Trumplace Else


A friend sent me a message today noting that I was struggling with what is going on. He noted that I’m upper middle class with a great job in the tech industry with multiple degrees, have sent kids to private school, and live in a low crime neighborhood. He also noted that this doesn’t probably doesn’t qualify me to understand the fears and pain of working-class America. He went on to say that they don’t [edited] care much about Trump one-liners.

He’s 100% right. All of that’s entirely correct and I suspect that viewpoint is fairly common. This week, most people I’ve talked to are fairly blasé about Donald Trump’s victory. What I’m going to say is that as much as I’m ill equipped to understand white America’s fear and pain, and regardless of how white I look, I don’t view myself as what you think of as white.

My father was a first-generation American. His parents came to this country from Eastern Europe and he was born in 1936. My mother has a similar background and was born in 1938. I have the privilege I do today because of them and their parents. My father’s parents didn’t have a college degree between them, my parents each had one. I’ve got two and my wife has three. Each generation sweated its ass off and set high goals. At the same time, how my grandparents got here was made apparent to me at an early age: they escaped incineration. I’m Jewish.

I live in a world that increasingly requires a Christian identity in order to fit in. The Republican party who now essentially controls all three branches of the government is viewed as the Christian party. Laws defending their rights in how they interact with the LGBT community are termed Defense of Religion and there are legal and cultural battles over it. Black lives matter. My people are outsiders unless we’re noticed. In general, we’re wallflowers in society. I’d love to say that we are ninjas, but it’s not that cool. We go through Christmas and Easter as outsiders as mall scenes, decorated trees, and retail Armageddon hit. We have to take vacation days to get off on our holidays. Even proselytizers who come to my door toting Bibles and talking about Jesus don’t know what the mezuzah on my door means. As long as society doesn’t see us, they don’t care. Day after day.

And then, every once in a while, we stick out. A Jewish writer will research something unpopular and then we are remembered. We’ll see tweets about lampshades and photoshopped images of gas chambers. Swastikas get painted on walls. The now-President elect will retweet derogatory images from white supremacists with the Star of David and claim it’s just PowerPoint. And he’ll forget that he’s ever heard of the KKK. He’ll bait “Mexican” judges and want to ban or track Muslims because of their religion. He’ll tell blacks that they’re essentially a failed race and that they should support him because they’ve got nothing to lose.

The thing is, I’m not just a Jew. I’m all of these minorities, I’m just an invisible one. My grandparents fled with their lives when they saw parts of society start to slip while the rest showed apathy. They didn’t leave with fortunes. They didn’t leave with anything. my grandfather was a freaking tailor. But they lived and they didn’t have tattooed arms. So know this, my struggles with the election don’t have anything to do with a lack of empathy towards working-class America. They have everything to do with the people who now feel vindicated to blame Hispanics, gays, Muslims in hijabs, and even Jews. Heck, a friend’s son was assaulted at school today because he didn’t identify with any religion. In my low crime suburbia. Hate is real. Here’s a look at it. Here is more. I can see clicked link stats. Look at it and know that this election cycle has helped lead us to where we are.

Each minority feels different from mainstream America in its own way. Struggling whites voted like a minority this year because they felt underappreciated and left out. There are enough that it won the day. Hopefully they get economic gain and our economy thrives, I would be a fool and a complete asshole to hope differently. But those of us who are true minorities aren’t simply feeling underappreciated, we feel threatened to varying degrees. And apparently we don’t have the numbers.

I another couple friends posted this. They didn’t get many Likes or shares and that doesn’t reassure me:
“I’ve had a number of friends, immediate family members, and acquaintances reach out and express fear today as their skin color, gender, their sexual orientation, their religion (or lack), or their very sexual identity makes them feel very much targeted in this new world we find ourselves in.To each, my message is the same – I’ve got your back.I will use my by-chance position of non-targeted privilege to speak out against bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia et.al.If you have friends feeling the same, please reach out and let them know – You’ve got their back.”

If you’re a Trump supporter, that does not make you a neo-Nazi. It doesn’t make you a racist or a bigot or a misogynist. It does put you in their company, though. I woke up feeling different on Wednesday. I felt not just like an outsider, I felt like a foreigner. So no, I can’t fully grasp what working class America feels. But don’t presume to look at me like an over-privileged white suburbanite who voted Democrat this year and feels sad. Because you don’t know my people’s struggles either.

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2 thoughts on “Trumplace Else

  1. Eric, excellent discussion. I’m a big time WWII history guy, and what led up to it. I see too many similarities to 1930’s Germany and learning to telling people to hate people who “aren’t like us”. I can’t believe that of all the people who voted for him, that not one of them has a daughter who might be groped by guys like him or told they are a pig, or a child with a physical condition that he’d make fun of, or who might be gay? Didn’t they look at their own families and think this guy is the biggest degenerate we’ve ever elected? Clinton’s foibles weren’t even in the same class.

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