Not long ago — at least not long ago in blogging time, you know the sense of time that combines procrastination and the distortion of time produced by intense personal satisfaction — I wrote a book review of Arlie Hochschild’s book, Strangers in their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. A fantastic book that accurately explains why white conservative Christians are stooges and vote against their own interests by voting for Repubicans. The long and the short of it is, they feel hurt because they are not achieving the American dream any longer, but liberals are promoting other groups ahead of them even though they haven’t worked as hard or waited as long and earned their place in line.
The feelings are real. And, ruthless Repubican politicians like Bobbi Jindal and Sam Brokeback exploit it so they can sell their lives cheap to corporations and industry. As someone who sees the connection between the economic and social challenges of these white middle class people and the horrid policies of Repubicans and the alleviation and help that could be there through Democratic policies — the Obamacare versus RyumpDon’tCare, anyone? — it is frustrating, dismaying, and angering. How can they continue not to see what is so plainly obvious? Well, cognitive dissonance and the availability heuristics, obv.
But, now the two economists who published a report in 2015 revealing that the mortality rate of whites in midlife has been rising since 1999 while the mortality rates of other groups has been falling, have published another. In this paper, Mortality and Morbidity in the 21st Century, Anne Case and Angus Dean economics professors at Princeton University, report that in the developed world, i.e. the economic peers of the US, midlife mortality rates continue to fall for all education groups, except in among US whites with a high school education or less. The mortality rate of US whites with a high school education or less in midlife has been rising since 1999. Who are the 45-54 year old US whites with a high school education or less? The people who make up the American right that Arlie Hochschild wrote about, the people I call the stooge voters.
This rising mortality rate is termed deaths of despair! Doesn’t that just sound horrible? It sounds like they might could be dying of broken hearts or disappointment or something and in a way they are. They are dying from complications of alcoholism, drug abuse — the ubiquitous opioid epidemic — and suicide. They are dying of heart disease and cancer, two conditions that poor life choices like smoking and drinking contribute heavily to. They are experiencing increases in physical pain, emotional distress, and social dysfunction. According to these two learned economists who purport to know, these people are literally drinking and drugging and shooting themselves to death.
That’s how real the pain is for these people. The pain of watching their American dream go up in the very real smoke of lower corporate taxes, fewer state services, and a constant drumbeat of social controversy. The pain of believing the very real smoke screen of the American dream being a very finite pie that if another group like blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, Indians, or other immigrant groups gets a piece of it, there is less for them! The pain of imagining that these groups are being given special unearned and undeserved advantage to “get in line” for the American dream “ahead of them” escorted there by liberals and a black president as if the American dream was a well into which you had one chance to dip your bucket before the well went dry. The deep story of Hochschild’s analysis. No wonder they are turning to alcohol, cigarettes, opioids, and guns to ease this very real pain. No wonder their mortality rate is sky rocketing while every other group’s is continuing to fall.
And, the Repubican Congress and the Ol’ Pussy Grabber just made it easier for those with a history of mental illness to buy guns! Hello rising suicide rate among middle class midlife white men! Can we say, the United Fucking States of Fucking Stupid? Can we say stooge voter? Can we say beat me to death with a bag of cancerous tumors?
These people are feeling left behind by the American dream surpassed by blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Muslims, Indians, and immigrants of all kinds. And, economically and socially many of them are. It is true. But it isn’t liberals and President Obama who are escorting the others ahead of them, it is the likes of politicians, the Bobbi Jindal, Sam Brokeback Brownback, Scott Falter Walker, Mitch McTurtle McConnell, Paul Ain’t Tryin’ Ryan, and the Ol’ Pussy Grabber who will literally only make things worse. Can you believe that the good folks of Kentucky didn’t realize that Kynect was Obamacare! And, Mitch, dear Mitch, was willing to tell the good folk of Kentucky that Kynect was just a website and could be maintained by the state! And THEY believed him! They BELIEVED him! For Fuck Sake!
On the one hand, they elected Mitch McConnell, Matt Bevin, and the Ol’ Pussy Grabber, so fuck them. What the hell did they think Matt Bevin, Mitch McConnell, and the Ol’ Pussy Grabber would do other than lie to them and then sell them cheap to national insurance companies? Seriously, prepubescent girls sold into the sex trade by their parents have fetched more than these stooges have.
But, they truly are hurting. They are hurting so bad that they are destroying themselves. Slowly at first through cigarettes and alcohol and then more quickly through opioids and then suddenly with a gun shot to the head. Does Mitch McConnell, Matt Bevin, or the Ol’ Pussy Grabber care? Hell no. They just made it easier for the mentally ill to buy guns to shoot themselves in the head with. Fuck these guys. The white Christian would rather continue believing the soothing convenient lies cooed into their souls by these foul motherfuckers than begin to dig out of the hole they’ve been put in. The white Christian voter would rather shoot themselves in the head than vote for a woman or black man for president.
