrible conclusion; but I know already that I will be voting for the Green party. Howie Hawkins, to be exact. He's not perfect, but nobody is. He stands for what I stand for, and that is enough for me. I can trust the Democratic Party no longer. My contributions to the Sanders campaign were wasted, that is perfectly clear now, and we have no more time for half-measures. If the Green Party can get to a 5% share of the popular vote this season, that will be a huge start, which will qualify them for Federal funding in 2024. To me it is the only option. If you disagree, so be it. If you are a Biden supporter, I wish you well. If he wins, I will be glad. But what I see right now is a dire need for a 3rd party to offset the drifting of both major political parties to the right, and that needs to happen immediately. Ideally, both things can happen: Biden can take down Trump, for whatever that's worth, AND Hawkins can get to 5%. So you do you.
And then, there's this.
Now, back to the Trump supporters. There is a saying that goes something like this:
A man who has not been a socialist before 25 has no heart. If he remains one after 25 he has no head.—King Oscar II of Sweden
There are different variations that have gone around; the earliest attribution is from a 1875 French book of contemporary biographical portraits by Jules Claretie, in a section about prominent jurist and academic Anselme Polycarpe Batbie. So this idea has been circulating for almost 150 years, which for the modern era is a very long time. This is not a new concept.
There is definitely an age component to this, that may also go along with a varying capacity to process elements of change in society. My theory is mainly that we are in such a profoundly unique moment right now, that although we don't know what the future will look like, exactly, we do know it won't look like the past. Populism may have been consistently crushed, historically speaking - from Caesar to Henry Wallace - but now, it is our only hope. When Jeff Bezos, richest human in the world, sees fit to donate only $100 million dollars to fight a global pandemic, we see pretty clearly that the ultra-rich are not going to save us. That is .07% of his net worth. In. a. global. pandemic.
Spoiler alert: it is too late to stop the worst consequences of global climate change; yet we must mitigate the effects in whatever way we can. Climate refugees, food shortages, water wars: get ready for a new normal. When we look back at this time, and the paralysis of our political process that seems to be insurmountable, there will be plenty of blame to go around. Don't blame me, we will say. I had a compost bin. But the reason your parents support Trump is pretty simple, which is that they believe that there truly is a way to go back to the past. This belief is so powerful, so drug-like in its power to regulate mood, that it becomes a driving force in the process of self-definition. It is a comforting fairy-tale for adults that are unwilling, or unable, to process the change-rate of a society that grows ever more complex by the day, and by the hour. It is the self-indulgence of a mind that is overwhelmed by too much information.
I like to use computer analogies. Perhaps you have someone in your life who has done this: let's say they have an iPhone, for example. And let's say, for the sake of argument, that they do not ever download the software updates. Every day, when they see the message, they cancel it: would you like to download the software update for this device?
Every day. Months go by. Years. There are software updates available for your device. Would you like to download them?
Finally, the device crashes; you get a phone call.
Can you fix my phone?
Imagine the mindset, in that moment: it will be the fault of the device. Every time. The messages were not clear; the downloads took too long; whatever it is, it has nothing to do with them. They are the victim.
And that is why your parents support Trump - he's the virus, and Democracy is the iPhone: it's frozen now.
You should have run the updates when you had the chance.