I get it. As members of the middle- to lower-class, as people living in poverty, we are angry. We are angry and we are looking for someone to blame. We are looking for someone to lead. Because living on the brink of losing everything from one slip-and-fall, one major illness or even one broken-down car is a scary place. I’ve been there for many years. It’s hard, living in that fear.
I have a lot in common with most Trump supporters. I’m white, I live in a rural area that is predominantly white where many people struggle to find a job. My family, for generations, has struggled through the effects of working blue-collar jobs long past the age of retirement. I’ve seen, and experienced, the anxiety of not being able to find work for months on end.
I’ve tried to ignore Donald Trump. I didn’t want to give him the pleasure of my energy. I didn’t want to help the media glorify him by clicking on and sharing their articles, even if they were against him. But he’s growing, and feeding, like The Nothing. Remember The Nothing? It was a gigantic, black storm from “The Neverending Story” that fed on fear and doubt and sadness and hate and uncertainty and didn’t stop until everything was gone. That is what Trump feels like to me.
After listening to his speeches, it’s hard to know what he wants. When asked direct questions, he talks around the subject, puffing himself up even more in the process. His narcissistic nature breeds a textbook case of manipulation by lying about or covering up what he’s said and telling his accusers they are crazy and misinformed.
As a voter, as a college graduate with student loans, as a person who has lived in the forgotten population of the impoverished, I, too, am sick of the political jargon. I look for an ounce of like-mindedness behind the podium. I look for empathy, for understanding, for caring.
Trump doesn’t show these qualities, yet his supporters rally behind him. Because they want change. They don’t want a politician. They don’t want someone who’s funded by banks. They hear him promise to not only bring back their jobs, but prevent others from taking them again, and that’s hope for them. There’s hope in having steady work. They don’t want the same, cookie-cutter politician to lead them anymore. They want passion, fire and something different. I can understand that, too.
But while Trump supporters are distracted by the literal, physical fight he supports and growing in their hatred for those they’ve chosen to blame, legislation has been quietly passing, pulling the rug out from many who are in the very crowd, shouting for change.
In West Virginia, a bill passed that limits the food people can buy with food stamps. In Indiana, a bill passed that forces women to pay funeral expenses for aborted zygotes, among other things. In several other states, legislation is currently in the works to expand work requirements to get food stamps, and others are trying to limit foods acceptable to purchase. In Illinois, a bill was proposed that will not allow babies born to single mothers a birth certificate if they don’t identify the father.
This year, an estimated one million single, childless, unemployed Americans will lose their money to purchase food. Trump won’t change that. He won’t make it better by building a wall or deporting people he thinks don’t belong here. The only thing he’ll do is produce the storm that will destroy any chance we have to make things better for ourselves and our children.
I wish I was being dramatic, or even exaggerating. After watching people at Trump rallies, my urgent plea sounds like a whisper amid all the raucous anger roiling through his supporters. My thoughts drift to a few lines of another story about the lust for power, Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” when the main character surveys the tragic results of his megalomania and says, “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player. That struts and frets his hour upon the stage. And then is heard no more: it is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.”
When will we see that Trump, while so full of sound and fury, is hoodwinking us with a lie and to follow him is to follow a shadow, nothing concrete, nothing real, that diverts our attention so we can’t see what we’ve lost?
Stephanie Land’s work has been featured on Vox, DAME, Narrative.ly, Manifest Station, through the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, and as a writing fellow with the Center for Community Change. Follow her @stepville or read more at stepville.com.