Saturday, November 12, 2016

Why I Should Have Been Trump's Guy -- And Why I'm Not

Last night, the U.S. national soccer team lost 2-1 to Mexico. On home soil, in Columbus, Ohio. On a goal in the 89th minute (not quite "at the death," but close). The winning goal for was scored by Rafa Marquez, an execrable person.

First game for the national side after Donald Trump's election, and we lose to Mexico at home. How's that "Make America great again" stuff workin' out for ya?

Why do Trump's supporters hate Mexicans so much? Have they ever seen a game played by the Mexican national soccer team? Known as El Tricolor, or El Tri for short, because of the Mexican tricolor flag (green, white, red), their fans are known for, among other things, homophobic chants. You'd think Trump fans would like Mexicans for that!

I was a bit concerned that, motivated by Trump's "win" -- the popular vote is still being counted, but, at last check, Hillary Clinton was leading by 573,000 votes, more than Al Gore beat George W. Bush by in 2000 -- the racists would make some kind of statement in the game. After all, it is Mexico.

There was no incident. Indeed, the 2 teams stood for the National Anthems together, in harmony. (With each other, if not with the music. How well they sang is a matter of opinion.) And both teams' fans behaved themselves to the point where there's been no mention of unpleasantness in the media.

When Mexico won, their fans celebrated like human beings. When America lost, our fans did not act on their disappointment with violence or even abuse.

*

Okay, that's enough humor. I want to get serious.

I am a middle-aged white person without a college degree. Finding a job has been difficult. Finding a good job -- one with a good wage, good benefits, and a boss who isn't a jackass, and all 3 of these are important -- has been, thus far, impossible.

For a time, I lived in New Brunswick, New Jersey. New Brunswick is home to Rutgers University, and its very diverse student body. It would be understandable if I thought, "Why are those people getting this great education so they can better themselves, and I'm stuck?

New Brunswick has a large community of immigrants, especially from Central and South America. Mexico is the leader among nations from which these people come, but hardly the only one. Ironically, this Spanish-speaking community is centered on French Street.

I lived a couple of blocks from this community, and had to go into it on a regular basis. For the most part, their people either treated me decently or left me alone. Not once did any of them harass me. Not once did any of them go out of their way to insult me.

But there were times when I wondered what was wrong with them. Once, I woke up and tried to make breakfast, and saw that I was out of cereal. So I looked for the closest grocery store. New Brunswick seems to have everything but a decent supermarket -- at least, one manned by Anglophones.

But, I figured, if the Mexican supermarket had what I wanted, fine. My money's as good there as anyone else's.

I walked in, looked around, and saw no cereal boxes. None. Not even from companies based in Latin America that I'd never heard of before. Other products, yes; cereal, no.

It did not occur to me until now that maybe Central Americans don't eat cereal for breakfast, and thus is not something on which their stores here would make a profit. Okay, I get that now.

But I wanted cereal. So what did I do? I walked up to the cash register, and asked the man there, "Excuse me: Where's the cereal?" A simple question, asked politely. No reference made to his race, his religion, his national status.

He glared at me. As if to say, "How dare you speak English in my establishment?"

I tried to think of the Spanish word, or phrase, that means "breakfast cereal." I couldn't think of it. (I know it now: "Cereales para el desayuno.") I tried, "Corn flakes." Nothing. "Kellogg's." Nothing. "Breakfast." Nothing. I tried miming eating cereal, thinking that might get through to him. He seemed to get angrier and angrier, as if my unwillingness (or, rather, my inability) to speak Spanish was equivalent to pissing on the graves of his ancestors and wiping my sweaty body with his national flag.

Finally, I left. I found a place that made the classic Jersey breakfast: The pork roll egg and cheese sandwich. (The Taylor company, which invented the thing, calls it "pork roll." They don't call it "Taylor ham," so no one else should, either.)

I also worked in New Brunswick during this period. I frequently saw empty bottles of Corona and Corona Light beer. This is understandable: It's like the Mexican Coors, cheap beer and you get what you pay for.

But it's not all being drunk by Mexican immigrants. Rutgers students drink it, because it's cheap. Same reason they drink Coors: They don't care about quality, they don't even really care about taste. They just want the buzz. And, for a 19-year-old college sophomore, it's a lot easier to find a 21-year-old college senior to buy them beer than it is to find someone with a good marijuana connection.

