Chan Lowe: It's a tough time for angry white males
PITTSFIELD — First off, a tip of the hat to our neighbors in New York Congressional District 19, for whom defeated incumbent Rep. John Faso's racist dog whistle proved to be off-pitch. Here in the Berkshires, we get our TV from Albany, so we were "treated" to the same vicious, coded negative advertising about Antonio Delgado and his "big-city rapper" background that you were. Not only must you have decided that you didn't wish to be represented further by someone who would stoop so low to keep his job, you managed to elect a person who has every reason to make you proud in the future. In these fractured times, you struck a blow for decency in politics.
Moving on, being a white male of a certain age, I was left wondering why the midterms weren't more definitive in terms of registering the country's dismay at Trump's reign (I use the term deliberately). The man commits acts on a weekly basis that would sink any other presidency. There's more to this than simple Trump fatigue, or Republicans wouldn't have managed to widen the partisan gap in the Senate.
STARTING ON THIRD BASE
Leave it to my wife to explain it all to me. When you are born as a male in this society, you start out more or less on third base. Everything is geared in your favor — opportunity, salary level, the levers of power and so on. Instead of having to fight for advantages, they're bequeathed upon you by the status quo. Your primacy is woven into your character from the moment you utter your first bleat in the expectation that a woman will be nearby to tend to your needs.
Such an ingrained attitude is practically impervious to questioning. This is why — even after battling for so long — women still make lower salaries than men, and the ERA (remember that?) still awaits ratification.
Then see what happens when you start throwing people of other colors and shrill women into the mix. They may think of their activism as demanding their fair share of the pie, but you see it as a zero-sum game wherein whatever they gain is at your expense. You tighten your grip on what you have. You pass laws governing the amount of control women have over their bodies, for example, not so much out of moral conviction but because it reinforces the notion that women should remain subordinate.
You respond to exhortations to harass and restrict immigrants, not because they threaten your jobs — after all, performing stoop labor in a vegetable field wasn't your career plan, anyway — but because once they become legal, they're probably going to vote for their own kind, which threatens your position.
Enter a white nationalist messiah like Donald Trump, who decries such societal developments as "political correctness," which you view as uppity people trying to silence your right to roar like a lion. We all know Trump is a repugnant human being — a loser. But he's a repugnant loser who made it big. He's rich, is surrounded by lots of gold things, and has a trophy wife. His lies, his insults, his attacks on the underpinnings of our democracy — none of this matters, because he's a winner. "Winning" represents a recapturing of that inherent superiority that white males see being pried from their fingers. Moreover, it comes at the expense of those who threaten them, which is the wellspring of such phrases as, "I know he lies, but I trust him," and "I like him because he drives you liberals crazy." Trump, by his very coarse existence, embodies the concept of retaliation for all affronts, real and imagined.
All this is to say that "Trumpism" will not go away even if the president chokes on one too many Big Macs. It will lie, slowly pulsing, just beneath the surface, until the next demagogue gives it permission to rear up. It can't be destroyed, because it remains an integral part of the identity of a large segment of our population.
That doesn't mean it won't ultimately perish, but it will disappear incrementally. Angry white males unfortunate enough to have been born on the cusp of tectonic shifts in our culture will ultimately pass away, and to quote another president out of context, it will finally be "morning in America."
Chan Lowe is the deputy editorial page editor of The Eagle and a syndicated editorial cartoonist.
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