I’m going to regret writing this…

I voted for Obama. I voted for him twice. I voted for Hillary. I voted for her because—

“You’re a liberal! You want minorities to rule the country! You want handouts. You don’t want to work. You want corruption. You want Muslims to rule. You want a man that is a puppet for radicalized Islam to rule. You want a woman who supports pushing gays off buildings to rule. You want small businesses to suffer. You want the middle class to suffer. You want the Chinese to take all of our jobs. You want to see America be the World’s police. You’re not patriotic. You want Mexicans to invade us. You want Mexicans to rape us. You want Mexicans to steal from us. You’re a socialist. You want America to be weak. You want a bloated government. You want us to be owned by China, steeped in debt, powerless against other countries. You don’t care about babies. You like abortion. You’re not really a Christian. You don’t respect our troops. You…”

I could go on. Probably (sadly) for days.

Yesterday, while getting an estimate to have a house rewired, my electrician told me that he had a friend that was working in Youngstown, Ohio, and while this friend was working, “people shot at him. I mean, what the **** is up with that *****. Bunch of Obama supporters.” What he meant by the “Obama supporters” comment was, the people that did the shooting were minorities, in a depressed neighborhood, who—assumedly—are thugs who don’t want to work but will shoot at hard working middle class whites for no reason.

On he went, a political bubble burst and all the air had to come out. He told me he has a real problem with how America pays Muslim immigrants to enter the country, while we have American veterans living under bridges, broke and poor with mental illness. “We don’t take care of our own soldiers but we’ll take in people who hate us and want us dead?! I have a real problem with that.”

I have a real problem with that, too. Both sides of it. If it is true. Which, I’m not exactly sure that it is in such clear cut terms. I’m not sure it’s even correlated. In fact, I don’t know the reality of both sides well enough to have an opinion, but I’m not sure why we can’t both accept refugees and help veterans? Why does it have to be one or the other: Us versus Them? Always Us versus Them.

I don’t say anything. I don’t agree with this person, but, not because I’m a whiner or a socialist or unpatriotic or a puppet of the Clintons, or an “Obama supporter.” I don’t agree because, in my experience, I don’t think his information is accurate and I feel like he’s drawn many false corollaries which have clearly impacted his world view. It feels angry. It feels racist. I feels logical. It feels unfair.

It feels confusing.

I come from a family wherein, among other things, Liberals are whiners or bleeding heart, tree hugging wackos that would rather help penguins and polar bears than the laid-off and downtrodden in coal mining country. I know why my family says that. I also know why it’s wrong—wrong for many of the reasons that painting all conservatives as “racists, islamophobic, xenophobic, anti-American, backwards, bigoted, sexist, populist, isolationist, rednecks…”

I could go on. Probably (sadly) for days.

Now, in my family’s case, they are *some* of those things *some* of the time. Not because they mean to be those things, but because, with the passage of time, those monikers have expanded to represent people with certain stances on certain issues. Issues they didn’t even know they were on one side of until they were told they were in one of the above groupings.

It’s the same reason why I fit the bill for *some* of their choice insults, *some* of the time.

I come from an area that wants to work. It’s in their nature. It’s in their blood. They don’t want handouts, they want jobs. They resent people that don’t get jobs and, instead, rely on the government to give them things in place of earning things. That’s a major point of the blue collar, middle class lifestyle: If you take a free opportunity from the government, you’re abusing a system the hard working pay into, from working hard, to earn their way of life. Therefore, the government should prioritize the working folk, whose taxes feed the government, over those that don’t.

Sounds logical.

On the flip-side, there are minorities and immigrants that come from impoverished and undereducated situations, fighting socio-economic factors that keep them there. In order to give these individuals opportunities, the government has to regulate business practices to ensure there is equality. If history is any guide, a majority people in power will favor those similar to their majority, and that includes race, religion, sex, economic status and education.

Also sounds logical. So why is there so much illogical happening?

The people in the area I grew up in—small town, middle class Ohio—would say things like “the blacks don’t want to work,” or, “the government gives jobs and money to unqualified, uneducated people just because they’re minority.”

Not *just* because, but, rather, in many of the depressed areas of my small Ohio town, you had large concentrations of minorities—more diversity, and less opportunity. Failing school districts. Higher rates of crime. Not *just* because they are minorities, but because systemic poverty and lack of opportunity breed systemic poverty and lack of opportunity. To break free and be a productive member of society, you need help. To get help in a capitalistic, free market country, you need the government to step in and regulate/fund, else those trapped will remain so because they “don’t work or contribute, aren’t qualified or educated, and therefore shouldn’t have our jobs or opportunities.”

Sounds (is?) racist and disconnected.

But I’ve not spent my whole life in my small town. I’ve been elsewhere. Almost all the states, and I’ve lived in 6 different major cities, including one in another country. I’ve also lived at the top of the socio-economic ladder, if even for a brief time. And up there, in the coastal, metropolitan citadels, with the high earning liberals, the fly over states are seen as full of backwards, redneck, homogenous people.