But… but… these people are in real pain to be behaving so self-destructively. Their self-destructive behaviors extend from a life long addiction to cigarettes and alcohol, and for a far more recent addiction to opioids to voting for the Ol’ Pussy Grabber. Given the chaotic conflictive mess that the Ol’ Pussy Grabber has created in his administration and the god awful mess that the Repubicans have cobbled together to call healthcare reform, which is really just a tax break for the wealthy, you can only call this suicide by election. They are taking the rest of us with them on their suicidal journey because accepting blacks and women and Muslims and immigrants as equals is just too much for them.
Again, fuck them. Get your head out of your ass and smell the shit strewn about in your stumbling bumbling wake! Understand that you are worth something more than your piety. You don’t deserve the shit job that you’ve been saddled with. You don’t deserve the cancers that come from the unregulated industries that your lives have been sold to. You don’t deserve to live in the environmental degradation that unregulated industry has provided. You deserve healthcare. You deserve $15.00 an hour. You deserve maternity leave. You deserve a healthy diet. We live in the fucking richest country in the history of the world. We can afford anything we fucking well want. Instead, we have allowed ourselves to become the United Fucking States of Fucking Stupid!
Categories: Trump's America
I think you summed it up quite accurately. (And colorfully). It is really hard for me to understand the way these people think. I saw a documentary the other night on Dorothea Lange and her incredible photos of the migration of people during the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s. Her images were those that had always represented to me, America. Hard working people who would travel anywhere and do anything to feed their families. There was a quiet dignity to our citizens of the past.
My family, Jewish immigrants, lived in tenniments and worked and struggled to rise from the city to the suburbs. My father, a decorated WWII vet had the values that you worked your entire life and never complained. You just did it. Perhaps growing up in Ohio I missed hearing any prejudice because my schools were integrated and the family doctor down the street was a man of most likely middle eastern descent. I honestly never thought about it. Our Community was made up of ex soldiers who fought for freedom and I played with children of all faiths. I often wonder when did my America change and become so hateful? Until my family moved to South Florida I never witnessed prejudice and was shocked at the “white only” signs that were displayed everywhere in the 1960’s. Perhaps that was always part of our country. I just had been sheltered from seeing it.
But We’ve had half a century to get our act together and I look at Washington DC and think, this is what we’ve come to? These are the best people to represent us?
I’ve become used to your unique vocabulary that colorfully expresses the state of stupid and have come to realize that you are totally correct. We have evolved into the United States of stupid and I don’t know how to change that. I can fight and protest but can intellect overcome evil and ignorance? G-d I hope so. But then how do I protect my grandchildren from mentally ill people with guns and a President who cannot grasp our Constitution??? Sigh, I just don’t know how to make it better?
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Indeed how to make it better in what feels like in a ship perpetually sinking in a rising tide of stupid stuck in a quagmire. Sometimes despair is all that seems possible. But, as formerly licensed mental health professional and now a psychology teacher, I’ve always thought that a good diagnosis leads to good treatment leads to a good outcome. A diagnosis depends on correctly identifying and interpreting symptoms. If I can understand it, I can figure out how to counter it. I am encouraged by the numbers of people at their representatives’ offices, calling their offices, and marching in the streets. I think there is a renewed sense of empowerment here and participation. The RyumpDon’tCare bill failed spectacularly. Even people in Kentucky were calling up Mitch McConnell and telling him to keep Obamacare and Medicaid. We’re not out of the woods yet, but we are finding our way.
I grew up in a military family living on and near military bases. There was little to no prejudice or bigotry in the bubble I grew up in. I was shocked to hear the racism coming out of one of my uncles at his home in the mountains of Tennessee. It breaks my heart when I think of friends who have to prepare their young children to face racism in their lives, like at school and when visiting their friend’s houses. I look at my eleven year old daughter and it makes me cringe to think that she would have to face people hating her just because of her skin color. Of course, my daughter is autistic and has to face rejection and misunderstanding all the time. It is heartbreaking, but being different makes you a target.
Anywho. I’m fascinated by the long history of poor people voting against their best interests and fervently supporting politicians that literally sell them cheap, like Mitch McConnell. It just drives me nuts because it seems so obvious… to me. I think I’m coming up with an answer that, at least, satisfies me. Hochschild’s deep story is part of it. Cognitive dissonance and the availability heuristic and motivated reasoning are another piece. This bit about being driven to the depths of emotional despair by your situation is another. You know there is a saying in mental health is that choices makes good mental health. These people don’t see the connection between their votes and their situation. They feel like they have no choice but to vote for the Repubican and suffer, thus, their self destructive lifestyle. The next piece of the puzzle for me is the deepening unhappiness in America. Every other industrial country in the world is rising in the happiness index, except for the US. The metrics that indicate happiness are income, equality, leisure time. In the US, income has been stagnant, inequality increasing, and less leisure time. It turns into a vicious cycle with the craven Repubican politician at the center ruthlessly exploiting the emotions of their voters. Anywho. My next post.
Hang in there. Being a good person is some times the only thing to do and the only solace available to us.