I Talked to a Trump Voter

Like much of the world, I’ve been watching the horror show of this year’s US presidential election with morbid fascination. I’m also, with a raised eyebrow, now watching the teary-eyed meltdowns/whiney calls for RESISTANCE!!!, coming in the form of multi-thousand-word blog posts and articles, from the regressive leftists in my Twitter feed (and trying very hard not to turn the said feed into an echo chamber for the next few months at least).

Having read a few analyses of why we’ll be having (and make no mistake, the whole world will be having) this unqualified, lying, women-abusing, hyper-narcissistic buffoon as a POTUS the next four years, I decided to do some sociological research of my own. Once, I would’ve called the method I used completely unscientific, but, seeing the gems the New Real Peer Review has been sharing with us, I can no longer with clear conscience call it so, although I hold no hopes of being able to publish it in, say, Current Sociology. Not because of the completely flawed method, but because it lacks the attitude and buzzwords of the fields which consider “autoethnography” to be valid science.

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to establish the reasons for Donald J Trump’s victory in the 2016 United States Presidential Election, focusing on the analysis of the lived experience of the Trump electorate. The research was conducted using an unstructured, not-in-much-depth interview of a sample of one. Drawing on the principles of autoetnography, I chose as the sample a white Christian cis-woman, single mother of three, relatively low-income, non-inhabitant of the Rust Belt. The choice of the sample was largely influenced by my decade-long friendship with the sample, and a resonable certainty that the sample was representative of the Trump electorate (i.e., did vote for Trump), although this was still uncertain at the start of the interview.

In the preliminary questioning, I established that the sample did indeed…

And there I am, thinking I don’t have it in me to get a PhD… But let’s be serious.

My friend did, indeed, vote for Donald J Trump.

WHAT?!?! A woman, even a white one, voting for TRUMP?!?!? But that is against her own interests!!!

So I asked her, why? Not “how could you?!?!?”, but a simple “why”.

She gave me a fairly lengthy answer, which jumped from topic to topic, but in the end, we agreed that her reasons could be summed up in the following four issues (given here in no particular order):

  1. changes she thinks Trump will enact to make Obamacare more affordable,
  2. (perceived) shared conservative values,
  3. the middle finger Trump’s been giving to the regressive left, hyper-PC movement(s),
  4. changes in the tax code she thinks Trump will make that will benefit the single-mothers-of-three, lower-income (or similar) demographic.

Two fairly specific financial issues, values, and a middle finger.

I didn’t argue with her, except to call Trump a “lying, women-abusing, corrupt hyper-narcissist who will say things because they are outrageous, not because he particularly believes in them”, and that from “my perspective, I couldn’t figure out what Trump’s values are, beyond ME, ME, ME!“. She asked me whom I would’ve voted for, and I told her it would’ve been Hillary, as a lesser of two evils. That was it, from my side, since I had come to ask, not to argue. Or throw a screaming tantrum.

Then I asked, out of those four issues, which would she say was the most important one?

I suppose this would be a good place for a disclosure: I came to this “research” with a confirmation bias; I wanted to get a certain answer. But aside from the clues I might’ve given in distilling her longer explanations and in a brief discussion of some of the definitions, I believe I succeeded in not showing it.

Did I get the answer I favoured? Yup. It was the number 3. She told me she was tired of the oppression olympics, and that, in this respect, Hillary’s presidency would’ve left things unchanged, if not worse. Trump is rude, she called him, but he is showing the middle finger to PC Principal, and that is the main reason why she forgave an orange clown for being a sexual predator and voted for him anyway.

There. That is the conclusion of my “paper”.

If, at this point, you would like to call my friend a self-hating, white supremacist, deplorable fascist, I would like to point out that, in the parts of the conversation I don’t consider official parts of my “interview”, she also expressed these views:

  • gay people should be allowed to marry (but not sue family businesses out of existence for refusing to bake them cakes; they should vote with their wallets, and give their custom to the businesses which will),
  • public servants who refuse to marry gay people when required by law should be fired (but not jailed),
  • legalising marijuana has benefits over it being illegal.

