Slowly but surely, my excuses are being eliminated.
For months I was virtually homeless, shuttling back and forth among grown children who put on a brave face about having to host Mom and Dad . . . again. Take it from me, you don’t want to write about Donald Trump when you don’t even have your own pot to piss in.
Then came that sudden illness, unspeakable leakage on two fronts that landed me in a hospital for three nights. Take it from me, you don’t want to write about Donald Trump when you’re busy worrying about your brush with death, while at the same time trying desperately to keep your hospital johnny closed-up in back.
And then, after what seemed like an eternity, the new house was finally finished. Next came the boxes that needed unpacking, venetian blinds that needed hanging, furniture that needed shifting, and time that needed spending in learning all the unsettling quirks of a brand new home. Take it from me, you don’t want to write about Donald Trump when your back is breaking after a long day of doing all that shit.
But then there were just six boxes left, then five, then three. Finally, there was light at the end of the tunnel, and my aching back was feeling as good as it’s likely to ever feel again. But you can take it from me, I still don’t want to write about Donald Trump. I asked myself why. After all this time and all the words I’ve already written, why is it so hard to again pick up my pen?
I don’t like the answer. It’s because I’m a coward.
You see, when I wasn’t unpacking boxes or hanging blinds, I was busy profiling. After moving to a new house in a new state, I thought it might pay dividends to just stay quiet and get the lay of the land. It was during this reconnaissance that it finally dawned on me that, in fact, I fit right in. Right here, on the streets and in the shops of my new hometown, I can stroll easily through the enemy’s encampment and nary a Trumpster will think twice.
Actually, I have done one brave thing: I’ve worn a little pin given to me by a generous reader. So far, no one has noticed. I guess to my fellow citizens, I’m just another old white guy — thinning gray hair, scruffy white beard, blue jeans and a gimme cap — no need to look much closer. None would suspect that I didn’t vote for Donald Trump in 2016, and looking at them, I can’t imagine they didn’t vote for Trump either,
In all except the most blatant cases, no one can know for sure how anyone else voted, but it’s impossible to ignore the demographics, the empirical evidence: By and large, scruffy old white guys wearing gimme caps voted for Trump.
True, aside from the pin, my gimme cap has Smokey the Bear emblazoned on the front rather than a stylized bald eagle, American flag or some MAGA bullshit, but that’s hardly enough to raise suspicion. Even Trumpers love Smokey the Bear, especially when he’s square in the sights of their bolt-action Remington.
Yeah, Trumpers are all about the outdoors, huntin’ and fishin’ and churnin’ out toxic waste, because that means jobs, and that’s what’s good for Murica!
Sorry, I digress.
The point is, I can live out my old-white-guy life here if I’d just shut up. I have a fresh start where nobody knows my name. I blend in here, so well in fact, that all I have to do is dust off my old Texas drawl that was boxed up during my New Jersey years, adjust it slightly for a Virginia audience, then, basically, just shut the fuck up about anything . . . controversial.
Should be easy, right?
You may very well have come to the same conclusions in your own life. It’s so much easier when you go along to get along. Let someone else worry about all that injustice crap, all that Fake News.
Those aren’t my children being slammed into cages. Thank god I have health insurance. And hell yes, Blue Lives Matter! I’m the right age and the right color, so why should I worry that some cop might put a bullet behind my left ear for driving 35 in a 25?
Am I right? Trump’s got me covered!
In fact, with Trump in the Oval Office, we’d have to go waaaaay back to find a time when it was better to be an old white guy. And speaking of waaaaay back, every time I drive along a particular stretch of highway near my new home, I see a sign that says I live just a hop, skip and a jump from Appomattox Courthouse, that place where, if you’re really, really naive, they say the War Between the States ended back in 1865.
Now I’m not gonna lie, there are NO rebel flags flapping in the breeze in my specific neighborhood. I promise, Steve, and you can come visit anytime you like and probably make it back home alive. But still, I’m wary.
There’s something about profiling and the notion that maybe I’m being profiled, too, that makes a man cautious. In the Age of Trump, your neighbors aren’t just your neighbors anymore, they might in fact be your scary Trumper neighbors, and that’s something that keeps me awake at night. Trust me, I’m on constant recon here, eyeballing every bumper sticker.
True, Virginia is a Blue State now — I wrote about that in my last post, which my Shinbone colleagues will tell you was a long, long time ago. But Blue State or not, this week’s gun rally in the capital of Richmond reminded me that I’m on the front lines of a battle that is still being fought. It’s no longer just the Blue vs. the Gray, it’s also the Red vs. the Blue, and you’d be plain ignorant to believe either one of those wars is over.
I’ve decided that it’s easy to speak out when you have a safety net of like-minded individuals surrounding you, but not so much when you find yourself in a battleground state, on unfamiliar ground, where one false step . . .
Here in the privacy of my new home, I’ve stared into the mirror and seen the face of the enemy staring back. And on the television is Moscow Mitch and his Senate Republicans. That’s my demographic that’s on display, old white men, like me, but unlike me, they’re more worried about holding onto their vanishing power than they are about doing the right thing for their country.
The 63-year-old face in my mirror seems not so different from the MAGA-hatted Trumper in my grocery store, or the old construction worker with the Trumpist bumper stickers on the back of his truck, or the retiree in the yard of his shotgun shack, a Confederate flag hanging from the front porch. My face seems not so different from a hundred other faces that I’ve seen and muttered self-righteously to myself, “Now there goes a real Trumper!”
Take it from me, I still don’t want to write about Donald Trump. I want to do the cowardly thing and sink softly into my old-white-guy anonymity. It would be the safe thing to do, the smart thing. But surely this country and the ideals of the Founding Fathers are worth fighting for.
Out in the garage there are still a few boxes to unpack, but the most important box was taped up within myself. I’d almost forgotten to unpack my courage.