We apologize for the language in advance, but this has been on our mind a long time, and there’s really no other way to get the point across.
It’s a story we first heard in the Eighties, but it must stretch back generations, perhaps forever. It’s a story of Poor White Trash seemingly happy with their miserable lot, fundamentally resistant to attempts to help them. Why? Why settle for that shack, when life can be so much better?
And the profane response, which explains for us America’s Original Sin as much as anything:
“At least we’re not niggers.”
There are so many ways of getting at this. Racism. Nationalism. “Populism”. Religion. And none of them are wrong, really, they’re just incomplete, insufficient. They don’t get at the rawness of that attitude, the profound, fundamental nature of it. They don’t get at how deep it runs, how enduring it is — and how easy it is to pretend it’s something else.
At least we’re not them.
There’s a related story. This one goes back to LBJ, we think, to the Great Society, to the resistance against social programs then, and the continuing resistance now. It’s not that we couldn’t use the help, we white folk in Your Godforsaken Region of Choice. But if it’s going to help them too, we don’t want it. We’re better than that.
It must have been third grade when we first heard any version of the story. We were trick-or-treating for UNICEF, in the very neighborhood where we spent our early childhood. A dime here, a quarter there.
Knock-knock-knock. Door opens. Young dude, probably in his twenties. We announce our presence and purpose. “I’m not giving you anything,” he says, “and I’ll tell you why: That money goes to communist children.”
He didn’t mean Russia.
He meant “Third World” countries, as we called it at the time. He meant them. The dark kids with the bloated bellies on TV.
We were stunned. We’ve remained stunned for fifty years.
The hatred of it. The depth of that hatred.
The hatred in his soul.
You need to understand this. You need to understand what we’re dealing with here. You need to understand why 73,890,295 Americans would vote for Donald Trump, despite everything, despite the risk to their own lives, why they’ll happily throw democracy in the trash just to keep him in power.
You need to understand dogs.
Or Trump’s idea of dogs, anyway.
This has been observed for a long time now, Trump’s use of dogs as metaphor. No Man’s Best Friend in his world. No loving companions, love itself being an emotion that’s alien to him. Dogs, like everything else in his life, are creatures that exist to serve his whims, have no purpose beyond that, and should be casually discarded when no longer needed.
He said it again just last week. “If you were a Republican poll watcher,” he told his Gettysburg audience over the phone, “you were treated like a dog.”
Like a dog. Like them. Like the people you’re not, no matter how sorry your situation.
73 million Americans, desperate not to be treated like dogs, desperate not to be lumped in with those they consider beneath them.
73 million Americans who must treat their own dogs like that.
And expect slavish devotion in return.
A Nation of Karens.
We don’t see a solution to this. Trump himself may exit the stage, but those 73 million Americans were there before him, and they’ll be with us long after, clinging to every scrap of power they can get, desperate in their lives not to be seen as no better than the rest of us. Their souls are poisoned with their superiority, and the only thing that makes their miserable lives worth it is our submission.
They cannot be accommodated. They can only be defeated. But problem is, there are so doggone many of them.