Just A Working Man
I had dinner the other night with family. I was less than enthused about attending because I knew there were going to be a couple of family members there with whom I had no interest in being cordial. I just shared with you my ideas about “What Divides Us”—how we need to find a way to bridge that massive gap between us and try to listen so we can talk, discuss, and learn.
I was wrong. It’s all bullshit! Facts don’t matter. I had zero interest in engaging in an utterly pointless political conversation, but it really was the elephant in the room. I won’t rehash the details of the evening but I’m guessing you can imagine. Things ended abruptly, with my antagonist shouting, “I voted for Trump, and I’m voting for him again because I like what he’s doing! Yeah, I know he’s a pig, but that doesn’t matter.”
Right. I believe I was talking about what percentage of taxes my working man counterpart pays vs. the lesser percentage his boss pays compared to the welfare losers that he so despises. I mistakenly offered real numbers. I know it was ridiculous, but to me it matters.
Some people can’t accept things on face value; they want to know what makes it real or how it works. It’s how we’re wired. How does an internal combustion engine work? Why does a north-to-north magnet repel, while a north-to-south magnet attracts? Others are comfortable just knowing that the engine runs and that magnets do what they do.
Susan Shapiro recently reminded me of George Lakoff’s writings (thank you, Susan) about understanding the foundational position of people’s moral arguments. Many people don’t argue from a position of broad knowledge or experience; rather, they operate from a “gut feeling,” which trumps any amount of history or logic or reason that you might offer.
I don’t remember if it was effective tax rates, or unemployment numbers, or any of the other handful of topics that we had no real discourse about, but things ended with my counterpart ending the conversation with a desperate shove from the table, proclaiming loudly that he was done. He’s just a working man, and he likes what Trump is doing, and that’s all there is to it.
I have to say that I’m offended by the excuse, I’m just a “working man” and its implication that, “I’m the salt of the Earth that makes the world go ‘round.” I’m a working man, too, and I can guarantee you that my difficulties in life have been exponentially more difficult than this “working man’s” lot has ever been. He’s a chump who has no idea what adversity even means.
We’re all working men and women and, damn it, understanding the why and the how matters. We can’t just rely on gut instinct. Gut instinct is reflexive by definition. It’s what guides our actions after receiving sensory inputs. But we don’t need reflexive thinking; we need carefully considered proactive measures that consider future outcomes, based on a real understanding of what might happen, based upon what has happened.
“What Divides Us” was sincere, yet tragically quaint in retrospect, and that was only three or four days ago. I want to believe that what I said those few short days ago could be real but, again, as Susan reminded me with her reference to George Lakoff’s discussion about “The Strong Father Figure,” you can’t debate facts based on gut instinct with a guy who defends his positions by saying, “I’m Just a working man.”
I’ll admit it, I’m political. I like to read things that might help me understand the “why,” things that might help inform my opinions on the swirling mess that sometimes threatens to engulf us all. Some of my favorite authors are Douglas Blackmon, Naomi Klein, Matt Taibi, David Stuckler, Henry George, Michael Lewis, George Lakoff, Jonathan Tepper and, yes, Barack Obama.