I heard on Leonard Lopate that one of the arguments in recruiting for ISIS is “you will never be a true member” of Western society. I’ve heard this before, but for the first time it struck me on a personal level: that I have felt I would never get to be a true member of womanhood. the trick here is the adjective: If I could quit my membership, than not being “true” would not be disturbing. Instead, the feeling is one of being locked into a system that you do not get to fully embrace or receive full admission to. (“They” was not an option for self identification when I was growing up).
What interests me is how powerful that feeling of “not a true member” is and in how many lives it places out: with my husband and my older brother’s sense of their missing manhood, with white people’s sense of losing their place in America, with black men’s sense of being “failed white men” (I’m quoting Damon Young in an interview with Brian Lehrer, but from memory, so likely imperfectly), with biracial kids sense of not belonging into either world (I’ve heard this from a few different sources, but most recently about August Wilson). I’m pretty sure my mother felt that way about christianity–bound by it, but lousy at it.
There’s a depth to be plumbed here, but for the moment I’d hold on to this part, as a way of trying to understand deplorables: that the general position of the left (I’m totally left) is that Trump voters feel entitled. The moment you cast a anything in terms of it being an entitlement, you’re essentially saying, people think they deserve this, but it’s not the case. And I get that; I’d say a lot of my late teens and early adulthood was confronting what I thought I was entitled to, and the crushing reality that in fact the world owed me nothing (and anything I wanted, I had better be willing to put up a fight for).
My point for now is this: I didn’t ask to be a woman, it is a state of being that I was thrust into, and then told that I was not very good at. Likewise my brother did not ask to be a man; he found that he was one, and was not particularly good at being one.
I am the first one to want to start bashing heads and screaming … but would it help to understand Trump supporters as trapped within a system they did not create and which they find themselves failing at? Especially in that clinging to Americana, which is hard for me to grasp. But what if the fervor for it has less to do with absolute love and identification, but rather a reaching based on a failure–
Actually, now that I’ve spelled it out, I’m not sure that I’m right. And I don’t have any one to interview on the subject. Perhaps I’m just saying what other people have said, but using different terminology.