It’s no secret that my younger nephew, N2 is a Republican. During the election of 2008, he used to yell rebuttals at Obama signs as they drove by and while he has outgrown that, he took yesterday’s election results a bit hard.
“Who won?” he asked my sister when she roused him for school.
“Well, N2,” she said, gently, “Obama won.”
He was mute for a moment and then, “But how? Why? Don’t they understand?”
Because for N2, this election was about the economy. It was about taxes and the 53%, which is where he firmly plants himself and his parents.
There were no vagina politics or healthcare concerns for him. He doesn’t have a vagina, and healthcare for him is a moot point. His parents are middle-class and professionally white-collar.
More to the point, he lives in an area of the country that has an unemployment rate of less than 5%. Jobs actually go begging.
Oh, there is poverty. He’s never seen it himself though he’s driven past it on his way to his paternal grandmother’s. It exists just off the edge of the peripheral vision of the city. Some endemic and some uprooted from Chicago when that city tore down its low income housing and the inhabitants fled to the river cities along the border Illinois and Iowa border.
Like a lot of people in my hometown, N2 has limited patience with those of the generational poverty crowd. Needing help and even taking it is fine but it isn’t a first resort and certainly isn’t something you do forever and then pass on to kids and grandkids.
You work hard. You follow the rules. Pay your taxes and save and you live a good life because you’ve done the things necessary to make it happen. That’s how his father does it. That’s how his grandfather did it. That’s how N2 plans to do it.
He doesn’t think it is fair that some people get to skirt around the self-restraint, work, sacrifice, and in a lot of ways, he is not wrong.
It’s like that bible story of the prodigal son, who demands his inheritance and then pisses it away, crawling back later when he has nothing left. His father, instead of taking the kid up on his offer of working to make it up, simply hands him more. When the prodigal’s older brother expresses some rightful resentment, he is told not to be such a jerk.
That’s how N2 sees it. The rules for him are different, more demanding and requiring that he shoulder his own weight and pony up for the slackers besides.
And while it is a little more complicated than that, he is just eleven. Life is concrete and nuance-less, and some of us never really leave the idea of middle school fairness behind. Which is also not all that bad a thing.
After his mother calmed him down and got him out the door to the bus stop, his dad joined him and N2 ranted himself up into a frenzy again.
“I just don’t get it.”
And though it’s tempting to try to explain the politics of social values, race, gender and those who consider themselves too educated and too far up the food chain to dirty themselves worrying about anything as grimy, slimy as economic realities, it would be a waste of time.
N2 is a simple guy in the making. Family first. Work ethic. Loyalty to friends and community. Politics is and always will be local for him.
And that’s not a terrible thing.
Those who puzzled along with N2 yesterday, maybe still today, are not concerned with the great social agenda as much as they are with impact of a sputtering economy on their families and communities. It’s not wrong to care about those things either.
I ran across FB updates and op-ed/blog posts reminding these people “hey, I lived under Bush and survived, so just shut the fuck up and do the same as I did”, which they’ve forgotten was whine and whinge and carry on like toddlers more often than not. Though they seem to think they were the Dalai Lama and Jon Stewart rolled into one during Bush/Cheney, I remember it differently.
“My condolences,” I said to N2 when he appeared in the background as I chatted to my sister and mother on FaceTime.
“She’s saying she is sorry that Romney lost,” my sis translated.
“Oh, thanks,” he smiled.
That’s all people want. To know that you know their disappointment and respect their right to it. Saying, “I know you are disappointed just like the time I was but I wasn’t as big a baby as you are being” is not empathy. Just saying.
- A Note of Sympathy For the Republicans (nymag.com)