I tell the mostly liberal, power circles about stuff I’ve heard—people that will most likely never know struggle in their life time, and out earn everyone in my part of town, combined. They speak down from a position of privilege, accomplishment, condescension and power with an aloof and all-knowing ease. I tell them what is said in those circles closer to my home, and they laugh, “my God, such uneducated racism, xenophobia, sexism. No wonder no one gets anywhere in life” or, “just conservatives afraid of a level playing field,” or, “they need to understand we live in a complex global economy where jobs and job roles are in flux,” and,  most famously, “[they’re a] basket of deplorables.”

Sounds (is?) elitist and disconnected.

However, If you live in a depressed community—like many small town, manufacturing based communities throughout middle America during and after the recession—you not only couldn’t work, but you also didn’t want to take handouts because that wasn’t in your nature. Yet, the president in power keeps pushing agendas for minority groups while your jobs goes abroad… The president allows gay marriage while your own hetero marriage falls apart from work/life balance issues. The president changes the signs on school bathrooms while tuition skyrockets. People ask, “Where is the relief for our middle class way of life? Does it not matter to this administration?” 

The same question is and was asked by many minority groups. The same question is and was answered with a similar wall of rationalizations.

Is it deplorable to be angry? Is it deplorable to feel that it’s not fair? Is it deplorable to ask why special interests groups are getting funds while you’re not? Is it deplorable to get squeezed at both sides of the economic spectrum? Is it deplorable to elect someone that epitomizes your level of anger and, if nothing else, will make the government bastards that have been screwing you suffer like we have suffered? I don’t like Trump, but I understand the logic. And understanding is in short supply these days…

When we demonize people who are suffering and angry, telling them that their feelings are innately racist, bigoted, and myopic, uneducated, we should expect backlash. When we trivialize a people by telling them that they need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when they don’t have any straps to pull—we should expect backlash. When we make education and healthcare so expensive that needing either can result in a lifetime of debt, we should expect backlash. And, when we have two candidates radicalize their supporters against their opposition’s supporters with broad, stereotypical brushes, there should be backlash.

People are complicated. Life is complicated. The world is complicated. We can try to make it less so by shoving people into boxes but it never, ever, works. Ever. Yet, that’s what we’ve been busy doing. The concept of Fake News has spread like wildfire. Or, perhaps a better way of saying it is, it’s spread like a plague. Instead of presenting objective news, we have *sides*. WE have interpretation. WE have “alternative facts.” The conservative and liberal sides of news, that spin everything—and that doesn’t even include the actual Fake News, which literally concocts false material millions of us consume as fact because it serves our already standing beliefs.

Tell me, was Sunday’s Women’s Equality march really a march? Or was it a protest? Was it about all women, regardless of race, creed, or color, or was it about one orange skinned man in the Oval Office?

Depends on what your agenda is.

I work in sports journalism. When a story breaks and I sit down with my producer to go over the topics we’ll cover on our three minute news hit the same question is always asked: How can we frame this to make it the most interesting version on air tonight? In short what’s the angle? CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and many other news venues all ask the same questions before going to air. So, ask yourself when you watch it: How do you digest such complicated material into minute long bites? What’s their angle? What do they have to gain by presenting this opinion to you? Why haven’t you compared this opinion to another? Why are you angry, and, if you are, was that by design?

Tragically, we live in a world of custom feeds; a world where Google shows me articles based on previous searches; where Facebook lets me delete from my feed those topics (or people) that displease me; where I can block folks with alternate points of view. We live in a world where I can scream “fake news!!!,” at news I don’t like, even if it’s true.

We live in a world where I will be excoriated, blocked and unfollowed for writing this.

The popular logic goes, I need to decide what I am. Some have even decided for me depending on what issue is at stake: I’m a Blue Collar middle-class, conservative white guy from a family of myopic bigots who has never truly known struggle. I am an upperclass, over-educated, bleeding-heart liberal snob who has never truly known struggle. I’m a puppet of the Clintons. I’m an American who likes guns and violence. I’m a parrot for a news station. I’m a socialist. I’m entitled. I don’t/do want America to be great again.

Why do I have to be one of these things if being one only serves to paint me as a target for the other?

I want America to have access to jobs because I know the working class needs work. I want impoverished communities to have access to the opportunities they need to break free from poverty. I want a cheaper, more affordable form of GOOD health care. I want banks to contribute less to our GDP. I want education to be much, much cheaper. I want Americans to be good to one another again. I want less division. I want more unity. I want less flash and more substance. I don’t want anyone to be left behind. I don’t want all the wealth to be owned by a choice few.

And the funny things is, I think all of us want this stuff. We just have different ways of going about it. Different priorities. But you wouldn’t know that from listening to us.  We subvert the similarities and focus on the people, and what makes us different. We skim past the boring, unifying stuff and maul the extreme examples.

I’ll Spice Girl this for you: What I really, really want is us—all of us—to stop fighting like we’ve got the other completely figured out. I want us to stop behaving like—when our candidate wins—we beat the other side and all of their perpetual ignorance. I want us to stop believing that the media was ever slant free. I want us to stop painting with such broad, sloppy strokes.

President Trump said that he’s giving the power back to us. Maybe. We’ll see. But the truth is, even if he does, if we can’t decide what to do with it because we’re too busy fighting one another, it’s a power we’ll squander. We, the people, are supposed to keep the government in check, not be uninformed, easily provoked dupes to headlines and Tweets. We’re better than this. It’s damn well time we acted like it.