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August 10, 2018
How do I understand my “deep story”
I stumbled upon a rich treasure the other day. It is already bearing fruit.
I am not sure how I connected with this source but it is amazing!
It is called ‘Cognoscenti’. The tagline on its page is “Thinking That Matters”.
The definition of Cognoscenti is “persons who have superior knowledge and understanding of a particular field, especially in the fine arts, literature, and the world of fashion according to dictionary.com
I have provided the link to the page where the inside story is.
This medium is a sponsored program by WBRU Radio in Boston MA. I recommend reading the article.
GETTING BACK ON TOPIC
The title of an article struck me “I Keep Trying to Understand Trump Voters, But I Keep Failing,”.
Julie Wittes Schlack Cognoscenti Contributor wrote the article
Julie writes essays, short stories and book reviews for various publications including WBUR’s Cognoscenti and The ARTery.
By day, she leads the product innovation team for C Space, a Boston-based consumer collaboration company.
It is Ms. Wittes Schlack’s review of a book by Arlie Russell Hochschild “Strangers In Their Own Land”.
She describes the book as “a deeply researched and prescient study of Tea Party activists in Louisiana.
She quotes Ms. Hochschild “In a period of political tumult, we grasp for quick certainties”. We shoehorn new information into ways we already think.”
This is attached to a podcast named “Hidden Brain” hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Maggie Penman, Renee Klar, Jennifer Schmidt, Rhaina Cohen, Tara Boyle, and Chloe Connelly. It was distributed on January 24, 2017.
The work of sociologist Arlie Hochschild was researched for some time.
The article starts out by restating my conundrum: “Researchers have long been confused by what seems like a paradox: many people in America vote against their economic self-interests.
Whether it’s the working-class conservative who wants a tax cut for the wealthy or a member of the liberal elite who fights for safety nets that raise his own taxes – we don’t always act in the way that would help US most.”
Aha! I dim light flickers to life!
Ms. Arlie Hochschild tackles this paradox.
“She says that people might vote against their economic needs, they’re actually voting for their emotional needs”.
Ms. Hochschild spent years in Louisiana trying to understand the deep stories of conservative, white, heterosexual, working-class Americans.
“Their deep story focused on the American Dream: the idea that, if you work hard and play by the rules, you can have a better life,”
Today that dream is shattered best that I can tell.
I read an article today that discussed how the rents paid by the uber-wealthy are decreasing while the rents paid by the poor are increasing.
How can that be?
I thought America was a capitalist country governed by the “marketplace”, whatever that is.
(I am working on a post about poverty in American and the pay gaps: between rich and poor, women and men.)
I will get to that soon. I have been postponing it because I don’t think all of that story is told yet.
Yes, unemployment is low and the stock market is high.
But it all seems artificial.
I vividly recall the crash in 2007. I have been waiting for the crash of 2018 or 2019 to hit.
In addition, the tariffs and trade wars are going to working classes and the not uber-rich one more time.
The hardships unleashed by the last crash were not felt by the uber-rich.
The US Treasury is borrowing at a rate that makes me gasp.
I don’t understand it all but when the talk is of ‘unprecedented’ increases, my heart plummets.
But Ms. Hochschild’s observations ring true.
When I was in the Army in Alabama, the local people that worked in the same building were very much in favor of Nixon.
I cautioned them that all was not well.
They didn’t believe, but I think I righter than they.
The times are so much like the days and turmoil of Nixon’s reign but even he did not go to the autocrat extremes of our current dictator.
But I wander from my story.
I noticed last week that Trump’s approval ratings were at 50%.
A recent Pew survey found that approval ratings for Trump have been stable
Thirty-nine percent of Americans approved of his job performance in February 2017, almost a month after his inauguration.
With all the terrible things that have happened since his approval rating has improved!
Looking across to the opposition while 84 percent of Republicans approve of his job performance compared to just 7 percent of Democrats.
I never recall that big a chasm in this country.
I didn’t understand people voting for him in the first place. Now, even more, think he is just swell.
I mentioned that the American Dream was the quest for all Americans.
What happens when that dream does not come true?
Conservative white people see blacks and immigrants cutting in line in front of them.
They get ahead while the white people flounder.
No improvement in wages.
No improvement in job security.
Even when Trump kills industries with his tariffs they still approve of his job performance!
According to Hochschild, