When it comes to feelings (nothing more than feelings), there are two strongly reactive — yet very separate — feelings clubs on my mind these days. The one that surprises me is personal and seems to have only myself as a member. The unsurprising one, the angry, depressed, shocked one, contains nearly all the liberals these days.
A more on-the-nose term might be ‘city folk.’ (Or my personal favorite: “polis people.”) Some see this — I fully agree — as a divide between rural and city sensibilities, between local old-fashioned and global modern tech, between yesterday and tomorrow.
One side is stunned the other won, while the winners are holding their breath wondering what they’ve won…
Seriously, if you can see it from the outside (where I’ve usually been), it’s really, really funny. That first club I mentioned. The personal club of one. Our motto is “Ha! Told ya so!” — amusement is our watchword.
Mind you, it’s not a victory club, a victory feeling. This is all about the feeling of bitter irony. The “See? See what happens?” shaking my head in disgust feeling. It’s the dark smirking self-satisfaction of seeing the bleeding cut when I warned you many times that glass is sharp.
Very sharp. Don’t play around with it. Seriously, don’t do that, or you’ll cut… Ah. See? See what happens when you mess around?
I’m surprised by my darkly gleeful irony. (Give it this much: it’s truly ironic!) This is the second vaguely weird switch in as many months.
First I’m not only okay with Cleveland losing, but actually switch to actively rooting for the Cubs early in game seven.
And now, while I’m not okay with Hillary Clinton losing, I don’t share (at least not yet) the horrified surprise or gut-wrenching anger over the loss.
For one thing, it didn’t surprise me.
It didn’t surprise certain political scientists. One, whose heretofore accurate, yet simple, model predicted Trump, repudiated his own model. He felt Trump was too much an outlier, so his model had to be wrong. Others who made strong predictions favoring Trump also dismissed 2016 as an aberration!
There was a sense of expectation and entitlement about the election that I always thought might create a backlash. Rural folk have resented that expectant entitlement — they see it as smug and, in particular, they perceive it as belittling them.
They’re not wrong. That’s key in understanding what happened. More than race, more than gender, more than nationality, this is about a native segment of America that feels forgotten and left behind.
For another thing, this was always a possibility to me.
In the long term, I’ve seen The Marching Morons theory as one way things could actually go.
Many see Idiocracy as a dark comedy fantasy that became a prescient documentary (in, oh, such scary ways).
In the short term, the best the Democrats could do was Hillary Clinton.
The side that assumed they had this in the bag blew it because they messed around, made a mess, and messed up. They missed what was in plain sight in their figurative backyard.
On some level, this wasn’t OMG so much as Duh. (But one person’s Huh? is another person’s Duh!) Most of all, this was then, and it is now, about people’s feelings.
America has a long history of bringing people up. It’s one of our goals. There is a group of Americans who have lived here for generations — who were brought up by America — and who have worked hard for their country.
In the living history of this country, these are the ones who fought and died in our wars; who built our bridges, buildings, cars, and washing machines; who made this country what it was.
They worked and died and believed, and in return America fulfilled their dreams.
The American Dream was real then.
We no longer live in such prosperous times, that much is certain.
Why the world has changed, whether it’s truly changed, what exactly has changed, when it started (or will end), where all this change ends up — these are questions for other posts.
What matters here is that America really has changed in clear and present ways — ways that affect people’s lives in specific ways. For some, most of these ways aren’t good, aren’t welcomed.
And while America continues to bring people up — the young, the newcomers, the modern — there is an inevitable decline for those not part of the head-long rush towards tomorrow. Democratization brings some up, but it brings others down.
Those folks look around and see an America they built, and they wonder, at the least, what the hell happened.
How did it all change so much?
Where did the jobs go? Where did the money go?
And most of all, where did my sense of being a real American go?
When did I become the enemy of so many? Why am I the bad guy, the deplorable?
They call where I live “fly-over land” and smile. They call it “the boonies” or “the sticks” and think nothing happens here, nothing comes from here.
I come from here, and I call it home. What about my feelings?
I have two points here.
Firstly, all the feelings of “us” and “them” operate exactly the same way on both sides.
Each side sees the other as unreasonable.
Each side sees the other side’s champions as demons.
Each side sees their own champion as less than ideal. Some even see their side’s champion as an unfortunate choice and wish for someone better.
But that pales in comparison to how much they hate the other side’s champion.
Those calling this a cultural war are correct. What’s not correct is assuming only one side has merit. That’s where the expectation and entitlement start.
But to ascribe this to racism or sexism misses the point. Even nationalism and populism aren’t the wellspring. This springs from the pain and anger of personal loss. Other stuff gets swept up in that; people in pain lash out.
So I’m not hugely sympathetic to a lot of the garment rending on the left. You did this to yourselves. In part, it was because your head was up your ass on so many levels. But it was also because I share the disdain for smug liberal entitlement.
Secondly: “Feelings. Nothing more than feelings…” How many times have I stressed the importance of rational discussion?
Of education and knowledge?
Of the head steering and the heart pushing?
[Or how about my new one: It’s the head that gets us to escape velocity. The feelings are the rocket fuel. (And if you’re not careful, they can blow up!)]
An irony here lies in how the modern era celebrates and embraces feelings. Liberals, especially, elevate feelings above rational thought. (Exhibit A: anti-vaxxers.)
They think feelings are so important they corrupt the concept of contests so everyone can win Participation Awards and no one gets bruised feelings.
Well, guess what. Feelings — of loss, of harm, of anger — cost you the election. The guy who won did so by embracing the feelings of those you disdained to feel for.
I warned you, time and again, that feelings have sharp edges. That they can cut the unwary. That they’re dangerous. But no. This narcotic is far too powerful, too seductive, too much fun, to put down.
So I am not hugely sympathetic to the whining, to the feelings about a lost culture war. Those feelings have been matched by others for decades. They’ve been losing all this time; now the worm has turned.
How many times do I have to repeat the quote:
“A democratic society, an open society, places an extraordinary intellectual responsibility on ordinary men and women, because we are governed by what we think, we are governed by our opinions. So the content of our opinions, and the quality of our opinions, and the quality of the formation of our opinions, basically determines the character of our society.”
Until we reach for and grasp this nothing really changes.
The social pendulum swings back and forth, but so long as it centers on thoughtless and emotional, nothing really changes.
Real change is hard. It takes dedication and decades. It takes working together — truly together, not in word, but deed.
So far we — all of we — seem more interested in “us” versus “them” games, more concerned with “our” side winning regardless of reality or reason.