White Male Rage and the Trump Voter
Given the circumstances of Trump-led corruption, tragic and discomforting National events, and good government policy ruin of the Trump administration, many of us have been asked to understand and sympathize with Trump supporters. We have been asked not to dismiss the complaints and anger of the Trump supporter at our peril. Those “resisting” the Trump madness, like the madness of King George, have been asked to reframe our discussions, to listen rather than argue, to legitimize the grievances of those who support Trump in cult-like devotion.
I have thought long and hard over the past four years about white male rage in this culture and have wondered how those of us who are in the resistance can help turn those with deeply held prejudices rooted in sexism and racism to a more rational discussion. I no longer believe it is possible. Let me offer the caveat that I’m not normally an angry person; I’m not a pessimist by nature. Yet, I will provide just one example of why this approach of listening passively to white male rage is pointless.
Walking into my local U.S. Post Office this morning, I was confronted with a long line. The Post Office was due to close at noon, and the clock showed 11:30 am. I calculated that we could all get through the line before closing and waited my turn patiently. In line were a fairly substantial group of women ready to mail packages and one couple at the window engaged in filling out the paperwork necessary to obtain passports. Perhaps Saturday morning before Post Office closing was not the best time to attempt to get your passport, but that was the situation with which everyone was presented. The postal Window Clerk happened to be a woman. No one was sighing and getting angry, making a commotion.
At this juncture, a white man in his early 60s or late 50s walked into the Post Office. He immediately pushed past the first three women in line and looked at the Window Clerk, craning his neck to view the entire scene.
Then, he launched. He started shouting about the fact he did not have time to wait. He had to be someplace. Yelling loud enough for someone in the street outside to hear him, he said that government should be shut down. That Trump had the right idea. That private industry would never allow lines like this one. Every word he uttered was laced with hatred, so much so, that I half expected him to take a swing at any one of the number of women in line ahead of him. He continued shouting about the incompetence of all government workers. The Window Clerk appeared nonplussed, working as efficiently as she could to take the couple through the passport process.
After pushing a few more woman out of his way and continued ranting, the man left in his bubbling rage spilling out along a trail after him. Not a single woman turned to watch him leave, but several exchanged sideways glances at one another that wordlessly said, “we’ve seen this before, and this, too, shall pass.”
I wondered as I left the Post Office after mailing my package to a friend if the man would have ranted and bullied if a male Window Clerk had been present? I wondered if he had ever had to wait for anything in his long life before? If he hated women in general or just those in lines? If he was used to getting his own way—which it appeared he did—or his life had been a series of misfortunes that led him to that absurd moment? I wondered if he carried his rage home and bullied those in his family or reserved his anger for strangers? I wondered if, for a single day in his life, he had placed himself in the shoes of others, of women, of minorities, of children, of anyone outside himself?
I think I understand the white male rage that propelled Trump to the highest office. I think I understand what it means to feel threatened when your privileged status is in danger of being less protected. But understanding their complaint is not the same thing as accepting it. I would like to introduce those angry, white American men to the rest of humanity. Welcome to the world. It is altered. You may not always be in charge.
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