Last night, there was time enough to go see Eighth Grade with Mykala. Time enough to go home and take the tire off the bike, drive it to the store, and buy its replacement. Time enough to put it on. Time enough to pedal through the dense, warm evening to pick-up Ess from my parent’s. Time enough to visit once I got there. Time enough to pedal us home, singing “This Land Is Your Land” most of the way.
So I was telling Ess that I forgot a library book at work today, and she’s thinking this through.
“So I should’ve looked through my stuff before I left work!”
“Yeah, you should have, Dada.”
“I have to keep track of my stuff.”
“And at work if you are not doing that, you might drop a tooth on it or get it dirty.”
Right now, you’ve been asleep for twelve hours in a row, and your parents are awake and puttering around, kind of wondering what to do with all this sleep we’ve gotten. Wondering when you’re planning on getting up.
It is our nine-year wedding anniversary. The dew points were near 80° today. I worked in Minneapolis, brought flowers home for Mykala. We had a summery dinner of vegan smoked apple sausage sage Field Roast sausages with potato salad and beans and then watched a little of Frozen and all of The Wrong Trousers and some of Chicken Run to stay out of the heat. Essie has awoken this morning and this afternoon with a head soaked in sweat — we assumed it was the heat, but tonight she told us she was scared of having dreams again. She’s becoming a master delayer, but this was clearly a very real fear. Mykala talked and talked with Ess, told her stories, helped her imagine us out together as a family on a beautiful day, riding bikes, having snacks, flying kites. Ess eventually picked out an octopus to take to bed in addition to her usual cadre.
I never imagined a nine-year wedding anniversary like this; never imagined it would be this lovely, sweet, romantic, low-key, memorable.
Sometimes people use “respect” to mean “treating someone
like a person” and sometimes they use “respect” to mean
“treating someone like an authority”
people who are used to being treated like an authority
say “if you won’t respect me I won’t respect you” and
they mean “if you won’t treat me like an authority I
won’t treat you like a person”
and they think they’re
being fair but they aren’t, and it’s not okay.
And there I am on the busy playground, looking up at my daughter with her two stuffed monkeys as she is about to put them down the slide. It is still a little cool out, winter into spring, and the clouds blot the sun, making it easy to see her clearly.
Down the slide goes one monkey, this one not quite as precious to Ess, this one the emissary into the world, spiraling down towards the ground. And up the slide charges someone new, one taller and bigger and stronger than my daughter. I had anticipated this: aware that these stuffed toys, so obviously having only spent time indoors, away from rain and dirt and vicissitudes, would attract all kinds of attention.
And so it seemed to go in slow motion, this new person’s run up the slide, and the picking up of the monkey and the taunting of my daughter. This other human, bigger and taller, with an affect neither sing-song nor menacing but rather flat as to almost seem bored, holding my daughter’s monkey aloft and saying “get it. get it. get it.” And my puzzled daughter, knowing she couldn’t reach it, wondering why she was being asked to, watching as the monkey, instead of being talked to, comforted, told what would happen, instead of being set down gently, ice cold water scrubbed away from the bottom of the slide, instead of being treated with tenderness and care, was flung indiscriminately back down the spiral again, not even worth the effort required to hurl it away into the distance.
The interloper drifted away and I picked Ess up, wrapping my arms tightly around her, whispering in her ear “you did nothing wrong” and pointing out other slides, other downward spirals that I thought might distract but I knew carried the same risk. It was all I could do when faced with the world again, this time walking my child through it.
Among the most popular explanations for Trump’s victory
and the Trump phenomenon writ large is the Calamity
Thesis: the belief that Trump’s election was the direct
result of some great, unacknowledged social
catastrophe—the opioid crisis, free trade, a decline in
white Americans’ life expectancy—heretofore ignored by
cloistered elites in their coastal bubbles. The irony is
that the Calamity Thesis is by far the preferred
white-elite explanation for Trumpism, and is frequently
invoked in arguments among elites as a way of accusing
other elites of being out of touch.
But what about this:
The most economically vulnerable Americans voted for
Clinton overwhelmingly; the usual presumption is
exactly the opposite.
So what’s this about? Well, look at how the white voters voted:
Trump won white voters at every level of class and income.
He won workers, he won managers, he won owners, he won
robber barons. This is not a working-class coalition; it
is a nationalist one.
Oh. Oh my. So…
White working-class Americans dealing directly with
factors that lead to a death of despair were actually less
likely to support Trump, and those struggling economically
were not any more likely to support him.
Which means, as you can imagine:
…when social scientists control for white voters’
racial attitudes—that is, whether those voters hold
“racially resentful” views about blacks and
immigrants—even the educational divide disappears. In
other words, the relevant factor in support for Trump
among white voters was not education, or even income, but
the ideological frame with which they understood their
challenges and misfortunes.
So. Let’s say you go to your next family gathering and someone there is saying “gosh, people just voted for Trump because their jobs are going away and they’re making less each year!” Well then your everyday, intelligible, non-wonky response would be “then what about the millions of blacks, immigrants, refugees… all subjected to the same pressures — why didn’t they vote Trump, too?” This is summarized so, so well here:
Perhaps the CNN pundit Chris Cillizza best encapsulated
the mainstream-media consensus when he declared shortly
after Election Day that there “is nothing more
maddening—and counterproductive—to me than saying that
Trump’s 59 million votes were all racist. Ridiculous.”
Millions of people of color in the U.S. live a reality
that many white Americans find unfathomable; the
unfathomable is not the impossible.
As the piece continues and the evidence mounts, you can see that wealth and education don’t help people see the world more clearly. Instead, they use their wealth to amplify and their education to justify away their preconceived notions, prejudices, and racism. So, I used to think, man, if you could just get everyone some economic security and fine education (yielding some time each day to read and think!) then, golly, we’d have racism licked. (I don’t say “golly” in my head when I form thoughts, but it is an accurate characterization of my general affect.) Now I am confronted with clear evidence that people just carry their worst traits right on through their lives. And that makes me sad.
Oh and by the way, there’s an idea here in fly-over country: “but I’m nice to everyone!” Which I’ve always been uncomfortable with. And in this Atlantic piece, Serwer states the problem so much more clearly than I can, by saying there’s this…
…widespread perception that racism is primarily an
interpersonal matter—that is, it’s about name-calling or
rudeness, rather than institutional and political power.
Talk about a big “rather.” Serwer then walks through United States history with devastating clarity. When he returns to present-day, you will see today’s racially divided America with startling perspective.