But in addition to bottles of Corona, the streets of New Brunswick (at least, away from downtown) were also frequently littered with cans of Modelo. Modelo is Corona's parent company (actually, now, Anheuser-Busch is), and Mexicans and Central Americans make up nearly all of their buying public. Americans don't drink it -- mainly because most of us have never heard of it.

In addition, I saw lots of flyers stapled to telephone poles and billboards, saying, "SE RENTA UN CUARTO." Room for rent. And these rooms often had 4 or 5 people ending up living in them. In 1 room. That is neither safe, nor sanitary. But it is all they can afford.

If you've been paying attention, you'll notice I have not yet used the word "illegal." Or the word "citizen." Or the word "amnesty." Because, based on my experience alone, the words weren't even relevant. It didn't matter to me whether they were living in the country legally: They were doing things that were harmful, to themselves as much as others.

If my exposure to Mexicans while living near them was all I knew about the country and its people, I would have developed a very negative attitude toward them.

But, at the time, I had a job where I was not only interacting with Mexicans living in and around New Brunswick, but working with them. And the vast majority of them couldn't have been nicer. Working in customer service, I didn't have a choice; You have to be nice to the customers, or they won't come back, and the store won't make money. But I was happy to be nice to them.

When it's not required by my job, my personal policy is to start out by treating people as if they are ladies or gentlemen, and intelligent, and honest, and trustworthy -- unless and until they show me that they're not. Thus, when the Mexican customers turned out to be pleasant, it was very easy for me to return the favor. You get what you give, and they gave polite, so I gave it back -- not just because it was a job requirement, but because it's my default position.

But I saw those immigrants, not knowing (or caring) whether they were legal or not. And I saw myself not getting very far. It would have been very easy to ignorantly make the jump to, "These people are the reason I'm not getting anywhere. And so are the liberal politicians who make it easy for them, and for black people, and Muslims, but not for me, or for people like me."

*

And it would have been equally easy for me to say, "George W. Bush isn't doing something about it, so I won't vote for him." And then, "John McCain isn't talking about this, so I won't vote for him." And then, "Mitt Romney isn't talking about this, so I won't vote for him." And then not voting at all, because the alternative was to vote for the Democrats. Liberals. Socialists. Communists. Terrorist-enablers. Soft on crime. Immoral. Pro-abortion. Letting the gays do whatever they want. Letting women take things that have always belonged to men. Letting nonwhites take things that have always belonged to me and my people.

Never mind that there are millions of people who could say the above -- but have one thing about themselves that should invalidate it. Maybe they're of Mexican or Arab descent. Maybe they're gay. Maybe they've got a friend who needed an abortion, or some other medical procedure, but couldn't get it because they couldn't afford it.

And it would have been very easy for me to say, "Finally, finally, here is Donald Trump! Here's a guy who hasn't been part of the process that has been screwing me and mine over! He's not a liberal Democrat, wasting my tax money on illegal immigrants and social programs to help people other than me! He's not a conservative Republican, taxing the many to enrich the few! He's not part of the system! He owes nothing to anyone! He doesn't owe the unions or the feminists or the gun-grabbers or the gays! But he also doesn't owe Wall Street or the banks! He's never let me down! He won't let me down! He won't let America down! He'll shake things up! He'll get things done! He'll make America great again!"

Nobody ever pressed Trump on the obvious question: "If you believe that America is no longer great, then exactly when did that happen?" Also, he never released his tax returns, so we don't know what he owes, or to whom he owes it.

It would have been easy for me to fall for Trump's bullshit. For building a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. For banning all Muslims from entering the country. For bringing back manufacturing jobs.

Building a wall wouldn't close the other ways immigrants get in illegally. Including his current wife. It's like the easy argument Ronald Reagan made about a missile shield: Eventually, someone is going to build a better missile. Your shield, designed to make nuclear missiles obsolete, will, itself, become obsolete. Banning Muslims from entering the country won't eliminate the biggest killer of American citizens, which is white men with guns. And the manufacturing jobs aren't coming back, just like most of the blacksmiths went out of business when the automobile became easier to buy.

