Monday, January 29, 2018

We have feelings

Ever since I first saw this word cloud generated by the findings of a WSJ/NBC News poll I've been haunted by it. There's no reason to think this mistates the feelings of respondents; the methodology seems sound enough.

Two words stand out. "Disaster" and "Embarrassing." I understand the first, especially from people who had been doing alright during the Obama years, and most especially in the blue states which voted resoundingly for another round of Democratic party government. Take my state, California. We're solvent, making an effort to curb climate change insofar as a state can, and advancing toward a $15 minimum wage. Sure, we also have hideous economic inequality, struggling public schools, vast divides between races, and unaffordable housing prices. But until Trump came along, most of us (at least those of us who vote) could feel as if we were moving forward. Having the GOP trifecta in in power in Washington feels like being forced into perpetual defensive combat about matters we thought were settled.

It's that other big word in the cloud that I find disturbing: "Embarrassing." Embarrassment is a comparative emotion; a feeling of shame. Trump induces shame in a lot of us. I find myself wondering what we were so proud of. The salience of this emotion suggests it is important. Yet the kind of people who feel the embarrassment are some of the same people who hoped we were on the way to something better. Angry would seem a more appropriate emotion than shame -- but this is what many respond.

It's only fair to mention that Trump is not the only president who has evoked national embarrassment. Anyone remember George W.'s difficult encounter with a door?

I assume people feeling embarrassment are asking how could our system have allowed such a clusterfuck as the Orange Cheato's vicious kleptocracy? Well good. There's a lot wrong here that was obvious long before Trump came along to those with eyes to see. And current embarrassment might, with good leadership and a lot of luck, prompt action to get the country back on a positive trajectory, toward national and global struggle for multi-racial, economically egalitarian, gender non-constricting, woman affirming, and peace choosing democracy that preserves the habitability of earth for all (as I say in the sidebar of every page of this blog). We need nothing less.
For what it is worth, I would have answered either "racist" or "cruel" to the pollsters. How about you?
All this was reignited for me reading the wise Russian-American Masha Gessen taking the measure of Trump's expedition to hang with his fellow billionaires at Davos last week.

Our chronic embarrassment—or fear of embarrassment—when it comes to our President may be a new phenomenon, but our lack of imagination is not. The American political conversation has long been based on outdated economic and social ideas, and now it’s really showing.


1 comment:

Rain Trueax said...

Facebook does one like this and I've had it show me the words showing up most on my posts there. In my case, not sure it meant much, certainly didn't express the things I was actually feeling. It would be interesting to see where they looked to find the words in this case :). There are Republicans who never wanted him (the John McCain and Lindsey Graham sort). I don't regularly read WSJ; so don't know who their readership is. Some of the strong conservative blogs, ones I do check, definitely were never trumpers and along with the left wing will do anything to make people turn against him. We saw the same thing with Obama. Politics in our country seems to have deteriorated to shouting matches and who can be nastiest while letting Rome burn.

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