It happened. I don’t know if I can really explain it. I don’t want to place blame, at this point that won’t do anyone any good, but I do want to understand how someone as vile as Donald Trump could become the President Elect of the United States of America.
What I heard most was that people were sick of the direction the United States was heading…That confuses me. Direction? Like equal rights? Marriage Equality? Legal Pot? Healthcare coverage for everyone? That direction? Is that the direction we are talking about? Or was it really about safety? Are people so worried about terrorism, black lives mattering, brown people taking “our”jobs, big businesses taking manufacturing jobs overseas, and women having a say about their bodies, that they were willing to take a chance on a man who made promises like a sixth grade ASB election? “We’re gonna have a Coke machine and the teachers are going to pay for it.”
Let’s be honest, it’s easy to make a protest vote when you don’t have anything to lose.
For some reason Faulkner’s short story Barn Burning popped into my head yesterday as I was thinking about this election. Faulkner helps those of us who don’t live in the South understand the South. In the story Abner Snopes is a bit of a southern rascal. He moves from farm to farm doing as little work as possible and when someone in power pushes him into a corner he responds by burning a barn and running away or dragging his horse shit covered boot across an expensive white carpet in the main house. “Wood kin burn” is one of my favorite lines in the story, it foreshadows the final scene and it tells you everything you need to know about Abner…he gets his power from destruction. Let it burn! Why not? He’s got nothing to lose. It’s not his barn. That ain’t his carpet.
Abner’s son knows it wrong to burn the barns and tries to stop him, but he can’t. He feels the “old fierce pull of the blood” but he eventually runs into the darkness to escape the destructive actions of his father. That pull of the blood, the idea that the past holds a promise of greatness, the obedience to the blood of family gives people who are powerless the idea that power was something they had at one time, but it has been taken away from them and they are now victims of the great machine.
If there is one thing I know from experience it is power dynamics and how that works with groups of people, I deal with it every day. People need to feel they have power, the ability to determine their path, and when they feel powerless they will reach out to gain power through destruction. Why do bathrooms get vandalized in schools? It’s the perfect place to destroy something without getting caught. Why do students disrupt classes? Because it meets their power needs. It’s better to get sent to the office than have to analyze Barn Burning‘s connection to modern elections.
I guess I understand that aspect of voting for Trump, a protest vote, a Molotov Cocktail tossed into the White House. Let it burn, you’ve got nothing to lose. Look at the election polling and one thing is clear, my fellow white males are angry. The numbers are shocking and telling. Polls were wrong going into the election because white males couldn’t vote for “that woman” and were willing to vote for someone staggeringly unprepared for the job. We put all our money on a lame horse with long odds because we had very little to lose.
So, it’s done. Now what to we do? I saw people protesting the results in major cities across the US last night. They are angry. They might be willing to burn some barns too, they have nothing to lose now that Trump is President. I don’t know what to say to them. I will make a promise. I will not stand by quietly and let the United States get pushed back to 1950. I will stand by them when things are difficult. I will be more vocal.
With that said, I also want to give the Donald his chance to be a President of ALL of the United States. I was furious when the republicans announced their goal was to make Obama a one term President and then spent eight years blocking anything that would have assisted the rust belt and built infrastructure. I don’t want to double down on stupid.
But…I hear “wood kin burn.”