But the people who fell for Trump's bullshit don't get that. They really believe they can bring back the time when America was great. For those of us who grew up in the 1980s, when Reagan was President, it's a mirage. But for those who grew up in the 1960s or earlier, there are 2 ways to bring back those boom times. One is to bring back the top tax rate of 70 percent. And the other is to bring back labor unions. Reagan sure as hell didn't do either of those things. George Bush the father didn't. George Bush the son didn't. You think Trump is going to do them?

*

Doug Saunders wrote an article for The Globe and Mail, a Toronto-based national newspaper of Canada, suggesting that the real reason Trump won is "white extremism." Actually, he undermined that title, but correctly explained the real problem: Proximity.

Essentially, he said that people who live in all-white, or mostly-white, communities near minority communities, sealing themselves off, segregating themselves from the blacks, the Hispanics, the Muslims, the gay neighborhoods, the college campuses, believe the lies about those communities, because they don't get to see the truth. That these people are human beings, and that they are entitled to the same rights that you have.

This includes people who should know better, including a woman Saunders cites in the article: She lives in the Tampa Bay region, a diverse place, and her husband is an immigrant. (The article doesn't say from where, but if he was Hispanic, or a Muslim from any country, I'd hope that Saunders would have said so.) Saunders claims that he's staying in Ybor City, a hip area in Tampa hopping with young people and hipsters. Essentially, Tampa Bay's Hoboken or Williamsburg.

And this white woman (never mind her immigrant husband), living in a gated community on the St. Petersburg side of the bay, warns him about how dangerous it is, saying she wouldn't go anywhere near it.

That's right. She wouldn't. He would, and did, because he knows those people.

"In other words," Saunders says, "proximity is a bigger driver of extremism than is actual experience: It is not economic decline or immigration that cause people to become right-wing radicals, but proximity to those things, from a vantage of white security that feels threatened by the unknown."

By Saunders' estimation, New Brunswick, Highland Park, Piscataway and Edison, with their multiracial, multiethnic communities, should have gone for Hillary Clinton on Tuesday; while North Brunswick, Metuchen, and my hometown of East Brunswick, all mostly-white, better-off, near the poor urban area but not in it, should have gone for Trump. And I should have been one of the overlooked, forgotten white people that should have gone for Trump, and helped E.B. to do so.

*

Except Hillary won East Brunswick by over 3,000 votes. She won North Brunswick by more than a 2-to-1 margin -- all those Italian-American "Democrats for Nixon," "Reagan Democrats" and "9/11 Democrats" either died off, moved out, or got outnumbered by blacks, Hispanics and South Asians. She also won Metuchen overwhelmingly.

Overall, Hillary won Middlesex County with 60 percent of the vote. She won New Jersey with 55 percent, Trump 42, Gary Johnson 2 and Jill Stein 1.

Perhaps New Jersey is a bad example. After all, we get New York City news broadcasts, and are thus exposed to diversity. And South Jersey gets the same from Philadelphia.

But wait: Monmouth and Ocean Counties, down the Shore, also get them. So does West Jersey. And they went for Trump.

But the growth there hasn't been in the cities, or the towns on the actual Shore, which tend to be more liberal. A perfect example of this is the Southernmost County: While Cape May City is liberal -- welcoming to minorities and gays, sort of New Jersey's answer to Fire Island or Martha's Vineyard -- Cape May County is very rural and very conservative. This is a place where U.S. Route 9, leading to the Delaware-bound Cape May Ferry, is named for an old Congressman, Charlie Sandman, who was so conservative he vote not to approve Articles of Impeachment against Richard Nixon. He lost his seat to Bill Hughes in 1974, but once he retired in 1994, the County, and the Congressional District as a whole, has voted Republican ever since.

So it's not proximity. It's interaction. If you've seen "The Other," and seen that they're human beings as you are, with hopes and fears as you have (if not the same hopes and/or fears), then you begin to accept them. Are they different? Yes. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily.

In Ball Four, his diary of the 1969 baseball season, Jim Bouton wrote that white ballplayers and black ballplayers, even if they didn't grow up with people of the other race, began to socialize together once they were teammates. "It turns out," Bouton said, "that the way to bring people together is to stick them in a hotel room in Cleveland."

