Thank goodness we have our betters to explain our lesser selves to ourselves. Mummy and daddy know best.
“I do think [Obama brayed] that when you combine that demographic change with all the economic stresses that people have been going through — because of the financial crisis, because of technology, because of globalization, the fact that wages and incomes have been flat-lining for some time, and that particularly blue-collar men have had a lot of trouble in this new economy, where they are no longer getting the same bargain that they got when they were going to a factory and able to support their families on a single paycheck — you combine those things, and it means that there is going to be potential anger, frustration, fear.
“Some of it justified, but just misdirected. I think somebody like Mr. Trump is taking advantage of that. That’s what he’s exploiting during the course of his campaign.”
My first impression is that the economy sure sucks! Flat wages and incomes, economic stresses, financial crises—trouble—does he hold anyone responsible after his nearly seven years in office? (And what is the “bargain” of toiling in a factory all day?)
But let’s look at his claim that Donald Trump’s support comes from “blue-collar men”. He’s not wrong.
His support remains strongest among those who earn less than $50,000 a year, those who identified themselves as conservatives, and white non-evangelicals.
And male. But as the accompanying chart at the WaPo shows, his support is remarkably broad. Strongest among “blue-collar men” to be sure, but significant among women, college-educated, and self-identified liberal. Indeed, Trump leads all other Republicans in all categories, and it’s not even close. An intellectually honest Obama (two things he could never be) would have acknowledged the whole truth.
Scientists have been studying reactions to terrorist events, and how those reactions shape public policy. They found emotional response to terror attacks is often out of proportion to actual risk.
The full story (as heard on NPR) is embargoed until later this morning, but here’s the gist: we all respond emotionally to perceived threats, men with anger, women with fear. And our responses are irrational, out of proportion to the actual risk.
To which we say no sh*t, Sherlock. We don’t need no pointy-headed Harvard intellectuals to tell us that our fight-or-flight instinct is separate from our rational brain. Watching people hurl themselves from the windows of the World Trade Center did not make me fear for myself, but it made me resolve to support efforts to bring to justice the people responsible.
Pardon me for being human, but so are you. I don’t know what species the apologists, the why-do-they-hate-us crowd, is. I have acknowledged from the beginning of this blog that I underwent a psychological, physiological change while watching TV on 9/11. I had voted for Al Gore ten months earlier, but that morning I heard myself thanking God that George Bush was president. And I was not alone.
The apologists are at it again. San Bernardino? So what? Paris? [Gallic shrug.] It could never happen here (wherever here happens to be).
We get it, experts. We are more likely to die of lightning or ebola than we are to die of terrorism. But that doesn’t mean we accept with actuarial resignation the slaughter of others, no matter how distant. When we see James Foley’s head hacked off in the Arabian desert, our response is empathic, not impulsive. Which means we believe he is we and we are he. When Arabs stone a little Israeli girl, leading to brain damage and her eventual death, Adelle Biton is not my daughter, but she might as well be. Our anger or fear is not irrational, it is our most human self. You might as well ask us not to identify with a homeless person freezing to death on the corner.
War is not the answer, the bumper stickers preach (along with eating more kale), but that is manifestly not true. It may not always be the right answer, but war is very often the answer to a garnly question, from Afghanistan to Yemen. War is also hell, which, by contrast, is true. Our experieces over the past dozen or so years have reminded us if we’d forgotten. I would say therein lies a healthy balance (even if the word “healthy” seems out of place).
What Obama and the NPR story have in common—along with knee-jerk reactions fearing anti-Muslim backlash after every act of Islamic terrorism, along with knee-jerk calls for univesal disarmament after every gun massacre (many of them Islamic-inspired)—is fear of the common man and woman. Our instincts are base; they must be managed, defused, legislated. To some extent they must. But they are also the most honest things about us—infinitely more so than the lies and nonsense disgorged by our self-appointed betters.