Not many readers other than my cohorts here at The Shinbone Star even noticed that I’ve been mostly absent from the site I created shortly after Donald Trump took office. Excuses? I have plenty, but will try not to bore you with the whole list. Instead, here’s an abbreviated glimpse of what I’ve been up to.
WHAT EXACTLY ARE THEY AFRAID OF?
Shortly after moving from New Jersey and into temporary residence with my son and his family in Manassas, Va., my wife and I went to a local shopping mall with our 5-year-old granddaughter in tow.
When Grandma and Grandpa needed a rest, we watched while she played with other children her age on a convenient playscape inside the mall. With lots of parents and other doting grandparents watching from benches around the perimeter, I took note of the beautiful ethnic diversity among the children, who, to their credit, seemed not to notice at all.
It’s exactly this kind of ethnic mixology that seems to horrify your typical Republican, and I wondered again just what it is about many-colored children and their guardians getting along that causes such fear and loathing among the MAGA-hatted set.
It was Trump’s comments about Latinos back in the early days of the 2016 presidential campaign that first perked my ears up to just what the Republican Party was putting forward as a candidate. Trump’s words were offensive to me on a new and different level because, for the first time in my own white-privileged life, I had a personal stake in what was being said. My granddaughter, you see, is half Latina.
Even though enraged by Trump’s comments, I dismissed him as a whack job who had no real shot at winning the election. I’d seen the video clips and heard his nonsensical answers to important questions during the debates, and couldn’t imagine that such stupidity would actually resonate with a large segment of the electorate. I mean, if you don’t really believe any of that shit Trump was spouting, why on earth would you vote for it?
Unless of course you really do believe that shit he was spouting, right?
We all know how things turned out. On Election Night I went to bed heartsick, and the very next morning took out a vendetta against anyone and everyone who heard the same things I’d heard during the campaign but voted for Trump anyway. My vendetta even included those who hadn’t thought Trump’s rhetoric was disgusting enough to bother going to the polls, not so much to vote for his opponent, but at least to vote against him.
Three years later and watching children of all colors and religious backgrounds happily at play, I was reminded that vendettas are ugly things, but uglier still are the people who heard the words of a racist and didn’t care.
And where vendettas are concerned, I wouldn’t do a thing differently.
My move to Virginia met with considerable consternation from Masta Talka, my co-editor at The Shinbone Star, who has an aversion to anything from south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Unlike Masta Talka, however, I was born and raised in Texas and lived most of my life in the South before spending the past quarter century in the North. The fact that I’d experienced both places meant I wasn’t operating under any illusions that racism doesn’t exist on both sides of the line. In fact, I saw more blatant displays of racism in my corner of New Jersey than I ever saw in Texas, though admittedly those observations were made by a white guy who left Texas long before the advent of Trump.
I figured I knew what to expect from a move back South, though the Triumph of Trumpism did cause me to have a few reservations about Virginia, specifically. After all, my new home state does more readily identify with the Confederacy than Texas ever did, and if you’ve ever driven around Virginia and seen all the Civil War battle sites and place names, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Trump and Trumpers gave me a heightened awareness and revulsion for the rebel flag, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, tiki torches, and other things of that ilk. Therefore it’s with a great sense of relief to report that I haven’t seen a whole lot more of that sort of thing in Virginia than I did in New Jersey. Okay, maybe there are a few more rebel flags down here, but certainly not the multitude I was expecting, and even that slight increase is balanced by fewer Blue Lives Matter flags, a plague that seemed to be trending in my old corner of northwest New Jersey.
But flags aside, Virginia still has plenty of other reminders of the War Between the States. Confederate statues are not hard to find — just ask Charlottesville — and there are still lots of place names that honor traitorous rebs that a segment of the older, whiter community seem particularly averse to giving up.
Yeah, I get that your ancient relatives fought and died for a cause, but it’s hardly a point of pride when that cause was treason against the United States of America and support for the abomination of slavery.
“Old Times There are Not Forgotten,” it is said, but they sure as hell should be.
TURNING THE BLUE RIDGE BLUER
Even though my temporary address is in the rapidly growing and ethnically diverse northeast suburbs, my permanent address will soon be in the western part of the state, which on the election map has a decidedly redder hue. Still, I’m very pleased that after casting my first ballot in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the state turned blue where it matters most. Democrats now control both houses of the Legislature and the governorship. Both United States senators from Virginia are also Democrats.
Once I get settled there will still be work to do in my new congressional district, but it’s nothing I haven’t faced before. After all, the 11th Congressional District of New Jersey — my old home — was solidly red until all of a sudden it wasn’t. Mikie Sherrill didn’t represent me for very long before it was time to bid her adieu, but I was pleased to depart my old address with the good guys in charge. It will be hard to find the same kind of grassroots activism in my new district, but whatever I find there I hope to do my part in a citizens group that will be lucky if it’s half as effective as the one I left behind in NJ-11.
No matter where you live, removing the stain of Trumpism is a fight that must be waged on every level every day. I believe that complacency and an unwillingness to piss off our own loved ones with inconvenient truths have contributed to where we now find ourselves as a nation.
The last three trying months have given me a new appreciation for how life sometimes gets in the way. Fighting Trump is a full-time job, but for most of us it can’t just be politics all day every day. As busy as we are, however, we must never let the fire die. During difficult times we bank the coals of our resentment and wait for a time and place when we can fan those flames back to life. Our democracy and the survival of our country depend on it.