There was a Broadway play a few years ago. Not a musical. It was titled simply Race. It helped give Kerry Washington, now the star of the TV show Scandal, her big break. In it, a black man asks a white man, "Do you think all black people are stupid?" And the white man says, "No, I think all people are stupid. I don't think black people are exempt."

I can relate.

I try to judge people on an individual basis. I'm a straight white Methodist of Polish descent. If you're a decent person, your gender, race, religion, orientation, whatever other category won't matter to me. If you're a douche, it wouldn't matter if you're otherwise an exact copy of me. (Although I, too, can be a douche at times. But only if somebody brings it on.)

Not gender. Not race. Not religion. Not sexual orientation or identity. Not on what you are, but on who you are, and how you try to be.

And that's why I'm not Trump's guy.

Not just because too many people who voted for him are bigots. No, it's not about them. It's about him. I'm not one of Trump's guys because he's a douche.

*

Days until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: 3, this Tuesday, 9:00 PM, away to Costa Rica, in a CONCACAF Qualifying Match for the 2018 World Cup. They'd better win it if they want to qualify for the World Cup.

Days until The Arsenal play again: 7, next Saturday, at 7:30 AM U.S. Eastern Time, away to Manchester United and their equally evil manager, Jose Mourinho.

Days until Rutgers University plays football again: 7, next Saturday night at 8:00, home to Penn State. Today, they got beat 49-0 by Michigan State, which, like Rutgers, went into the game 2-7. Who is the mental acrobat who thought getting Rutgers into the Big Ten was a good idea?


Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 12. On Thursday night -- not a Friday, due to the New Jersey State Teachers' Convention having closed our public schools on that day -- they beat Perth Amboy 34-0, advancing to 2-7. Leaving only their annual Thanksgiving beatdown at the hands of the Purple Bastards.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving game: 12, on Thursday morning, November 24, at the purple shit pit on Route 9. 

Days until the New Jersey Devils play another local rival: 29. Their 1st game this season with the New York Rangers will be on Sunday night, December 11, at Madison Square Garden. Their 1st game this season with the Philadelphia Flyers will be on Thursday night, December 22, at the Prudential Center. By a quirk in the schedule, the New York Islanders, a team they usually play several times a season, don't show up on the slate until Saturday night, February 18, 2017, at the Prudential Center.

Days until the New York Red Bulls play again: Unknown, but if schedule patterns hold, it will be on Sunday, March 5, 2017, which is 113 days from now. Yesterday, they were eliminated from the MLS Cup Playoffs by the Montreal Impact.

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": Unknown. We may not see the 2017 MLS schedule for weeks, so we don't know when we'll next play New York City FC, the Philadelphia Union, D.C. United or the New England Revolution.

Days until the Yankees' 2017 season opener: 141, on Sunday, April 2, at 8:00 PM, away to the Tampa Bay Rays. Under 5 months.

Days until the Yankees' 2017 home opener: 149, on Monday, April 10, at 1:00 PM, home to the Rays.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series: 164, on Tuesday, April 25, 2017, at 7:00 PM, at Fenway Park.

Days until the next North London Derby: 168, on Saturday, April 29, 2017, at White Hart Lane. Under 5 months. It could be moved to the next day, Sunday, April 30, to accommodate the TV networks. It is also possible that Arsenal could face Tottenham again sooner than that, through an FA Cup pairing.

Days until the next World Cup kicks off in Russia: 579, on June 14, 2018. A little over 19 months. The U.S. team will probably qualify for it, but with Jurgen Klinsmann as manager, particularly in competitive matches such as World Cup Qualifiers, rather than in friendlies, you never know.

Days until the 2018 Congressional election: 724.

Days until the Baseball Hall of Fame vote is announced, electing Mariano Rivera: 800, on January 9, 2019. A little over 2 years, or 26 months.

Days until the Baseball Hall of Fame vote is announced, electing Derek Jeter: 1,152, on January 8, 2020. A little over 3 years, or 38 months.

Days until the next Summer Olympics begins in Tokyo, Japan: 1,350, on July 24, 2020. Under 4 years, or 45 months.

Days until the 2020 Presidential election: 1,483.