Immigration and Muslims were mentioned more or less in passing, twice and once, respectively, over the course of a two-hour conversation. Race wasn’t mentioned at all, and she didn’t defend Trump against my assessment of him, either.

Also, she, a relatively devout Christian, has read Richard Dawkins’s God Delusion (which I sent her as a tongue-in-cheek Christmas present some years ago). It didn’t change her worldview, but she didn’t get any trigger warnings from me, and didn’t need a safe space to hide in when she opened that package, either. The snowflakes out there should take note.

So, leftists and fellow liberals, I think people like my conservative friend already get your message, and don’t particularly disagree with it.

But they do very much object to the shrillest, loudest form of its delivery.

The Force Awakens. Then Promptly Turns Around and Goes Back to Sleep.

I normally don’t spend much time or thought on anticipating movies, but this was the most anticipated movie of the decade, and it managed to get me excited enough to go and see it in a cinema, another thing I normally don’t spend much time doing. I didn’t go to the 2359 screening on Wednesday, I didn’t buy my ticket three months in advance, but I consider going to see a film on the third day after the premiere a great show of enthusiasm.

It took some effort, but I made a point of avoiding the information, both speculative and real, about the seventh cinematic instalment of the biggest fantasy franchise in the universe. I didn’t want to create expectations. I wasn’t entirely successful – I watched the trailers and read a couple of articles (I even watched this, which ended up being more prophetic than I thought possible), so I ended up expecting the movie to not suck, and having some ideas about what would happen in it. As it turned out, my expectations were wrong. For the purposes of this post, I’ll leave the expectations about the plot (the ex-stormtrooper isn’t the one in whom the force awakens, for example) aside, and concentrate on, well, that other one.

It would be unfair to say that the Episode VII is an entirely bad film. It isn’t. Not when compared to the three prequels (not a very high bar to clear), anyway. But it still fails to reach the level of the first trilogy, which I find baffling, since, leaving aside their legendary status, those films aren’t exactly masterpieces of deep storytelling (but they do have solid stories). So what went wrong?

Let me quickly cover the things I liked first.

Finn. Considering the amount of space the ex-stormtrooper’s journey from an evil henchman to a good guy was (and could be) given, I think it was very well executed. Rey is a solid character, too, despite the sometimes odious hints about the mystery that’s been layered upon her. The actors are good (even the ones with not so good parts), the dialogue flows nicely, and the CGI isn’t overwhelming like in the prequels.

And now, the bad parts.

First, the First Order. What in the carrot’s name are they? Are they an heir-to-the-Empire government which controls space and is in the opposition to the New Republic? Judging by the fact that they’ve built a planet-sized weapon, and that there seems to be a population from which they recruit their soldiers, that could be the case. But if they are, why do they invariably behave like marauding foreign raiders wherever in the supposedly their own territory they go? When the Empire’s troops went somewhere, be it Tatooine or Bespin, they behaved like a government force – a brutal one, but still recognisably government. And if they are just something more akin to a terrorist organisation (after all, they seem to have only one capital ship, and, as I said, behave like raiders in their interactions with others), how did they manage to build their weapon planet?

Which brings me to the second thing. The Republic was apparently restored in the aftermath of the Battle of Endor. We’re told it has a strong military, one which the First Order is unable to take on by conventional means. Now, I could understand, providing that the First Order are some sort of state-like entity, that the New Republic, after years of fighting various wanna-be emperors who must’ve sprung up after Palpatine’s death, just isn’t ready for yet another open war with yet another imperial faction, preferring instead to give covert-ish support to “the Resistance”. But why would it allow the First Order to build such a potent superweapon, obviously aimed at the Republic’s head, without at least trying to destroy it? Did they not know about it? If intelligence services built on the legacy of the Rebellion couldn’t find out that a known enemy is building a planet-sized weapon, then one would think that getting shot at with it would be a dead giveaway, and would warrant a reaction. But no. Is the Republic even there?

