Trump Candidacy’s Legacy of Division Already Settling In


As the primary season winds down, the chasm opening up in conservative ranks is more surprising and distressing than any refinement of the Right/Left distinction.

I have three degrees and a teaching certificate. I paid my way through college at every stage after my parents bankrolled the Bachelor’s degree (which I’d earned by the age of twenty by attending summer school). Despite all of this preparation, I have never come close to making half of a six-figure annual income—and, at this late date, I never will. My being a straight white male Texan has had something, perhaps much, to do with my limited employment opportunities in academe. A member of more than one search committee has confidentially informed me that my “non-minority” status was a major liability.

Nevertheless, I have usually managed to scrounge up some kind of work and to enjoy some substantial portion of my job. I’ve also found ways to save money. I’ve cut my own hair for twenty-five years. I’ve walked to work and/or taken a homemade lunch at most of my jobs. I probably wear old clothes far too long: I certainly don’t concern myself about fashion statements. I avoid doctors unless I run out of duct tape. (If you eat properly and exercise, then whatever death awaits you is the one you’re due: that’s my view.) My wife and I have taken all of two vacations in twenty years that had nothing to do with our son’s traveling to baseball tournaments.

And speaking of baseball… my son and I managed to develop a special skill in him that will have put him through college in another year (God willing) without any debt.

I might add that I grow about $300 worth of food in the back yard, during a good year. I’m still learning the finer points of truck farming. It’s hard, hard work, but it leads to a feeling of independence.

Why this self-gratulatory ramble? Because I’m tired of being styled an elitist white-collar snob, sometimes implicitly and sometimes in direct attacks, by Trump supporters. Many of them seem to think that they have some righteous claim to moral high ground because their jobs were outsourced and because they couldn’t afford years of education. The Donald, they say, is going to bring their jobs back; and for Cruz-ers like me to question his honesty or competence is just the smug condescension of someone who has never had dirt under his fingernails.

Allow me to point out the following:

1)            I don’t like the way our nation’s industrial backbone was surgically removed, either. If we should go to war with China on some dark day of the twenty-first century, we would have to figure out how we might still import our ships and tanks from our adversary—because all the parts in such assemblies currently come from the PRC. Yet as for job loss, outsourcing only accelerated the demise of the industrial laborer which contemporary high tech has made inevitable. Those manual laborers who still have employment in today’s world get paid so little that they undercut the manufacture and operational costs of the machine poised to replace them. Once they demand a raise, they’re gone. This isn’t the description of the typical American worker’s dream-gig.

2)            Our unions actually forced the hand of many industries that would as soon have kept their factories in the USA. How many steelworkers, I wonder, would show up in the morning for my salary? Trump can’t turn the technological clock back, and he can’t make a job worth $15 an hour on the open market pay $30. But he can, apparently, buy votes by promising otherwise.

3)            Finally, I’m not inclined to apologize either for what I’ve studied or because I’ve studied. If there were more teachers of literature like me, our colleges wouldn’t be indoctrinating enemies of Western culture by defaming and mutilating literary classics. If more young people had more exposure to more great books, then there might be a more general understanding that all lives have a beginning and an end with lots of intermediate chapters, that what you choose to do in chapter 14 or 23 of your life will impact the finale, and that human tragedies are always eventually the fruit of human character. There might be fewer people who believe in some incoherent “superhero” personality constructed by popular media or in some comic-book salvation-scenario impossible in real-world events.

To those who sneer that I wouldn’t have time to study such gibberish if I weren’t a pampered darling of the leisure class, I say that they might not need smartphones, widescreen TV’s, extended-cab pick-ups hot off the line, tickets to Cowboy games, PlayStation upgrades (or Play Stations), hunting leases, Caribbean cruises, air fare to Vegas, or new trophy wives if they knew how to live each day with a regard for its contribution to all previous and subsequent days. They might even, along the way, learn some of the deeper dimensions of that Christian faith whose name is being swatted about now like a badminton birdie at a family picnic.

