“They see themselves and their communities wracked with poverty, crime, drug abuse, with no…
Janie
1

Let’s take a step back here. Go back and read the comment to which I was responding. That comment demonstrates, verbatim and with crystal clarity, what is so wrong with the entire Trump ideology and politic: “You made me do what I did. You made me vote for Trump.” It represents a fundamental inability to take responsibility for one’s own choices and actions. A pathological need to blame someone else for one’s own freely-made decisions. This, in effect, was what the Trump phenomenon was built on.

Recall the campaign. What was Trump’s draw? It was an overwhelming sense of grievance. Trump was impossibly aggrieved. Everyone, including our allies, was pulling a fast one on us. Every deal was bad for us. Everyone was screwing us over. Whatever was “wrong” with America, it was everybody else’s fault.

And that was the same sentiment behind the comment to which I was responding. “You made me vote for Trump. This is all your fault. I didn’t even want to do it, really, but look at what you made me do!” That, Janie, is what made me say, “Give me a goddamn break,” because it is at its very core complete and utter horseshit. And it’s quite rich coming from a group of people that tend to point to others and sneer about “personal responsibility” on a pretty habitual basis.

The movement of this country has always, from the moment of its conception, been one of industry winners and losers and of technological advancements. One could see automation coming a mile away decades ago. In any given business or industry, labor costs tend to be the highest costs. We all knew this was the way the country was going, and yet so many people in the Trump heartland decided that they would cling to their “way of life” — and now want to blame everyone but themselves for where they stand. (I imagine that a not-insignificant portion of them used to look down their noses as inner city people caught up in the crack epidemic.) It’s all the “elites” fault. No, it’s not.

One of the worst kinds of prejudices is the prejudice of low expectations, which is sort of what I get from you. “These are simple people, they only know how to live simple lives.” Baloney. They, like anyone else who bothered to pay attention, could have seen that the way to having a career in the future was to gain skills in higher tech manufacturing or in technological fields. Every community college in the midwest offers computer programming, for example, and has for quite some time now. These individuals were perfectly capable of steering their children in that direction, but a stubborn obstinacy seemed to prevent many from doing just that. They had a sense of eternal entitlement to expecting the same way of life for the same kind of work, in perpetuity. Yet that has never been the way of the country — not at any given time.

These same individuals, rather than acknowledging that industries have left them behind and that they made poor decisions (whether in career field, educational training, or homestead) were drawn to Trump precisely because he played on their need to blame everyone but themselves. Something going wrong in your life? Blame someone else. It’s the immigrant’s fault. It’s China’s fault. Whatever the case may be, it’s certainly not your fault.

But the plain truth is that for the most part, it’s nobody’s fault but their own. That’s a harsh reality, but then, reality has never had soft edges. Reality isn’t typically a pillow in which we land softly.

Do we need laborers still? Sure we do, and to a certain extent, we always will. But many of the jobs you cite are precisely those jobs that are going to end up being automated. Full stop. There is no getting around that or turning back that fact, so these individuals can keep blaming other people for their predicament — and blaming other people for their vote — but it’s never going to advance them. It’s only going to hold them, and us as a country, back. (And it is in fact quite true that these individuals now find themselves the greatest drain on social services in the country. That may be a difficult thing to accept, but that’s sort of the gist of my entire post and argument here.)

You ask who should have a sense of “entitlement to the American dream and American prosperity.” Well, in the sense I made that statement, I meant that these individuals feel an exclusive sense of such entitlement: they think the dream belongs to them. Many really do, and it’s what feeds into their desire to blame others. But if we’re going to answer the question as you posed it, the answer is clearly that nobody is “entitled” to financial success or advancement in this country. We have never been a pure meritocracy wherein the level of backbreaking work automatically determines the amount of money we make. Instead, we have to both work hard and do it in furtherance of something that adds cultural, societal, and economic value, all of which are constantly shifting and changing and advancing. A buggy whip manufacturer may work 16 hour days, but he’s not “entitled” to the American dream. Not anymore.

I hope that clears it up for you. If you’ll pardon, I’m not really in a position time-wise to respond to you further. I feel I have been quite clear.

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