A few weeks ago my wife and I watched a clip of a typical Trump rally on CNN, one in which he was surrounded by shiny-faced white people wearing red hats shouting “lock her up!” The brief clip included the kind of idiotic statements we’ve come to expect from our current commander-in-chief.
Kelli groaned and said for the thousandth time a thing we’ve both shouted over the last few years: “What are these people thinking? Why do they support Trump? How do they do life? The country is doomed.” Trump is the antithesis of progress, the embodiment of provincial foolishness, and enabler of misogyny and racism. Is this what we have become as a nation, that Trump actually represents us?
No. I’ve got a theory that is starting to make me feel better about our country. It’s about the 30% statistic that pops up over and over again for those who would follow Trump straight back to the hell he seems to have spawned from, that 30% of the population who would indeed continue to support him if he shot someone in the face on Park Avenue.
The 30% have always been with us, and they cannot thwart human progress, despite their best efforts. This knowledge helps me to sleep better at night.
Around 125,000 years ago, a hunter came upon a fire in a plain where a deer was cooked and burned. Being hungry, he decided to try the meat and was amazed to discover that it was better than either raw meat or roots. He got the idea to bring back some of that fire to their cave. The hunter arrived full of good cheer and optimism.
“I have brought fire,” he said proudly. “Food will taste better. We can use this to harden our spears, which will make us hunt better. And we can use the fire to ward off the lions, tigers, and bears, for they are stupid animals and fear fire.”
Many of the clan welcomed this new tool, perceiving the benefits. About a third of them, though, were angry. “It is forbidden,” they shouted. “Fire is dangerous.”
Eventually, the doubters died off, and the use of fire allowed early humans to take a giant leap forward. But there was a great gnashing of teeth at first.
From the Wheel to the Internet
A certain percentage of people (we know the number) is inherently opposed to forward thinking. The first guy to invent the wheel was scoffed at because somebody’s toe got crushed. Railroads were feared, cars were dangerous and terrible, coffee (yes, coffee) was deemed bad, refrigeration was foolish, and the internet was silly.
John Adams, in 1815 estimated that one third of the country had opposed the American Revolution, one third supported it, and one third were undecided.
Newsweek reported in 2017 that 32% of Californians supported seceding from the union.
A 2014 Reuters poll found that 28% of all Americans with incomes of $25k or less supported their state leaving the United States. Unsurprisingly, a majority of those identified with the Tea Party. There’s a trend.
Fear is the mind-killer
The insidious root of all of this backward thinking is fear. It’s the fear of the unknown, the fear of a loss of a way of life, and the fear of loss of identity. Some people want to keep the status quo, even if change will benefit them, and they tell the fairy-tale of a golden age when things were best and brightest to themselves over and over again until the lie is their personal truth. They want Mayberry.
Picture Governor George Wallace in his famous “stand at the schoolhouse door,” blocking the way for two African American students to enter the University of Alabama in 1962, proclaiming “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” There is a straight line from that thought process to putting immigrants in cages, building a ridiculous wall and calling white KKK supporters “good people.”
The die-hard Trump supporter is afraid of almost everything, it seems. He is terrified of brown people, and of losing the automatic weapons with extended magazines that he owns to protect himself from said brown people. He is afraid of gay people because clearly there is an army of LGTBQ folks with an agenda to turn everyone gay, thereby eradicating the human race. He is appalled by women in positions of strength and power, for his very manhood is threatened by them. He is afraid that his God will be taken from him, although if God is God that’s impossible on every level. He is afraid of the government, yet shows up at rallies to support a king.
The galvanized Trumpite is afraid of millennials because they are young and passionate about things he does not understand. Things like universal health care, higher minimum-wages, and of course, climate change.
Interestingly, the one thing he should be worried about, he scoffs at.
The 30% will remain, for they are a part of humanity and always have been, but we have proven throughout our history that their voices are silenced by time and progress, and their fear-driven protests will be forgotten as the years go on.
When universal healthcare is taken for granted in America, when we are truly judged by the content of our character rather than the color of our skin, when nobody gives a second thought about whom we choose to love, and when we are running on renewable energy, the ignorance of the past will be scoffed at.
They’ll find something else to fear then, but by that time, my children and grandchildren will be the ones howling into the void that fire is good.