A Personal Turning Point on Current American Politics

Over the past year, like most of my relatives, friends, and acquaintances, I’ve been observing the political landscape in our nation, and its descent into a dystopian battle between two sets of what we used to call “ideals.” It has seemed thus far like being enveloped by some impossible Orwellian tale of societal and psychological shackles from every direction.

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The key word for me here is “psychological,” because so little of what we have been observing in this Machiavellian campaign has any basis in the reality of so many American families. The one-upmanship war has reached a point of no return that makes Richard III look like Mr. Rogers.

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I understand the rage felt by many Americans who feel cheated out of their fair shares of The American Dream. The symbols of material success in The United States are the fat cats at the top of the system, a system that seems to continue without threat from the bottom feeders who keep them afloat. It’s the kind of anger that opens the gates of revolution, and it’s why The Tea Party movement was born. Such fury always needs a scapegoat. The abstract image of government itself provides one, of course, but actual names make better ones for those who need targets for their disappointment and seething rage. The President himself has become a Wicker Man on which to burn enormous amounts of public exasperation through mountains of tabloid nonsense that, as Roger Ailes has said, if repeated enough times, people will believe without question.

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Both the presidential candidates themselves are “fat cats” in terms of material wealth, though Trump’s being one doesn’t seem to matter to his devoted worshipers. The Trumpster’s not giving a damn about protocol and his thumbing his nose at common courtesy and tradition give his fans a vicarious sense of power against a government they feel is responsible for their own discontent. One of the catch-phrases used to defend Mr. Trump’s candid, irreverent style is that “He speaks his mind.” Common sense tells me that this is not enough for someone to become President, especially when I think of an old friend of mine now in a nursing home, where he says whatever pops into his addled brain at any given moment, entertaining the staff there with his unfiltered comments that make the aides chuckle and shake their heads at every outrageous assertion he utters. Yes, he does “speak his mind,” but I don’t want to see him in The White House as leader of the western world.

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One of my other friends sees this election as a terrible choice between Emperor Nero and Lady Macbeth. No president in our history has had a pristine record of not occasionally robbing Peter to pay Paul through decisions that cause disagreement from one group or another. That’s part of what politics is. Such tough decision making should be put on the same ground for both men and women.

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For me, all the actual political issues aside (which for many Americans seem of only secondary importance anyway), as I stand back to see our political climate from afar, like a report on The Weather Channel, I have a different take, which may be closer to the middle of things (wherever that may lie), which is certainly hard to find in the media, except perhaps on PBS, because TV coverage on Fox News or MSNBC seems to bang me over the head with black and white visions of whatever they see as “the simple truth.” I’m not sure there is always a simple truth, but I’m terrified occasionally by views of some of my friends and relatives based upon stilted, undocumented sources that make The National Enquirer look like the New York Times or The Washington Post (which aren’t infallible either).

Hillary Clinton is certainly not “perfect” either, but I have seen her unfairly reviled over and over again (often by people who are most vocal about calling themselves “Christians”) as no man has ever been. The most recent news concerning Donald Trump’s comments about women brought to me a revelation, not about him but about his voter base. I believe that in America we still have at least a subliminal level of misogyny more illogical and intense than any other places outside The Middle East. Our Norman Rockwell ideals of women remaining in the kitchen and at home as domestic servants (or the code word “goddesses”) have been disturbed over the past sixty years, and I believe strongly that many Americans (women included) are frightened by such change (the supreme manifestation of which would be a female as Commander in Chief) and would gladly express their devotion to that older America with the albeit inappropriate and ironic dictum of “Women have become too big for their own britches.”

For some men this may represent a difficult power struggle, and for some women it may symbolize greater responsibility and competition. Either way, they have made Hillary Clinton a magnate for a level of loathing not seen since Salome or Messalina. The irrational barbs of this campaign against Clinton would certainly have a different response, were they directed at Mr. Trump, barbs which according to his own words and to the actions of his most ardent followers, would have no effect. The defenses, by his wide-eyed worshipers, of his comments from twelve years ago say it all. In their eyes, he can do no wrong, while Hillary can do no right. This is more emotional than rational, but many people can’t step back far enough to see it with any cool-headed clarity. They’ve made up their minds and don’t wish those minds to be cluttered with anything except praise for The Trumpster. This glaring partiality is probably true for folks from both political parties.

The intelligence and cool reserve we have often associated with masculine traits in governmental position have become blurred in this election process, leaving many men and women flummoxed, angry, or frightened. For them, a strong, capable woman is good in the kitchen but not in The White House. However, a puerile, lunatic flashing the finger at the establishment (and at people in general) is all right. Where have we gone wrong?     JB

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About John

John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BA and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado. He spends his winters in Pompano Beach, Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on Amazon.com as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth and most recent book, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014.
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