Linear Thinking

I read this article in MotherJones a few months ago when it first came out. I thought the author’s analysis of how rural Trump voters think was particularly insightful given that many of the people the author came to know during his time among them largely agree with it. He summarized it this way:

You are patiently standing in the middle of a long line stretching toward the horizon, where the American Dream awaits. But as you wait, you see people cutting in line ahead of you. Many of these line-cutters are black—beneficiaries of affirmative action or welfare. Some are career-driven women pushing into jobs they never had before. Then you see immigrants, Mexicans, Somalis, the Syrian

Yard of Trump Supporter
Yard of Trump Supporter (photo: Stacy Krantitz)

refugees yet to come. As you wait in this unmoving line, you’re being asked to feel sorry for them all. You have a good heart. But who is deciding who you should feel compassion for? Then you see President Barack Hussein Obama waving the line-cutters forward. He’s on their side. In fact, isn’t he a line-cutter too? How did this fatherless black guy pay for Harvard? As you wait your turn, Obama is using the money in your pocket to help the line-cutters. He and his liberal backers have removed the shame from taking. The government has become an instrument for redistributing your money to the undeserving. It’s not your government anymore; it’s theirs.

What these poor souls fail to understand is that There Is No Line.

Yet, people have been sold the notion that there is a line, and it has become the basis for an otherwise unfounded sense of entitlement. “Good things come to those who wait.” How often do we hear that? Antithetically, we also hear “God helps those who help themselves.” Which is it?

Confused? Maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s the purpose of constantly pounding conflicting messages into people’s heads: to confuse them. And if you make sure those same people never develop even a basic capacity for critical thinking, you can keep them befuddled, confused, dependent on authority figures to tell them what to do throughout their lives.

We liberals are told we don’t know how to talk to this part of the country, to these people. We’re told they feel disconnected, feel that their country has been taken over by those who they see as cutting in line, robbing them of their due. Well, to us liberals, they sound like petulant children, whining “It’s not fair!” when they feel they’ve been denied the cookie, the ice cream cone, equal turns (or time, right down to the last darn second) on the swing, or suffer any one of seemingly thousands of such injustices. The naive parent tries to reason with their child, tries to explain the how and why. Sooner or later, many of these parents (myself included) resign themselves to the reality that they are trying to reason with people who are unreasonable, and long-winded, thoughtful explanations are being ignored. The best answer turns out to be the simplest, and applies here, too: Life is not fair. Get used to that.

The overwhelming majority of people who think this way live in states that in fact receive more from the federal government than their residents pay out in federal taxes. If anything, those of us who live and work in “liberal” states, like New York or California, should be crying about how unfair that is. We don’t. Liberals operate on the principle that we’re all in this together, and that the purpose of any benevolent government is to be a tool for all of us to use to make life better for all of us. Does that mean each and every one of us will receive an equal portion? Ideally, sure; in reality, it’s not possible nor is it a reasonable expectation.

In an ideal world, life is fair, no one ever goes without, and everyone is always happy. I think the rural, benighted folk of the heartland need to grow up, need to understand that life indeed is not fair, the universe does not owe them anything, and that their life will be what they make of the opportunities chance bestows on them coupled with the character they exhibit when chance kicks them in the gut.

That’s the bottom line.

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