Follows the superweapon itself. Alright, I get it. It’s fantasy (or maybe I could call this part sci-fi), it’s not real, it doesn’t have to be completely in line with the real physics. But really? A weapon which can instantaneously destroy planets in other solar systems? And you thought Han Solo doing the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs was fast… A weapon which is powered by completely sucking dry a sun, per shot? Leaving aside the problems arising from the relative sizes/masses of the below average planet and an average star, how do you move such a weapon around in order to reload it? Strains my credulity a bit too much.

Then we have the villains. The original Star Wars films gave us one of the strongest, most memorable movie villains ever in the form of Darth Vader. Even the prequels’ Palpatine is a proper villain. And what does The Force Awakens have? A holographic orc (or, should I say, Gollum?) who is never in any way explained, and a whiney, angsty kid who is explained, all right, though I wish he wasn’t. And does that general person whose main evil act is a ‘we were going for Hitler at Nuremberg but couldn’t quite make it’ speech even count? Probably not.

Then there’s the ending. Again, I get it, you have two more films lined up, it has to be a non-ending. But couldn’t you have at least awakened Finn?

And finally, why is everyone looking for Luke Skywaker? It’s not like he’s doing anything or serving any purpose… Or really did anything or served any purpose in the 30 years since the fall of the Empire. No, growing a beard doesn’t count.

Oh, and I almost forgot. An extraordinary feat, which deserves at least a short of its own, was done in the 30 years that’d passed between The Empire Strikes Back and The Force Awakens: someone went down into Bespin and retrieved Anakin’s/Luke’s light sabre that had miraculously survived being dropped into a gas giant. I wonder if they found Luke’s hand, too…

An OD in a Dream

I do not know how it began, or how it got to its nightmarish end. I remember it, the end, but without a beginning, so I’m not sure how to, well, begin.

I am me. I have a one-room abode, with a small bathroom, in the first block of the Second Street. Where that new cafe is now, or where the leatherworker’s shop used to be. Somewhere around there; it’s not quite in any of the real places, but it’s there.

I am in it, I think. I’m not sure. The room is dimly, but pleasantly lit. There is a fairly simple desk of dark wood in the far left corner from the door. There are two monitors on the desk, my real monitors, and the rest of the computer stuff. Only,  one monitor, the small one, is on the floor, in its place an indoor TV antenna, and that upsets me. I don’t know why. There’s also an unmade bed. I’m not sure where in the room it is, but it’s there, and I’m in it. Or, I’m not, wearing a houserobe, which is strange, since I never wear houserobes. I’m thinking that this is the ideal place to invite people over for a game of cards, since I also have a table in the room. As with the bed, I am not sure where the table is, but it is there. I am thinking I should change into something other than the houserobe before inviting people over. I look towards the bathroom; that’s how I know I have one, in the far right corner from the door.

My mother is there with me. Or my grandmother. Or both, in the same person. My mouth is filled with the pinks. Was I thinking about pills before it happened? I don’t want my mother-slash-grandmother to see I’m ODing on the pinks, so I try to swallow them. I’m thinking there are at least 16 of them (why 16?) in my mouth. I try to cover it up by taking a drink of water from a small glass on the desk. I’m slightly surprised it’s there, since I never drink water from glasses that small (2 dl) when I’m at home. I think I’ve swallowed all the pinks, but I’m afraid there are still some stuck to my teeth as I smile at my mother-slash-grandmother. I can taste their bitterness on my teeth. But mother-slash-grandmother doesn’t notice. She wooshes away up through the ceiling, like a spooked ghost. I am left wondering why she was there, but don’t find her manner of departure surprising or strange. Something resembling a pink dress with dark brown spots pattern is left behind.

