Burn it down: how Trump’s America happened

This is my cathartic writing experience. It’s an attempt to work my way mentally through what has been happening for the last two weeks in America. I am a 39 year old white American. I grew up in Englewood, Colorado. What follows is a bit of my personal story where I attempt to connect my background with what’s happening, why we’re here now, and my plea to anyone reading to consider working together to improve the world.

Outsider

I was an angry child. Angry at the world. Actually, angry for a good portion of my adult life. I grew up lower middle class and disenfranchised, even though I’m white. I didn’t have a mother and I was the son of a garbage man. We only got to live in a modest house because my grandmother, a school teacher, let us stay at a house she had inherited from her parents. I was angry at the world because I didn’t have agency over my circumstances. The last part to add to that is that my last name is Dix. Say it out loud and you’ll get the joke. Kids are cruel and I got the brunt of it because of the name, my father’s profession, my economic circumstances and the fact that I didn’t have a mother.

But more than that, I was angry because I felt that the world was profoundly unfair and that I didn’t have the ability to change things. To put it bluntly: life sucked and I couldn’t change it. Even worse, everyone else in the world seemed completely indifferent to the fact that my life sucked. I think that’s what many Americans are feeling now.

Luckily, I had a childhood passion for working with computers, which turned into a career. But, I couldn’t go to college right out of high school because I couldn’t afford it. After teaching myself about computers and working in the technology industry for ten years while going to school part time, I was able to transfer into Columbia University. Even though it cost me $200,0000 in student loans, going to an Ivy League institution was transformative. To say I had impostor syndrome is an understatement.

Ascent to the other

These were not my people. They had their college paid for. They were people that were told from birth that the world was theirs. I was an outsider. The son of a garbage man. However, the message the educators at Columbia delivered was consistent even to me: you are the future leaders of the world. You are the smartest, the best, and it’s up to you to make a better planet. The last part was the most important. It didn’t matter that you were smart. It only mattered if you could leverage that into a better world for everyone.

It didn’t matter that you were smart. It only mattered if you could leverage that into a better world for everyone.

If you hear these messages enough times you start to actually believe it. You depart from your childhood and forget about the anger and think about how you can help shape the world. I hope that’s what I’ve done since I’ve graduated, but there’s much more to do. Maybe this post is about that, but I can only hope that people read and take it to heart.

Bootstraps are bullshit

This isn’t some bullshit thing where I say you need to pull yourselves up by your bootstraps. I was lucky. Very lucky. Lucky to be born in this country and by what I took interest in and by my path through life. I don’t think for a second that everyone will be able to do the same. My firm belief is that it’s our responsibility to look after those that don’t have the same luck. And that’s why I’m so concerned about what’s happening now in America.

I’m concerned that a racist, bigoted, sexist and alleged rapist will hold the highest office in the country. I’m also concerned because so many voters chose to look past those flaws to elevate him to office. We are Americans and Americans are supposed to be the good people. We’re supposed to protect the weak, tired, poor and huddled masses. That is the ideal even if we haven’t always lived up to it.

Burn it to the ground

On some level I can empathize with voters that went for Trump. Sixty million people. Sure, some of those people voted based on racism or sexism, or hate speech. But… I think most of those people voted because they feel like I did when I was younger. Disenfranchised. Forgotten. Left behind.

When I was young I wanted to burn the whole thing down. I wouldn’t have cared if society failed. Good riddance. What good did it ever do for me? And that’s the dynamic that I think is at work. People are angry and want change.

On that level I feel that I can understand the angry voter. Angry with Hillary. Angry with the jobs getting exported overseas. Angry with the economic unfairness. Angry with the death of the middle class.

But ultimately, I have no idea what motivated sixty million people to vote for a man that promised to jail his opponent, round up millions of people and send them out of the country, or sexually assault women. What is the mental calculus that happens where someone decides that it’s ok to vote for someone that bragged about sexual assault?

Burn society to the ground

This is the part that causes me the most trouble. I feel like I did when I was young. Completely disconnected from a large swath of society. How? Why? Other than burning this place to the ground, what are people thinking?

When I was young I may have voted for Trump because I wanted to bring the whole system down. But not “drain the swamp” bring it down. I mean I wanted to bring it down for real. New government. New society. New values. New religion. New people.

My first reaction to this election was my youthful one: Society is diseased and must be cured. I went overseas to Vietnam the day after the election and the experience was surreal. The friends I was traveling with were shell shocked. Everyone asked us about the election and we had no answers for them. I still don’t.

I’ve been back in the U.S. for a week. Getting work done and having conversations with coworkers and friends. And still no answers. Everyone I talk to is without an answer as to how or why this is happening. Everyone is without an answer as to what happens next.

Every time I think about it I come back to my childhood anger. I think there is a significant portion of America that is angry. I hear you. I was you. The answer is not to burn everything to the ground. It’s to work together to improve our circumstances.

Hope

I implore everyone to not give in to otherness. That is, don’t push others away because they aren’t the same as you. I experienced that in my youth on the opposite side. It doesn’t help anyone because the “other” that you push away today might be the person that improves things for all of humanity ten years down the road. We MUST work together.

If we’re going to survive the next four years, it’s only by bringing everyone to the other side of the aisle. For those that voted Trump, I don’t understand, but I want to help make your and my lives better. I really believe that’s what the pro-Hillary crowd was after. A better life for everyone.

I hope that everyone on both sides will work together to make this world a better place in the next four years. I said world because this election isn’t just about America. That’s another reason I’m so upset. The ramifications of what is happening are more far reaching than our meager patch of land on the planet.

I’m concerned that there’s a larger movement happening here and I want to raise the red flag. Let’s disavow racism, sexism, bigotry, and nationalism at all levels. We all live on this planet. Let’s make it better for everyone.

Let’s disavow racism, sexism, bigotry, and nationalism at all levels. We all live on this planet. Let’s make it better for everyone.

The only other option is revolution and civil war and no one wants that. We need unity and to do that we must include everyone regardless of economic circumstances, race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Racism and otherness have no place in a modern society. Looking at history, this is how wars gather steam. We need to stop this before it becomes more dire.

For my fellow Hillary supporters that are still reeling from this election: we have to bring the disenfranchised Americans into the plan. Not just the poorest of the poor, but the lower middle and middle class. Those were my people. The people that didn’t get college scholarships because they were in the middle. I think those are the people that are angry, and I empathize with them.

If you’ve read this far, I thank you. Please share this and tell your friends. Let’s work together and make this world better for EVERYONE, not just our group.

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