To those who smirk because I use words like “subsequent”, I say that I wasn’t born knowing any words at all. I began where they did, and I worked my way up. I don’t boast about my learning, because I know how much ignorance still clouds my view; but I might boast of not being fool enough to boast of my ignorance, if the former boast were not as foolish as the latter.

Why would a person curse and damn another for treating him like a dummy, then proceed to attack that other for showing signs of brain activity? Isn’t that pretty dumb?

An angry veteran called Limbaugh a few weeks ago. He defended a man who has publicly derided POW’s and has crowed about getting soldiers to commit cold-blooded murder of non-combatants at his bidding; yet the same caller disparaged a man who champions the Constitution that all military personnel are sworn to uphold. Of this veteran I would simply ask, “Why?”

Another radio/television host persistently labels as an “outsider” and an “insurgent” a man who attended Penn State and rode his father’s millions into a career of dubious promotions, while the implied insider is the son of a refugee from Castro’s Cuba who worked his way through Harvard and proceeded to alienate the likes of Mitch McConnell by speaking truth on the floor of the US Senate. Of this celebrated host I would ask, “So what are you staking in this bet? If you turn out to have misadvised the American people, what money is behind your mouth? I’ll lose my job if my students learn nothing. My son will be bumped from the team if he can’t retire hitters. What happens if, within one year, your maverick cuts sordid deals on every major promise? Will you resign? Will you denounce yourself to your listeners? No: you’ll scream, ‘Traitor!’ as if you had no warning and were perfectly innocent. You’ll flip like a weathervane.”

What I expected to be a time of relief, if not of joy and celebration, has become a renewal of an eight-year nightmare. That a president even worse than Barack Obama looms over our future—and that he will be foisted upon us not by progressive ideologues, but by class warriors who hate education and reason as venomously as any of the drivers of Mao’s “Cultural Revolution”—isn’t a possibility I had ever imagined. Some of the most cherished constellations in my universe of trusted informants—editorialists, commentators, and fundraisers whom I viewed as personal friends, though I had never met any of them—are now dead to me for this life. These few months of 2016 have brought unforeseen and incalculable loss. I can’t believe what I’m living through.

The Roman poet Virgil always associates bursts of irrational, destructive passion with a female animus in the Aeneid. Virgil’s men and women alike have both a stable male half and a volatile female half; and the latter, as in the Old Testament, always seems to win. (Naturally, all of this is far too politically incorrect to write or even whisper about in the Ivory Tower—a contributive cause, no doubt, to the Aeneid’s disappearance from the standard curriculum.) Juno detests the Trojans with an implacable, maniacal lust for vengeance; the prudent Greek Athena, in her Virgilian morph as Minerva, is just as vindictive, though less visible. Warriors are driven to mad slaughter in battle by various feminine inspirations, from the hellish Allecto to the innocent Lavinia whose blushes fan Turnus’s passion. Hecate ministers to Dido’s suicide after a disappointed love; and the Trojan matrons, desperate after so much wandering, set much of the fleet afire in Sicily, hoping nonsensically to find build a home from the smoldering ashes. Even the admirably level-headed Amazon Camilla meets her doom because of a momentary surrender to “a womanish love of baubles”. To ancient Stoics and to most Greco-Roman philosophers after the days of Socrates, the essential manly attribute was rational self-control. The ability to dominate surging impulses with abiding principles and to draw egoistic responses—perhaps kicking and screaming—under the umbrella of the Golden Rule sat at the core of virtus: “virtue”, literally “manliness”.

But this, of course, is a thinking person’s—and probably an educated person’s—argument. Now we display our manhood, apparently, by dropping the reins and letting the horses run where they will. A guy who cuts his own hair is a “loser”, and “self-sufficiency” is a flattering way of denominating the cowardice of the short-maned lion who’s been chased off by the alpha male.

We’re back to jungle law, just in time for a new Spring.

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