I am starting to feel the effect of the pinks. I am in the bed. No, I am not, I am trying to stay up, standing, holding the desk, fighting the pinks. Why am I fighting the pinks? No, I am in the bed after all. But where is the bed? Is it in the abode on the Second Street? Or is it in my flat? I’m wishing I knew where I was. I’m wishing I was at the flat. It would still be nice to be at the abode, I could invite people over for a game of cards, that would be cool and it would also be weekend or a holiday, but that’s why I’m ODed on the pinks, and I don’t feel safe. I wish I was at the flat. I wish the bed was there, because I’m in it, even though I’m fighting the pinks. My waking up depends on the bed being at the flat.

I listen to the sounds through the mind-fog. A computer is humming, but there are computers at both the abode and the flat. I’m thinking they’re the same computer, even. I still don’t know why the small monitor was on the floor, or what the TV antenna was about.

I must wake, it’s urgent now. But I can only wake if I’m at the flat. If I’m at the abode, I can’t wake. Where is the bed I’m in??

I wake, slowly but forcibly. Or, maybe, just quickly. I am awake, but still feeling the effect of the pinks I didn’t eat. And I still don’t feel safe; I am afraid.

But wouldn’t it be nice if I had that abode on the Second Street, where I could invite people to play cards on the table, and where I had a small bathroom and a desk with a computer, and a bed in which to OD myself on the pinks, and where it was weekend?

Where Is My Mind?

Right now, I’m trying to remember the name of the distraction-free simple-document editor I put onto my computers not long ago, and have installed, within the last hour, among the PortableApps I have on the USB stick I carry with me most of the time. (The PortableApps which I never use, I might add.)

I can’t remember what it’s called. Despite having deliberately put into my installed PortableApps collection. In fact, I’m not even sure the collection tool itself is called PortableApps.

I could look it up. The USB stick and a free port are within the arm’s reach. Just plug the damned thing in, check the names, and be done with it. Well, I refuse. I refuse precisely because I can’t remember. It’s not the way it should be. I should be able to remember such a significant detail about something I made conscious effort to do.

No luck, though. And it’s almost an hour later.

Day 13, the Awakening

Another morning-rise of a day comes, and the clocks ring and the watches tick and the sounds come back into the world. The world which is frozen; no birds sing its praise. The week reaches its arbitrary middle, but it is not arbitrary at all: before this day, two days have passed; after this day, two more will come.

The light has not yet come into this room, It can’t, it is not allowed. But the cold is here, it creeps in, uninvited, and stays until driven away. It came early last night, and now reigns. The elbows feel it. The hands and their fingers do not, yet, but it will come to them. The feet remain hidden, and that is important for the moment.

Soon, I shall have to venture into the world, and see its bitterness for myself. The hard, uncaring, merciless bitterness. I am not afraid of it, but I do not seek it. Not on this morning, or any morning. Maybe one day I shall wrap myself in it, and embrace it to be embraced in return, but it will not be on a morning.

The stream dries out. Maybe I should find another… Another stream from the same source? Ha! But it is not the source that is dry; it only pauses to take a breath. The source cannot dry out, though it may withhold its offerings for a time. To one and all, or just some. Such is its nature. A cursed thing, isn’t it? Who wouldn’t wish for a flow unending, unceasing, unbroken? And yet, as with all the wishes, one should be careful. Most careful, indeed. Caveats are always necessary, though pointlessly limited they seem when made. But at this moment, I wish for no interruptions. Nothing to stem the flow, ever.

It is not to be, though. Even now, my eyes unfocus, and my hand stops, becoming glazed with different desires. To sleep, to disconnect. To forget about the world, and the cold slowly reaching the hands (but not the feet, not yet), and bury myself back into the night’s warmth. I know it must end, but I wish to delay it nonetheless.

But it is not allowed. The words must pour out, for a time yet, and then the world will enter fully.

All words have their place. Knowing when and what that place is is the trick. To dismiss any for a prejudice or personal dislike is folly, for one robs oneself od the ability to express the full spectrum of meaning. Useless and undesirable a word may seem, but when its time comes, one will regret having dismissed it.

