I'm a middle-aged white guy and I have a lot of middle-aged white-guy friends. I've noticed some of them (and mostly them) on Facebook, on the soccer sideline and in the tavern, showing bewilderment and contempt at all the weeping and hollering the women are doing. "The sun came up in the East" is one median comment. "The president doesn't have that much power" is another. "Shouting doesn't do any good" is a third. My oldest and dearest middle-aged white guy friend is coming to town for a visit, and I wrote this to let him know I'm with the women on this one. And let you know, too. —ed.
Yes, we’re both guys and we laugh at shit and we've been laughing at shit since we were in our twenties and laughing at shit is sacred to us. I still remember the first joke one of my guy pals made about 9/11. It's still too soon to share it, and it still cracks me up. And yes, at some level it’s truly hilarious that Donald Trump became president of the United States. If it wasn’t, Saturday Night Live wouldn’t do jokes on it every single week. If Saturday Night Live keeps doing jokes about it, we should be allowed too.
And yes, we’re both fathers and middle-aged business owners, and watching the market go up the week after the election was a pleasant and reassuring surprise. As I've written, my real visceral fear about Trump has much to do with my conservative impulses, not my liberal ones: “The real panic—the stuff that gets in my blood like sand and scratches my arteries—that probably has to do with protecting what's mine.”
So when you called the morning after the election laughing about how crazy it all is and pointing out how Trump probably won’t be that bad except for “the Armageddon factor of course" and the Supreme Court, and then added that people oughta have a sense of humor about “everything,” I was jarred a bit out of the morose grief-trance that I’d been in since the night before. I thought: Maybe I oughta lighten up a bit. How bad could it be?
But nah, I'm not going to lighten up.
First off, tardy lightening-up has never really been a problem of mine. Early lightening-up is the side I usually err on. I don't laugh at a wake, but I was once overheard making rigor-mortis jokes in a funeral-home parking lot.
Secondly, I did burst into tears in response to my 12-year-old daughter’s simple morning-after question, “What happened?” I don’t sob in front of my daughter very often. Gotta trust emotion that deep and wild, wherever it comes from. Gotta also trust it in my friends, who seem to be flying in a hundred contradictory and intemperate directions in the wake of the election.
Third: One ingredient of the jet fuel in Donald Trump’s campaign plane was alternately coded and stone-cold derision of pretty much everybody not white, male, Christian and able-bodied.
Now, I have written carefully on my belief that most of Trump’s supporters are more understandable than deplorable. Helpfully instructed by the empathetic writings of Southern Illinoisan David Wong, I think most people who voted for Trump did so as a one-time act of rebellion that we all now have to live with. When my daughter asked through her own tears how half the country could be such idiots, I said everybody’s an idiot when angry and drunk. “They punched a hole in the wall and they broke their hand and now we all have to figure out what to do,” I told her.
But if it was all socioeconomic trouble that Trump appealed to and not some of the other stuff—well, why did Trump have to go to all the other stuff? Why not just elaborate on his plans to bring back steel mills and coal mines? Because other stuff burns hot, and it's useful to Trump. But you shouldn't start fires, because you're never sure you can put them out. "Stop it," he said to the camera on 60 Minutes. We'll see.
It seems to me that none of us knows what is going to happen next, and thus each of us should worry and watch and err on the side of caution. I will not spend the next three months, let alone the next four years, in unwarranted hysterics. I pulled myself together for my daughter and I will keep it together for my friends and family (and my business and my country). I will read carefully and consider carefully entreaties, like another one from Wong, to “stop being baffled. Understand why it happened. Do the opposite of panic. Work through the problem.”
But after years of solid poisonous talk out of Donald Trump, watching him paint our country (and also the rest of the world while we’re at it) as a filthy, crime-ridden wasteland that can only be rehabilitated by the most draconian means, I’m-a give it a few months before giving him the benefit of the doubt. And now that he's hired this Bannon character as his strategic advisor, I'm-a give it a few more months. I'm going to write, and I'm going to look for ways to act.
Both Hillary Clinton and President Obama said last week we should root for Trump to succeed, Clinton even going so far as urging us to keep “an open mind, and a chance to lead.” I wouldn’t do that for any supplier, business partner or employee who had insulted me or my friends and decency itself the way Trump did during his campaign, and you wouldn’t either. But as an exercise of extreme civic goodwill (and because the alternative involves starting something we're also not sure we can stop), I’ll wait and see what Trump says next, and I’ll watch with an open mind how he leads. I am a very hopeful person as you know, and not inclined to go around saying the sky is falling every time a cloud rolls in.
So how about I won’t tell you not to laugh at a wake, and you won’t tell me it’s not wake. Because I think it’s fair to say that neither of us knows exactly what in the fuck this is.
See you soon,