Listening to his brief, to-the-point inaugural address, it was hard to escape the thought…
What if he’s right?
Just now I’m listening to PBS News streaming off the Web, where a commentator is going on about “doom and gloom” in Trump’s speech, and how the beast was “not healing wounds.”
But…I didn’t hear doom and gloom in what he said. I heard “we’re gonna fix this.”
If he hadn’t lied until he was blue in the face..
If he hadn’t crassly, deliberately appealed to the very worst in the American psyche…
If he weren’t a groper of women…
If he had not courted and had not been courted by (possibly to the point of treason) a foreign power that has been our enemy for decades…
If there were any inkling of a reason to believe he understands as much about running a country as he does about running a TV reality show…
I could almost get on board with the bastard. I could almost be persuaded that yeah, he’s a bastard, but he’s our bastard.
One of the things that’s fed that feeling is the jaw-dropping obtuseness evinced by thinkers and commentators of my own political persuasion. Dayum! What part of a few international billionaires are collecting most of the money in the world while Americans can’t get a decent job don’t you understand?
Not just a few “deplorables,” folks. But ALL OF US.
Or at least a very significant portion of us.
This afternoon NPR ran (twice!) a piece whose reporter dutifully went out and interviewed some Trumpish WT: high-school graduates working in one of the country’s few remaining steel mills. The hellish difficulty of the work was described in loving detail. The workers’ enthusiasm for just having a job was described, much as the behavior of some exotic beetle might be detailed. Then the reporter asks one woman, “Is the pay good?”
“For these parts, it’s very good,” she says.
Amazed (being a clear and present New Yorker), our intrepid reporter follows up with “Can you afford to buy a car or live in a house?”
“Well, no,” she says (subtext: Are you stupid?) “No, you couldn’t buy a house and you couldn’t afford to buy a car on this salary.”
She and her partner are getting by because they’re both laboring full time. Maybe one person could live on the pay. But two surely can’t. Still…it’s very good pay and she feels lucky to have a job at all.
Okay. We all know that people with GEDs and high-school diplomas can’t get work, and we can hear, from the reporters’ and commentators’ tone that we should believe the people who voted for Trump are the ignored and ignorant white underclass discommoded by globalization.
But…what about the rest of us? Do you know how many jobs formerly held by college graduates and even graduates of professional schools are being offshored? Lawyers’ jobs. Accountants’ jobs. Graphic designers’ jobs. Editors’ jobs. Publishers’ jobs. Carpenters’ jobs. Bankers’ jobs. Architects’ jobs. IT jobs. Engineering jobs. News reporting. Stock analysis. Even medical services.
When my associate editor Tina and I were still working at the Great Desert University, our office provided membership in a statewide association of small publishers. After we were laid off, The Copyeditor’s Desk maintained our membership until the trade organization finally collapsed.
We were hustling to make the business work. Her theory was that if we kept our rates low, we would get more business and so would make up in volume the amount that we might have made with better-paying work. So we were selling ourselves for peanuts.
One evening we were at a shindig put on by this group. Along comes an Indian guy. He has a printing company in Mumbai. The guy is thriving and is, at that time, maneuvering to get visas and green cards to move his family permanently into the United States, where he wishes to take up residence in a Scottsdale mansion.
He starts to talk fairly loosely. And without realizing that he’s telling me this, he reveals that he can take a book from the manuscript stage through copyediting, page design, cover design, typesetting, proofreading, indexing, and printing for less than Tina and I can copyedit it — at our bargain-basement rates!
I simply couldn’t effing believe it. But it was true. This guy was stealing our business. As he circulated around the room, he was telling all our potential clients that he could take their golden words to the finished product for less than a U.S. supplier could do one stage of the product at starvation wages.
Well, since then I’ve raised our rates. I figure if we can’t get much work, we’d better get paid as much as we can for the little work we do get. And we now target a different clientele: businesses and academics who need to publish to make money, not just because they dream of becoming Writers. Effectively, we offer a Cadillac editing service. We’re good, and we get paid for being good.
Why, we even speak English (can you imagine?). And French. And Russian. And Italian. Even a bit of Spanish. And Latin, of course.
The point is, I’m dead sure we are not alone. Large numbers of Americans with expensive college degrees who used to hold down good jobs that fit their education and experience no longer can earn a living wage. Many of us are lucky to be working at all. And IMHO, it’s fvckin’ no wonder people voted for Trump. A lot of people think it’s time for a change — and they need that change if they’re going to survive at all.
Whether Trump can make change happen remains to be seen. Personally, I doubt it. The first major crisis that hits — whether it’s a stock market crash or another plane taking down another landmark building or a gas attack exterminating half a city — will show how little he knows about running a country. The extreme right-wing organization behind him, the hideous, decayed remains of the Republican Party, will take over the instant he falters. And like the Taliban, those people mean no good at all for anyone who is not one of them.
Scary times. Scary times made even scarier by the fact that the people who could have and should have done something about it still don’t seem to get the picture.
Image: Zach Rudisin. CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20727816