Two hundred and forty some (very)odd years ago, America was born with the last quill scratch to a piece of hemp paper. Signing the Declaration of Independence on that primitive Zigzag meant that we no longer had to live in fear of British rule. Interestingly, the reason why many left England for the “new world” was that of religious persecution. Fast-forward to Thanksgiving dinner with your uncle/aunt who always seems to say the wrong thing. Whether it’s lightly veiled racism or over the top homophobia, it seems that the persecution many of our ancestors tried to flee has reared it’s ugly head here. And this brings us to the Trump voter.
As it has been put many times since the last vote was cast, not all Trump voters were bigots, but all awkwardly/blatantly offensive aunts and uncles were Trump Voters. So what riled up the angriest members of this incensed mob? Fear.
The racist/homophobe/nationalist fears the “other”, the poor fear those that will take their jobs away, and the uneducated fear all of the above and also believe that foreign refugees are more of a threat than lax gun laws here at home. This is not to say that all Trump voters are socially inept, many just voted along party lines – one of the great failures of the two-party system. But what does the intentional Trump voter swayed by fear have to be afraid of?
I suppose it’s our innately tribal instinct to fear the “other” because for thousands of years those unknown individuals were bringers of disease and death. Also bringers of innovation and trade, but the former has more staying power. With all that said though, the priorities of the tribe member and the outsider are the same: safety of the group, survival basics (food, water, shelter), and to be loved. It is of this hippy’s opinion that the insider and outsider would get along much more amicably if they had frequent exposure with one another. According to a recent PRRI/The Atlantic poll, 40 percent of Donald Trump’s likely voters live in the same community where they spent their youth. This is not to say that all townies are bigots, but if you never experience more than one town or community of people, the world is going to be a frighteningly unfamiliar place full of outsiders.
While our elected meme demagogued his way through 2016 missing only a chorus-line of white hoods and 0.1%’ers, the impoverished continued to get poorer. With no prospects of stress relief that a livable wage would provide, the easiest person to blame is the one you’re told to blame. Namely undocumented workers. The main grumble I hear from the right on this subject is that “illegals are getting welfare from my hard earned tax dollars.” The fact is that the majority of undocumented immigrants pay into social security and medicare without being able to take advantage of such programs. Stephen Goss, the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, calculated that undocumented immigrants paid $13 billion into social security in 2010, and only got about $1 billion in benefits. Another tidbit that Trump and his voters haven’t been enlightened to is that nearly half come via airplane. Good luck building a 30,000-foot wall, Don.
If the diverse, lower socioeconomic population would come together to fight their true oppressor, the 0.1% of the population that owns nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90%, they might get that advancement and financial security they’ve been dreaming of.
This resentment toward the “other” could perhaps be best stated by Courtland Milloy in a column he wrote for The Washington Post titled “How American oligarchs created the concept of race to divide and conquer the poor”:
“Question: How did wealthy landowners thwart the efforts of enslaved Africans and European indentured servants to join forces in a common struggle for economic justice?
Answer: Divide and conquer through the invention of race. Make the white servants feel superior to black slaves by virtue of skin color; manipulate poor whites into believing that any perceived gains by blacks had come at their expense.”
“That upward redistribution continues, and racism is still being used keep poor and working-class blacks and whites fighting over crumbs, while the top 1 percent takes the cake. Echoes can be seen in Donald Trump’s outreach to poor and working-class whites by castigating immigrants as those people who are taking their jobs.”
Little do many Trump voters realize that their interests align with those that they perceive as job thieves. I have yet to hear about recent border-hoppers shipping jobs overseas.
Lastly, we get to the final misplaced fear of “the other”: foreigners, refugees, and terrorists rather than guns. Let me just say this at the jump, I shot a shotgun at clay pigeons on one occasion and it was awesome. With that being said, it should be harder to get a gun than to be a certified scuba diver (it’s not). I would assume that any responsible gun owner would want other arm bearers to know what they’re doing. It’s too easy to get guns here and even easier if you buy them at a gun show. Then when we consider the fear of Muslims and immigrants committing deadly acts of terrorism, the statistics show an entirely different reality. In fact, toddlers and fellow citizens kill more Americans per year than jihadis by a massive margin.
What Makes a Trumper Fearful: Education vs Brain Anatomy
While some would claim that it was mainly poor, working-class people who voted for Trump, it appears education may have been more of a factor than income. Nowhere was this more evident than in Trump’s win in Suffolk County, New York. This county, representing 3/4 of Long Island, has a median income of $88,000, but only about 1/3 of the population have a college degree. According to Nate Silver, “Trump’s approach to the campaign — relying on emotional appeals while glossing over policy details — may have resonated more among people with lower education levels as compared with Clinton’s wonkier and more cerebral approach.”
Brain anatomy could also be a factor as to why Trump voters voted for a historically disliked candidate who spoke to their fears. According to a study conducted at University College London, self-described conservative students had a larger amygdala than their liberal counterparts. This brain region is responsible for our memories of and reactions to emotions, especially fear. The same study showed that Liberals had more gray matter their anterior cingulate cortex, which is a brain region that helps people manage complexity.
The reasons why we fear can be as broad and all-encompassing as those listed above or as personal as an individual trauma that occurred early in life. As much as this article pertains to what would make someone support an ignorant Cheeto, it’s time to turn the mirror back onto the liberal.
Have you ever noticed that when you give someone impassioned advice on how to better their lives, you could just as easily be giving the advice to yourself? Or, in the same way, have you ever become irritated with a person’s idiosyncrasies, and later realize you do the exact same things? This is due to our own projections. More often than not, what we hate and fear the most is really a projection and reflection of our own being. Just as the nationalist hates immigrants due to their own fear of not belonging, the liberal hates the intolerant conservative due to the fear of their own intolerances. When we judge other people, we are actually judging ourselves. In those times of judgment, it’s crucial to turn inward. If you’re judging someone for being ignorant, ask yourself “have I been ignorant in the past/present/future?”. If you can then embrace your own ignorance, you will be able to notice the ignorance of others without being so reactive to it.
Strategies like these which bring more unity to humanity are nearly impossible to introduce en mass, and must rather be implemented on an individual basis. In a completely awakened society, compassion and empathy become the true currency. To find the vulnerability in another and offer validation and support is one of the greatest acts of humanity a person can tender.
A few months ago, my father went through a major health event at home and thankfully my mother was there to intervene and is likely the reason he survived. A notable part of this event though was the first neighbor to come to their aid and assist my mom: a Trump supporter who lives next door. Remove all superficial party allegiances and we are all souls going through this human experience together. In the face of intense events, all the fluff goes out the window. As hard as it may be sometimes, the humanity we allot to “the other” becomes the humanity we bestow upon ourselves.
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