I could not possibly be hearing a mosquito. I could not possibly.

The Desolation of Jackson

Once a year or so, I go to the cinema to see a film just to remind myself why I don’t go to cinemas to see films. On this occasion, the pick was the two and a half hour CGI spectacle The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Even before I saw the first part, it was obvious that, in order to make three very long films out of Tolkien’s thin children’s book, certain… liberties would have to be taken with the story. Then I saw the first part, and while I cringed at some of those liberties taken with it, such as the three trolls scene and the spectacular fight in Goblintown (which looked like a Monty Python sketch of the Fellowship’s stay in Moria from the LOTRO film, only stupid). But after seeing that film, I didn’t feel like I had wasted two and a half hours.

The second one, however… I’m not quite sure where to start. The Orcs chasing Thorin? Legolas (whose eyes will apparently change colour some time between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) chasing the Orcs? The socio-economic analysis of Laketown? The joining of the elf and the dwarf being added to the two ‘canon’ joinings of the races of elves and men? By the time Bilbo found the keyhole for the secret door into Erebor, I was already bored. But one more thing was to come. After a faithful reproduction of the kids’ story dialogue between Bilbo and Smaug, we were treated to the action sequence of the dwarves running around trying to… Drown in gold? Burn with molten gold? Do something to the dragon with liquid gold, anyway, I don’t think even the writers were sure what.

Has Peter Jackson managed to create the world’s most spectacular and extravagant piece of fan fiction? Yup. And it’s, like most fan fiction, bad. Another thing is also bad: I’ll have to go see the last film when it comes out. At least, the Battle of Five Armies might fill enough space so that no more love triangles need to be added, and that might make the film, well, not worth actively avoiding.

A note on technology here. I saw the film in 4DX. Which means I spent two and a half hours being shaken like a sack of potatoes in a very uncomfortable chair (it would’ve made sense if I was watching something from the first person perspective, but why did I have to feel every branch a dead spider hit on its way down from the top of the tree?) and having water and smells that only vaguely resembled something reminiscent of what the scene I was watching would smell like being sprayed at me through nozzles whose hiss was audible even over the loudest sound effects. The gentle waving of the seats with the movement of the camera and the blowing of the air conditioning in the sweeping open air scenes were nice, but for the next year’s visit to the cinema, 3D is as far as I’ll, technologically, be going.

A Year as a Dog Person

A year ago today, I returned home in the evening with a cardboard box and a Westie puppy in it. It followed an impulse decision, the worst kind if one wants to get a dog, I made earlier that day – I called some breeders, found one who had a recent litter and wasn’t too far away, and a 160 km drive later, I was back home as a dog owner.

I had never before had a dog. I had no idea what to do with one. I hadn’t even thought of a name for her – Pika was what I came up with during the drive back. I wasn’t materially prepared – she spent her first few nights sleeping in he cardboard box she came in, and eating the little food I got from the breeder. The first few walks were much fun, since I didn’t have a leash. But, equipment was bought and ordered, stuff was frantically researched on the Internet, and the puppy neither starved, nor got run over by a car, nor died of neglect.

A year later, I think I can call the dog experiment a success. I have a well-behaved doggie who doesn’t suffer from the small dog syndrome, who pees and poos where she’s supposed to, who doesn’t chew on things which aren’t supposed to be chewed on (too much), who is social and socialised, and in whose mind there is absolutely no doubt about my unreachably superiour status as the pack alpha.

I’ve learned some things about myself, too. It seems I’m more patient and tolerant than I thought – I am capable of finding a pile of dog poo in the middle of the floor without murdering the offending party, and I don’t fly into a rage when she does something wrong. This came as a bit of a surprise, as I thought it would be one of the biggest problems.

I also realised I should’ve gotten a cat. As nicely as I think my dog and our relationship have turned out, I’m, in the end, not a dog person. Dogs (well, mine, at least) are too needy. Too dependent. And I’m finding that a bit too much to deal with sometimes.

 

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