The blue and red bubbles that currently encompass the United States of America
Chris and I have recently lost contact with a very old, very dear friend of ours up in the states (I'll call him "Will"). Always a prompt responder to e-mails and messages, his sudden non-response in recent weeks has caused us concern. Is he injured, or in the hospital? Swamped at work? Or maybe he's angry with us -- disenchanted somehow, over something we said? I thought our friendship was rock-solid...but in the end, who knows?
Every American woke up on November 9 feeling a little like Dorothy, who's humble Kansas home suddenly dropped into someplace called The Land of Oz. Creeping tentatively out into the new landscape, Dorothy didn't know where she was, how she got there, or what to expect. Would this new life in this new place be a dream come true, or a disaster beyond comprehension?
This is where we are right now. Noone has ever been here before.
Nobody knows what the future holds. Nobody.
Unless you live completely inside one of the two bubbles (red and blue) encompassing our country, suddenly relationships which we've always taken for granted feel shaky and more than little tenuous.
I don't know about you, but I feel dizzy, weak, and a little bit nauseated. And it'll take more than a Dramamine to make me feel better.
Because I don't just feel seasick. I feel lost without a map.
This morning I listened to an NPR podcast called "The Hidden Brain." The subject was an anthropologist from Berkeley who spent five years living amongst people who were, politically and culturally, the absolute opposite of her Whole Foods/academia/Audi-driving neighbors:
Trump voters in Louisiana.
As anyone who bravely and willfully goes outside of their bubble of origin discovers, things out there are never what they seem.
First, she explained that more and more, it's clear that we humans vote mostly with our "lizard brain" -- that slimy, insecure, resentful creature that lives deep in our gut and, for the most part, rules our behavior and decision making without our conscious knowledge or consent.
Now, picture the typical Trump voter. He's standing in a long line, waiting patiently with everybody else, hoping to arrive at that place we call "The American dream." He works hard and plays by the rules, yet he feels that the line is not really moving forward.
Eventually he perceives that some are cutting in front of him in the line. African-Americans and women snatch well-paying jobs from his outreached hands -- jobs that the Trump voter has worked all his life for, that he planned to pass onto his son.
Then, Barack Obama comes along and appears to encourage these line-cutters, helping them forward while leaving the Trump voter feeling increasingly disrespected and left behind. Was all of his rule following and hard work in vain?
Resentmen and despair builds. Is this fair? Is this just?
And then there's the question of why so many women voted for Donald Trump. After all, most of these white, female Trump voters in Louisiana not only work hard at home raising their families, but have full times jobs as well. You would think their "lizard brains" would vote for a candidate who would give women fair wages, healthcare, and the options to plan their own families.
It became clear that for the most part, these women voted for Trump to support the men in their lives who felt so frustrated, disrespected and angry about the line-cutting. The women voted for Trump in solidarity with their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons (Ya gotta love us women -- you know men would never do the same for us if the roles were reversed).
Of course, rule-following, hard-working African-Americans have the same feelings of disrespect and despair when they are repeatedly pulled over by police while their white neighbors are waved past and encouraged forward in that same line weaving towards the elusive "American dream."
I had an epiphany: Was Will a closet Trump supporter? Since many of us suddenly feel that the gloves are off, the gauntlet is thrown and the lines are drawn, has he suddenly decided he can no longer be our friend? Does he hate us? Or is he afraid we will hate HIM for supporting the President?
Ugh. How did we get here. And how do we move forward?
It's helpful to remember that no matter who is in charge, the Powers that Be will always scapegoat us people in line, encouraging us to blame the other guys in line (the gays, the women, the evangelicals, the blacks, the Muslims, etc.) for the fact that the line is moving so slowly.
The Powers that Be are not Republican or Democrat. They are beyond that. They are the multinational corporations and billionaires that increasingly own and run everything, and are working very hard to gain the power to make all of the decisions for those of us bickering in line.
They know that We the People far outnumber them, and that if We, The People ever stopped fighting and blaming each other and turned together as one, pointed up to to them and finally, truly held them accountable, then they would be defeated and stripped of power.
Remembering who the real enemy is helps defuse frustrations I have with people who carry different points of view than I do -- OK, I'll say it -- with Trump voters.
I truly believe they, like all of us, are increasingly being handed a bill of goods. It's all a contradictory mess -- intentionally so. We're all confused, angry and blaming each other, and finding no choice but to let that "lizard brain" make our decisions -- at least we know he's got our back.
It stops now with me.
My hope for us as Americans is that we never forget the humanity in our fellow travelers who may have different beliefs than our own. Even though every fiber of your being may scream that they are the enemy -- they are not.
This cleaving to our mutual humanity is, in the end, our only hope. I won't simply throw out old friends just because they're in the other bubble.
So, what to make of my friend Will? Who knows? It's possible he's ending our friendship over Trump. He might be afraid of us. Or he could be dead by the side of the road somewhere.
The path will become clear.
And no matter what fresh hell may happen in our country and our world, I can't forget that America is my home, and as Dorothy said: "There's no place like it."
In fact, I think I know what my role in the new Trump world is: It's to be brave.
I vow to try -- no, I WILL -- be brave.
Won't you be brave with me?
"A South politician preaches to the poor white man
“You got more than the blacks, don’t complain.
You’re better than them, you been born with white skin,” they explain.
And the Negro’s name
Is used it is plain
For the politician’s gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game."
-- Bob Dylan