Rant Against Liberals (from a Liberal)
I spent New Year's Weekend with some good friends who live in Southwestern Colorado. These are friends that my family and I have known for over a decade and we were enjoying some lively political conversation when the subject inevitably turned to what could possibly compel anyone to have voted for Donald Trump. The election results have been something I (and millions of other voters) have been completely unable to understand--or believe. How could people put the health of our planet, protection from corporate self-interests and our advances as a society, as an evolvement of homo sapiens, at risk? How could they vote for someone who appears, at least to us, to be about to unleash the ravenous appetites of Big Business upon us, relatively unchecked in a time when the planet may be on the brink of not bouncing back easily?
Then someone said: Jobs. They talked about the kinds of things Hilary or other liberals had been promising that would address climate change and protect the planet, like shutting down more coal plants and dialing back the oil and gas industry, but they never offered any alternatives for the people employed in those kinds of jobs. My knee jerk response was that those folks were just going to have to find themselves some other line of work for the betterment of the planet and mankind. People change careers all the time these days, I reasoned. If there aren't other jobs at hand, they'll just have to move to where the jobs are. After all, that's what many of our friends have done over the years.
One of my friends struck me silent when he responded, "Donna, you don't know what you're talking about. You don't know what it's like for the people who live in these places. They can't just find other work. There isn't any. They can't just pick up and move where the work is because they can't begin to afford it." An inkling of understanding began to grow. "Why don't they just move?" Why don't they just move? Well, for starters, it may be that their entire family lives where they are and some people are actually so close to their families that they can't imagine living without them. That's the sweet answer. The not-so-sweet answer is that if they are in some of the kinds of jobs we're talking about, they have probably barely been scraping by for years, or like many of us, have little or no savings with which to move.
A couple of weeks later, I was at another gathering where, again, we ended up having a similar discussion. To my own surprise, my position had changed slightly. Not about Trump (no, not a bit) but I had a different perspective about the concerns of some the people who voted for him. I casually shared my new perspective and found myself on the receiving end of the same type of argument I'd offered myself a couple of weeks before. Suddenly, I got it. I got why "they" might think "we're" the ones so terribly in the wrong.
The upper middle class lounges on their Ethan Allen couches waxing poetic about how those who work in "dying" industries like coal mining or oil and gas should just pick up and move to where the work is. But here's the thing: If these folks have been career coal miners, as were their father's and grandfather's before them, what entry level position in a new field would they recommend for a mother or father, or both, that would pay a decent enough salary to support a family. It doesn't exist and/or they aren't trained for it. to suggest they adapt or die out is heartless. No wonder they voted for Trump. He at least pretends to care about them. I heard that the republican party had depicted Democrats as "others" and therefore unworthy of compassion. From some of what I'm hearing, they aren't the only ones. No wonder they're voting for Trump. At least with Trump they have a chance at what is most pressingly concerning them: mere survival, and for "liberals," and I generally call myself one, to expect these people to go quietly into the night after their predecessors, their ancestors, have supported us and carried us into this "enlightened age," to suggest they adapt or sink, well, that makes us assholes. And we actually should be viewed with suspicion if that's as far as our concerns go.
I think the days where we can really isolate ourselves in communities or countries are over. We HAVE to have these confrontations now. It's one world. If we can mobilize to make protests, we can mobilize to troubleshoot. If we're going to shut down coal plants, for example, we need to replace them with another industry. Perhaps persuading alternative energy manufacturers to open shop in these areas. I don't know. I'm sure there are countless other solutions we can come up with if we start putting our energies in that direction. There are always solutions. We're at an unprecedented place in human history and moving through this challenging time with its remnants of bigotry, racism, chauvinism, etc. will require that we try to listen to each other's fears and concerns. All of us. We will overcome this. Struggle forces growth. And we'll be stronger and better for the forging.