I wake up to C-SPAN every morning, and so I begin every day disturbed by the reality gap between the "Trump supporters" who call in, and everybody else. (I put "Trump supporters" in quotes because the phrase annoys me now that he's president. Were people who liked President Ford called "Ford supporters"? Anyway …)
You know who reminds me of some of these Trump supporters, and their gleeful forgiveness of the man's sins and their continued willingness to believe Trump would make their lives better if only the media and the snowflakes and Jeff Flake would get out of his way?
Me, at the dentist's office.
And you know who reminds me of liberals who are waiting for Trump supporters to finally come to their senses and vote their interests?
My young dental hygienist.
Every six months at my regular checkup, she makes three innocent mistakes in her effort to get me to floss more, brush differently and buy something called a "water pick."
1. She doesn't acknowledge that dental hygiene is Worry #154 for me in a given day. I want to wear a hat into the dentist's office that says, "You have no idea how much is always on my mind and how much virtuous and important and difficult stuff I do in the time period that you refer to as, 'between brushing'!" (But I don't have a hat that big.) She needs to countenance my reality somehow, perhaps by saying, "I know this is going to sound tedious. But you really should set a timer and brush for two whole minutes. It will make a big difference."
2. She talks to me like I am a baby. She's always gently talking about how she can tell if I'm brushing at the proper angle and joking that she's going to "yell" at me next time if she sees I have not done so, hee-hee. Well, if she's going to treat me like a baby, then I'll be one. In fact, with as much adulting as I have to do all the time, I am eager for realms in which I can self-infantlize. I won't brush at the proper angle! And I'll dare her to yell at me! Hahahahahahahaha!
3. She doesn't acknowledge that she has a horse in the race. If I while away my days brushing, flossing and water-picking, then the next time I go in there, she has to spend less time and elbow grease scraping and polishing. But she doesn't acknowledge her personal interest in my oral hygiene, and as long as she doesn't, I'm going to allow myself to suspect that she's only in this for herself. If she only said, "This is good for you and it's also good for me," she would disarm me entirely, and maybe even motivate myself to get that water pick as a favor to her.
But she does all that stuff wrong, and even though she is young and gentle and good natured, I treat her advice as I would if it were coming from a passive-aggressive, smarmy, self-righteous shrew. I don't ignore her advice; instead, I almost enjoy to defying it, even against my own interest.
Perverse, yes. That's part of the fun!
Maybe she'll learn that what she's doing is not working.
Maybe we will, too.
Maybe the dental hygienist will realize that after escaping the dentist's office, no one is going to drive off to get a water pick. And maybe she'll start distributing them to patients in the office.
Maybe we'll realize that telling 40-year-old a coal miner that he needs to retrain himself for a "green job" is the rhetorical equivalent of your cable company telling you, "Your call is important to us, please continue to hold."
Maybe the dental hygienist will realize that when you treat a man like a boy, he immediately acts like one.
Maybe we'll realize that Trump supporters are probably every bit as disciplined in their jobs, attentive to their kids and good about mowing their lawns and cleaning their garages as we are. They may be voting like children, but they are men and women who have dealt with death and life for as many years as we have, and just as squarely.
Maybe the dental hygienist will figure out she needs to meet her patients where they live, and that's not in the World of Dentistry. It's in a world where dentistry is merely the smallest and most reliably annoying detail. That's got to be tough on dentists. But it's the way it is.
And maybe we'll try to get into the mind—which means getting into the community, into the local diner and into the home—of a Trump supporter every once in awhile, when we can summon the energy and generosity of spirit required set aside the pious superiority that comforts us. (Or at least once every six months.) Because if we're going to have one country after this presidency—a country that we can call United with a straight face, we are going to have to come back together at least a little bit, and probably a lot.
Yeah, I know: You'd rather go to the dentist.