The 2016 election year was one that almost no one expected. For many people, the following days were ones of numbness and bewilderment, not to mention anxiety about what is going to happen next. Trump promised a lot of things, far more than he will ever be able to deliver. Anxiety runs high to see what path he will take and how long it will take before he shifts and goes in another direction. Regardless, many of the people who voted for him and believed all the things he said will be bitterly disappointed. One group in particular comes to mind, a group of marginalized individuals who, in large part, determined the outcome of this election.
Trump burst an abscess, festering for over 30 years. We have been rightly concerned with the disenfranchisement of many groups: people of different colors, different sexual orientations, different religions, different ethnicities, people with disabilities, veterans, women. But no one, from either side, has been attentive to this embittered group of individuals: the under-educated, middle-aged, white men whose skills are no longer compatible with the modern age of globalization. We have overlooked those who have not had a job in over a generation.
Regardless of whether it is in the countries of Africa or the Middle East, or here, when people cannot feed their children and provide a healthy life for them, anger builds and they look for a place to lay blame. They also look for a way out of their predicament. Both sides, Republican and Democrat, talked about ways to address the challenges facing communities where jobs have disappeared, but neither side has done enough about it. At least that is how it looks to workers whose jobs have been lost to technology, globalization or shifting markets. They, quite literally, had nothing to lose voting for Trump.
Unfortunately, regardless of Trump’s promises, these jobs will not come back, not because they went somewhere else, but because they no longer exist. These jobs were lost in large part because times have changed. There is a normal desire to return to an earlier time, but that time no longer exists and will not come back. We are moving from the nativistic model of the past towards the globalism of the now. It is understandably frightening when you feel that the world is going on without you, that you are being left behind.
This is not to dismiss, or in any way diminish, the legitimate concerns of other groups. This is only to say that not all of the disenfranchised have been acknowledged and the outcome of the 2016 election reflects that. Some people have a hard time dredging up empathy for poorly educated white men with outdated skills. It was the white man’s world for a long time, to the exclusion of other groups. But I think it is fair to say that day is gone. This election represents, to me, one last attempt to return to the past and one last cry to say, don’t forget we are here too.
Linda Loman, the stressed wife of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, says it best. “I don't say he's a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person... A small man can be just as exhausted as a great man. He works for a company thirty-six years this March, opens up unheard-of territories to their trademark, and now in his old age they take his salary away.”
Like it or not, the Willie Lomans of today have reason to feel left behind and ignored. In light of this, we must focus on our common humanity, not race, sex, religion or any factor that results in a label. We are a global community now and there is no going back. The question is how are we going to go forward. And how do we not leave any one behind. As we finish out this year, let us strive to put hatred and prejudice behind us, and hold on to the ideals of truth, empathy and justice.
Posted on 3 Dec 2016, 16:18 - Category: Politics