Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
Sometimes I let myself hold out hope that we’re just going through a political phase in this era, one in which our cliques are more important than the commonweal. Nothing matters more than our political identity and the array of values and signals that represent it. There’s still a little room for hope because if it’s just a phase, it will one day end.
Lately I’m losing my grip on that sense of hope. Obama’s election feels so long ago now.
My wife and I live in a deeply red county in blue California. American flags fly everywhere here, along with the Blue Lives Matter flag(s) and more than a few Don’t Tread on Me’s. Gunshots can often be heard echoing across the green canyons. People go to church on Sunday, then gripe about that communist, Gavin Newsom, at the dinner table.
But we’re not the only libs around here. Another one, a young woman named Charlene (not her real name!), works at the local post office and proudly drives an older Toyota emblazoned with progressive stickers all over the windows and bumper. Black Lives Matter. Do Better, America. End Racism. Abolish ICE. Vote! Practice Compassion. Bernie 2020. There’s a rainbow flag captioned Resist, and an Earth Day logo. We love pulling into that parking lot and seeing Charlene’s proud liberal presence there.
Well, last week, she told my wife that a woman had come in that day and said, “I wonder whose car that is out there. The liberal.” Charlene said it was her car, and the woman told her, “Well, it offends me.”
This woman was seriously angry. Her face looked like she’d just taken a bite out of a cat turd. Christy followed her out to make sure she didn’t vandalize her car, since someone had just keyed it front to back the week before. And that’s when she saw that the woman’s car was caked with Trump stickers. Jesus for Trump, said one.
I can’t say that I’m literally offended when I see Trump and QAnon messages out there in the world, but I am continually stunned that people are absorbing these messages willingly. I don’t hate anyone because they believe things I find ridiculous. But I hate the way some people treat others who don’t share their beliefs. And that’s what that woman was saying: “I’m offended that you don’t believe what I believe.”
Not much room for hope if that kind of thinking persists.
I would have said to that woman: “You know what offends me? Donald Trump grabbing women by the pussy and bragging about it.”
She’s blocked that one out, I’m sure.
On top of that anecdote, we watched the MSNBC documentary about the Civil War and came away thinking that, for the most part, the South will never give up The Lost Cause. The film is mostly depressing on that front, revealing a fairly widespread fondness for the confederate flag, myths about the Old South, a time when Blacks “knew their place.” They’re in real denial down there. Or at least the older-generation whites are.
Some people say that all we have to do is talk to each other, understand each other, but when your political rival is like that woman at the post office or like the heritage-sanctifying southerners who turn a blind eye to the moral horrors of slavery and contemporary racism, I don’t see how there can be any understanding.
Right now the best we can legitimately hope for is peaceful coexistence until this thing passes over, but I’m not sure the other side is down for that.