When I spoke to my dad back in the fall of 2015 about Trump, what stood out, the reason he said he would vote for him – and remember this was when he seemed like a long shot – was that dad liked that he just “said it like it is”, and that dad believed he was too wealthy to be bought, unlike all the other crooked characters that congregated in the capital.
I told him at the time that he was wrong on both counts, but he didn’t believe me, and probably still doesn’t. Even then it felt like I was talking to a wall and that my father had already made up his mind, even back when the guy was a complete long shot.
There were many (more than I had thought there would be) who bought his shtick, and others that saw right through it but instead saw him as the agent of chaos they felt was needed in order to shake up the political landscape, drain the swamp, and all those who revel in the theories of chaos and its ability to once and for all disturb the status quo, to rock the boat and wipe all those smug grins off the stuck up liberal establishment they felt had dominated the Obama years.
I believe most Trump voters at the time fell into one of those camps, sometimes a couple of them.
For me I guess the primary reason I feel compelled to write about all this is that I believe I have a unique voice, being the daughter of a conservative southern white man who grew up in the Jim Crow southern U.S., and a mother who was raised in Canada by an opinionated intelligent liberal-minded mother.
Both those worlds live inside me. Both those worlds have given me stories that in a way I guess define my attraction to the dichotomy of things, opposite spectrum of the same thing, like dark to light, the sun and the moon, the left and the right.
In his heart of hearts I know my father believes he is right, that this guy somehow for him offers something that no other politician, no president in the modern era anyways, has offered – a sense of belonging, being part of a tribe.
Yet for me the 45th flies in the face of everything I believe, is hellbent on destroying the things I value, cares nothing for wilderness, of trees and animals, cares nothing for bees and the eagles and hawks, nothing of giving a helping hand to those in need, a man who cheats at everything, lies like a rug, and kind of epitomizes the old saying that “if you believe in nothing you will fall for everything“.
So even back in the fall of 2015 my creep-o-meter was in the red in regards the ol’rumpTus, and regardless of all his overtures of making this that and the other GREAT, I knew that everything that glitters was not gold, and was all pomp and circumstance with no substance.
I mean, I didn’t know that his wealth was overblown, didn’t know he’d gone bankrupt multiple times and that no U.S. bank would lend to him. I had no clue about all his connections to Russia, or that the whole Apprentice show was mostly faked, but I suspected most “reality” shows were faked, and quite frankly couldn’t stand any of them, never got the whole reality TV bug – mostly since I didn’t actually have a TV.
My dislike of Trump initially was just based on his brash know-it-all BS and his legitimizing of the racist white trash of America.
“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”John Stuart Mill
To that end, my American southern relatives were no different from their neighbours, as for decades good people watched as American citizens were stripped of their rights and re-classified into a caste system, of the worthy and the unworthy, the clean and the unclean, and all determined by the colour of one’s skin.
So, with the coming of the 20th century, stripped of all the achievements of the 19th century and the ideals of global visionaries, all those lofty goals of a fairer union, a more equal nation under god, all of that was not for the black American of the south.
And, it was poor white trash in America that, while not creating the Jim Crow Laws, adhered to and encouraged them.
Yet, my fathers family were not white trash, they were modestly prosperous tobacco farmers, with roots stemming way back into the mists of time, back to the early decades of America, back to Jamestown, Virginia in the closing decades of the 17th century.
With my American roots, in looking deeper I found some ancestors were wealthy, some dirt poor, most were rural. These hardworking individuals were elders in their churches and generally just respected members of the community. Some of them had slaves, but most did not, as they were not prosperous enough to have any, perhaps, as the documentation doesn’t give any of that sort of stuff away.
I mean, I have ancestors that fought in the Civil War, a couple in the Revolutionary War, and even one branch that claims descend from Blackbeard the Pirate, or so the family legend says.
Yet, one thing I learned when I grew up is that racism in America is not as cut and dry as I once believed, seeing KKK hoods on the racist and the halo on the others, the good guys as it were. It didn’t work that way, though.
My dad told me that these divisions were the law, but that many circumnavigated, such as my Great Grandmother whose best friend was a black woman that lived down the way. This woman could sit on Great Grandma’s porch but the law said she could not go in the house as an equal, was only allowed in through the back door as a servant. Or, that when dad was in the National Guard he could drink on base with his good friend who was a black man, but they couldn’t even go into the same bar if they were off base, and THAT was the reality of the south and those Jim Crow laws.
None were civil rights leaders, none were storming the ramparts and breaking down racial barriers on either side of the border that runs between these two sides of my family tree, of the northern and the southern, of the Canadian and American, nary a revolutionary in the bunch. With what I have found it is just generation after generation guiding their way through the pitfalls and hardships of life, no firebrands, no real rebels, not really.
Truthfully though, the various layers of American racism are beyond me, as I grew up in a different place, a different time, with different ideals than my father, and as such I have no understanding of, for instance, the issues surrounding busing and segregation that still exists across the United States educational system.
Growing up in Canada I didn’t understand this issue between Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and the meaning of busing, that there are still districts in the U.S. divided along racial barriers, and to some degree segregation is in some districts more divided today, not less.
Discrimination is almost systemic to a degree in America, as racism has been woven into the very fabric of the nation, rightly or wrongly, it is a part of its past, its present, and for the forseeable future.
Maybe it is somehow part of humanities fate to revert to hierarchies of power and freedom, rights and privileges, to segregate ourselves off into haves and have-nots whenever the going gets a rough, or fear is dominate in the equation. Far easier to point the finger than to accept the things that NEED to change, as change is difficult, scary and highly uncertain, reserved for the firebrands of change to hold aloft, the lights in the dark, guiding the rest of us through the darker and darkest of ages.
So, I guess to say equivocally one way or the other, either my dad IS racist, or that my dad IS NOT, is kind of, I suppose, not relevant to the conversation, at least to my mind.
What I guess is most relevant, to me any way, is this man who now leads the United States represents that faction of society that fears things they do not understand, sees more value in going back in time, and bullying everyone who disagrees with him, and therefore does not represent most Americans views or their ideals.
Maybe too it’s that he doesn’t lead, he is not finding a way forward, he seems to be more concerned in stuffing America back into the places, the faces, that defined the past, without any regard for the reality of today.
When we talk about racism, about defining people merely by religion or skin colour, as if certain colours of skin are more worthy in some fashion, or superior, it is a bit like we are running back into the cave and hiding behind our fear of the unknown. However, if humanity had not taken that leap of faith our most ancient of ancestors would not have even bothered to climb out of the trees and made their way across the globe, seeking a better way, a better life, a safer future, a more bountiful harvest.
So, maybe I am the first rebel, but with a cause, of my family. Maybe, as well, defining myself based on the past is no more useful than it is for a country.
Perhaps, what is important is what vision we have for the future, and to be a torch, a light in the darkness for others to be guided along the way, spurred on by voices and mighty pens (er, keyboards) who will NOT just be silent and do nothing.