I am an artist and this is my country / social issues

Donald Trump, Luke Bryan, and the Perfect America That Never Was

I like Brian. Brian is a co-worker I highly respect and enjoy being around. He is intelligent and thoughtful–he also voted for Donald Trump. Last night was the election. I think he picked up on the fact that I was upset about the results and took me aside to talk. That was when I learned who he voted for. My gut reaction was I guess you’re not as intelligent as I thought you were  but he is: Brian is not a dumbshit nor is he close-minded.

“There is no way I was voting for Hillary,” he explained. “I like the fact that Trump looks at our problems like a businessman, I really think we need that.”

And I have read similar quotes spoken by other thoughtful, intelligent Trump supporters who have voted for similar reasons. As I drove us back to the airport I explained my concerns about Trump namely how he talks about women and Hispanics and Muslims. Brian–not being a misogynist or a bigot–admitted that he didn’t like those traits in the man that he had voted for and was now the president-elect. He sighed a little after saying that. I pulled into the garage where we picked up the other drivers; the conversation was over.

I have been working with Brian for two years now. We have spent many hours in different vans driving around the airport where our crew works. A music lover, he plugs his phone into the stereo of whatever we are riding in so we don’t have to listen to the radio. An old joke goes I like two kinds of music…Country…and Western. In Brian’s case, it would be Country and Metal. Most of the songs on his Country playlist are from the past few years: Luke Bryan. Craig Morgan. Lonestar. They sing songs about idyllic small towns where everyone is moral and life is easy. There is always plenty of beer, good friends, and women in tight blue jeans. Everyone has everything they need and that usually includes a tidy place in the country, a large pickup, and a local stream or pond to go skinny-dipping in. An ideal America. The America Reagan attempted to conjure in his speeches. The perfect America that never was. Brian loves those songs, he plays them over and over in the van and sings along. He is 24 years old and facing a potentially terminal disease–getting lost in these songs about an idealized America seems to get him through each day. One reason we get along is that we are both prone to depression. The two of us have never spoken of it, it is simply something we have recognized in each other. I escape my problems by writing or playing music or travelling. Brian’s escapes include listening to those Country songs. Part of me wants to point out that the United States portrayed in those songs never has nor ever will exist; this country is too socially and economically complex and diverse. In the end I keep my mouth shut–what right do I have to spoil something that makes someone else happy?

Every time I have opened up Facebook this morning I have seen my Liberal friends putting up posts full of anxiety and heartbreak. They see dark days ahead for our country and fear for their children. I am worried myself and part of that worry is the unknown. Donald Trump is a trickster, a man who knows how to get a knee jerk reaction out of a crowd–who knows what he will actually do when he is president. Maybe he really will attempt to build a wall along our border with Mexico, maybe he will deport people by the millions; maybe he will just be another Republican president. It is impossible to tell, he is a man of disguises. A lot of those Country singers and songwriters have never baled hay or shopped at a feed store or driven a tractor. It is an act just like the intelligent and thoughtful Black men that have worn the disguise of the gangsta. Country music is huge right now and many singers and songwriters have recognized that and are attempting to cash in. Why is it so popular? Why are people–intelligent, decent people like Brian–so into these songs about idealized, small town America? My own take is that people are hurt and scared, they are feeling lost after the Crash of 2008. They are scarred by the fact that we have been at war in various countries for fifteen years and fathers, sisters, and sons have been coming home maimed or with PTSDs or being brought home in a box. Wages have not been keeping up with the cost of living–it’s a long list of things that people can’t cope with. They need a place to escape to, a world where life is good and everyone has your back and there is hope. An easy world where the solutions to all our problems are so simple that we can’t help but smile and think why didn’t I think of that? Donald Trump is like one of those Country songs, to those people he is hitting all the right notes. He is not some career politician like Clinton or the Republicans he defeated during the primary, he is a successful businessman. His words are not worked out in focus groups and penned by writers, they are his own words that he speaks from the gut. He says what is on his mind. This is why they cheered him passionately at his rallies. This is why they got him elected. Some are decent hard-working people like Brian. Some are just angry and easily led down paths that don’t bode well for the fabric that holds this country together. Some are thoughtful and moral. Some would happily join a crowd to beat the shit out of someone who “looks Muslim.”

I like Brian. I still like him and respect him even though he voted for Trump. I understand his reasons just as I understand the reasons millions of other kind and decent and intelligent people voted for our president-elect. I question their judgement and then feel patronizing for doing so–what do I know? Trump may actually be a good president. He is a con man, a man savvy about manipulating the masses–none of us know what he will do when he is sitting in the Oval Office. It could be very bad, it could be good, or it could be benign. I do not fear his presidency as much as my friends do but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried. More than I am concerned about his four or eight years in office, I am concerned about the people who voted for him. They feel lost, they feel worried about the future for their children and the direction this country is going in. If Trump doesn’t deport those brown-skinned people or build that wall and things continue to get worse, his voters may act in his stead. In their quest for the perfect American that never was, they may make this country uglier than we could have ever imagined.

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