Yesterday, we saw a truck similar to the one shown above when we passed through Belfair, Washington; the truck we encountered had two American flags. We were returning from a day trip to Twanoh State Park where we had taken our dogs for some exercise and for us to get some sun while getting to be on Hood Canal.
I’ve found myself thinking about the driver of that truck since our return.
I know nothing about the driver and I didn’t even actually see him (and I assume it’s a he given the vehicle), but he’s likely in his late forties to mid-fifties. I say that because his back window had a graphic that said “Gulf War Veteran”; given the Gulf War was 1990/1991 depending on when he enlisted and when he deployed, and assuming he was around 20 when he was in the military.
Living in the Belfair area, which is a census-designated area that serves as the commercial center for North Mason county, his local job prospects aren’t great, given there isn’t a good deal of industry: there are a few materials supply companies and other natural-resource businesses. I assume owning what appears brand-new truck means he drives to work in the Bremerton area 13 miles north (or further).
That’s approximately what I know or assume. What I don’t know could fill volumes and it speaks to the political void across which we exist in this country.
Life has been hard for many who used to be middle-class in this country.
Thirty years of neoliberalism that was advanced by both political parties starting with Bubba Bill Clinton have destroyed what used to be a blue-collar middle class across the land. It should be no surprise that rates of Fetanyl abuse and white male suicide skyrocketed in the industrial heartland of the Midwest; it was an inevitable result of the elites shipping jobs overseas to magnify their already excessive bonuses. As the unemployment rates go up, so do deaths.
Those left behind were told they hold to the guns or religion (Obama) or they were part of a basket of deplorables (H. Clinton).
People that were once celebrated as the salt of the earth had become an object of derision.
No effort was made to understand their legitimate grievances. One political party saw them as tools for their own electoral efforts and then made no effort to actually address their concerns. The other political party had no interest in even speaking of their own party’s mistakes in destroying the hopes and opportunities of the former blue-collar middle class.
And then Donald Trump came along.
He was a demagogue who understood the message they wanted to hear – a message about grievances: the supposed cause of their destroyed economic position (brown people and other foreigners); a political class that sent their sons and daughters to never-ending wars; and other groups of people who were rewarded for having a political voice (black and other minorities). And he talked tough to make them proud again.
It worked for the years of most of his presidency. Then COVID-19 came along, and began spreading and killing across the land. Now, most people who voted for Trump in 2016 have abandoned him; they will either not vote or hold their nose and vote for Biden.
But there is a hardcore base who will never abandon him as identification with him has become an existential aspect of their lives.
And that brings me back to my truck driving friend.
If we were to meet, I assume it would be possible to have a civil dialogue. Outright hostility is easier with distant strangers than it is in conversation, but I really don’t know.
And what happens and what does he do if Trump loses and under whatever circumstances leaves office in January 2021?
Does he get a new paint job and go back to normal?
Or does he continue to drive his Trump truck, embittered and angry over the new version of the lost cause?
I just don’t know.
But I fear the political divisions in this country will not improve after January 2021 no matter who is President.