Ahead of tonight’s latest Democratic debate, meet Jeff Reese. He was a Socialist before Bernie Sanders came along and made it cool … -ish.
I guess before I anger a number of people I should lay out my lack of qualifications for expressing my completely biased, one-sided opinion on the state of American politics. To let y’all know who’s lashing out, apparently unprovoked, at people who probably in their hearts mean well but are just a bit scared by the march of progress that’s leaving them behind, my name is Jeff and I’m a blue-collar socialist living in Colorado.
I’ve worked my adult life fixing shit (which, ironically, when applied to relationships with women, really fucks everything up). I was a socialist before Bernie Sanders made it cool (well, at least a wee bit more acceptable). I work tangentially in the automotive industry, my employer’s somewhat oppressive internet policies make me hesitant to list the specifics of my job, so, “I fix broken shit” is about all I should say.
This career path has put me in the company of social conservatives most of my working day. Many of whom were homeschooled or are homeschooling their kids (how they do this from work baffles me but I guess keeping kids ignorant doesn’t take much time from your busy schedule). Most believe global warming is a hoax, evolution is an evil perpetrated by the devil, and that the rapture is coming soon. I’ve heard a coworker speak of the rapture in longing tones when marijuana became legal here. She said this to upper management and instead of being reprimanded, or even chided, he agreed and the conversation devolved from there. It’s safe to say I expend more calories biting my tongue in an average day than most other activities I do.
I also fly fish which is yet another source of interaction with people that otherwise I have nothing in common with. These are your prototypical Trump or Carson supporters. What I’ve discovered is, by and large, they’re more like “Kent Dorfman” than “Douglas Neidermeyer.” (I know ’70s movie references aren’t the best way to connect with an audience in the internet era.) They’re kind-hearted, if a bit stupid, and really only want to be loved.
They are cynically exploited by the system that instills fear and inadequacy in order to sell them everything from guns to large diesel trucks and vote against their best interests. It’s not completely their fault, they are told the world is a terrifying place and to them it is. Their lives are filled with irrational fears while ignoring very real threats. They fear home invasion while having no real worry that their depressed child has access to weapons. They fear “creeping socialism” while ignoring that the largest cause of bankruptcy is medical expenses. They fear terrorism but never leave their community. It, honestly, is no way to live.
“Scapegoating” is one of the most effective political tools in the arsenal of those who would exploit an electorate for personal gain. It’s not the broken education system, healthcare system, or lack of an effective social safety net that is making you feel insecure about your future, instead it’s “those people that’re new here” and “haven’t you noticed it went south when they came north?” The simplicity of that is quite appealing to people who don’t have the desire to probe further. It creates some pretty amazing cognitive dissonance at times.
I try to approach my interactions with people who hold these general views from a place of empathy. Dean Wormer’s quote at the top of this ramble in fact comes from that same place of empathy. I guess the version I’d use in this situation is, “Paranoid, scared, and stupid is no way to go through life.” I choose not to engage most of the time as I don’t like beating my head against a wall. Just know, and understand, that there is an inexorable march to progress that is leaving them in their wake. Ten years ago, gay marriage was a pipe dream, marijuana legalization wasn’t even on the radar, and the thought of an avowed socialist on stage in a national debate would have been almost criminal. I guess I’m an eternal optimist and that clouds my political views, but it’s a much better mental state than paranoid, scared, and stupid.
I’m unsure what I’m doing with this writing besides adding my voice to the caterwaul of opinions on the internet, but a good friend asked me to take a shot at writing and I’m stepping out of my comfort zone in life right now. (Midlife crisis the cheap way. I don’t particularly like sports cars, and I sure can’t get away with dating 20-year-olds.) So, I’ll write my B.S. opinions as long as he asks and I’ll occasionally get too personal and possibly regret it, and if anyone comes along for the ride that’s a bonus. Be prepared for grammatical errors, poor sentence structure, and stream-of-consciousness bullshit. But hopefully there’s some honesty and openheartedness along with it.
Pfffffft, (my next writing will address this I’m sure)