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The Politics of Past Grievances and Suspicious Truth in the Beantown Tavern

Last week I flew from Seattle to Charleston, that is from very blue to very red, from liberal elite to conservative left behind. My wife and I jumped into our rental car and headed for the hotel, which was located a short distance from a town called Matthews. After checking in and unpacking, we got back in the car and, guided by our GPS, made it to Matthews’ small and pleasant town center.

Matthews is a nice place. By the time we got there the only place still serving food was the Beantown Tavern. The tavern consists of three large rooms with very high ceilings. Down home to say the least. No silly tablecloths here. There is a nice long bar in one room, the location of most of the indoors customers. The others rooms have numerous tables and were mostly empty. There is also an outside sitting area overlooking the town green and the large town hall and library. This outside area has a roof to protect people from the rain or the sun and has three slowly rotating ceiling fans. There are ten or so high pub tables and chairs and we took one at the very end of the area, the only one still available.

The first thing that needs to be said about Beantown is that the staff are wonderfully and genuinely friendly and good at their jobs. We ordered draft Sam Adams, cheeseburger with regular fries, and tuna melt with sweet potatoes fries. The food was excellent and the beer was refreshingly cold. At the table next to us was a guy who had had too much to drink, and by the looks of him he had had many days and night of too much to drink. He also smoked, which contributed to his pasty, old, beaten up appearance. But he was a happy drunk and explained in detail that he was dog-sitting the very dog that was sitting there smiling at us. Watching the people it seemed clear that most of them, if not all, were locals.  

If what I’ve been reading is true, most of the people I saw at Beantown are angry and voted for Trump and whatever Republican was running for whatever office because they are angry. It is apparently my responsibility to get to know them and why they are so angry. For the record, I still resist the group hug of unity and peace that I’m supposed to join, if not initiate, but after two visits to the Beantown Tavern I’m less hostile to the idea. Perhaps they could meet me half way, though I suspect that more than a few of them would just as well shoot me if they knew what I really believed, particularly about their orange savior.

As the current knowledge goes, they’re angry because they have been left behind. I can understand the anger. After the 2008 crash due to greed and criminality on the part of the financial industry, we the people were left holding the bag. We bailed out the banks with trillions of $’s, €’s, £’s, ¥, etc., as well as our libraries, childcare, healthcare, police forces, cultural, schools, social care, and so on. While we were doing that at the height of the crash, the bankers continued to give themselves bonuses. Yes,  since 2008 hundreds of people in banking have gone to jail, but only one or two CEO’s were arrested. Admittedly, a few of these masters of the universe, who believe in raw unregulated capitalism, that is until they need our help, at which point they become enthusiastic socialist, lost their jobs. In Britain a couple of them lost their knighthoods, but the general sentiment was big fucking deal. And did our governments do anything? Of course not. Obama actually brought into the White House the very men who caused the crisis in the first place. We are still paying and I doubt many of the big boys lost their yachts and second, or third, or fourth homes. Yea, I get why the people in Beantown are angry.

If every we doubted who was running the world and for whom it is being run, I would have thought our doubts would have dissolved after 2008. In the big scheme of things we are all being left behind, though some have suffered far worse than others. But many of those who felt they have been left behind, or lost, or displaced, or replaced, in the great American melting pot of color and customs weren’t just moaning about the globalization mix they so hate and perhaps fear.

I cant' call the good folk in the Beantown Tavern racists. After all, they are like everyone else in the country. Some are out and out racist and others, hopefully most, are trying everyday to minimize the damage (given our history of genocide and slavery, all Americans are racist to some degree). However, it sure seemed like the recent election was the white man’s and woman’s great last stand. There was that unpleasant fact for many that a black man was not only living in the Big House, but was the boss. The black man and his black wife were referred to as monkeys and apes, sometimes by the men and women elected to Congress. There were open calls for the black man’s assassination. The black man’s black children were mocked and insulted. And the signs and t-shirts that encouraged us to put the white back in the White House were pretty unambiguous.

Well, the white has been put back in the White House (literally), and also in the House, the Senate, and Supreme Court (metaphorically). The great left behind, angry about their loss and financial insecurity, elected a selfish billionaire who lived in a gold coated apartment at the top of a tower with his name on it. Go figure, and if you’re wondering how that is working out, just look at his first budget. It doesn’t matter that it is dead upon arrival at Congress. It speaks to who the man is and to whom he is loyal. While the U.S. has been slipping out of democracy and into oligarchy for years, it seems with Trump’s election it has now arrived (see Democracy, Oligarchy and a Manifesto for Resistance). He has the wealthiest cabinet the U.S. has ever seen comprised of oligarchs with absolutely no experience. Government by rich amateurs. The great Trump kelptocracy.

We embrace a politics of identifying past grievances and a suspicion of present truths. If you are angry, it is important to identify who’s to blame and so we scrutinize our recent past for culprits. Since we have been so let down we can no longer believe there is truth, or even facts. It’s as if the French post-modernists have taken over the U.S. As we stood with the rain on our faces, our orange savior told us the sun was shining, and we believed. If only he can fix the mess we are in, if only he can identify our grievances, if only he can define what is true and what is false, it must follow that he should brush aside the pesky persistent free media and that messy complicated constitution. It is necessary that he be an autocrat. Trump’s autocratic credentials area evident, in part, through his audacious lying even when everyone can see the plain truth. Especially when everyone can see the plain truth. Such temerity redefines the lie as a truth and, thus, a new reality. The autocrats trump card.

Perhaps it is true that all oligarchies are autocratic and all autocracies are control by the oligarchy. Democracy cannot survive such a partnership.

Now that autocrat is not a bad word, so perhaps autocracy isn’t a bad political system. The good people in Beantown may not have voted for Trump in spite of his open abuse, calls for violence, attacks on the media, the judiciary, and constitution, but because of them. Both Putin and Russia have rising approval ratings, particularly among Republicans and Independents. Trump has made no secret his admiration for Putin, but as I have written elsewhere (Chipping Away at Democracy), Putin isn’t the only strong man Trump admires. Trump’s new pals include: Vladimir Putin (Russia), Xi Jinping (China), Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Turkey), Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines), Prayut Chan-o-cha (Thailand), Viktor Orbán (Hungary), Marine Le Pen (France), Nigel Farage (Great Britain).

I must say, the cheeseburger I had at the Beantown Tavern was the best I’ve had in a long time. A couple of days later we stopped in once again at the old Beantown and were treated to two talented good old boys playing guitar, twelve string guitar, mandolin, the fiddle while singing up a storm. Cold beer and good music on a hot day was great. The waitress was pleasant and efficient and her southern accent made one feel like love was in the air. We were red state happy.

I don’t think it mattered much to the good people drinking beer and listening to their southern favorites that Trump had actually lost. Nor should it have. He won fair and square, given our rather antiquated system, the Electoral College, which violates the system of “one person, one vote,” making, for example, a voter in California less important then a voter in Ohio (Americans love to hate the French, but at least in their presidential elections the person who gets the most votes at the end actually becomes the president.) Forget those three million votes, not to mention the millions who voted for other candidates besides Clinton and those who didn’t vote at all. What the hell is a mandate anyway? It’s what an autocratic politician says it is, of course. Nothing more and nothing less. I mean, it’s enough that Trump’s mandate was symbolized in the alternative facts that he had the biggest inaugural crowds ever in the history of the U.S. and that the sun shown during his big speech. It’s the truth. I know because the orange savior told me so.

Copyright © 2017 Dale Rominger

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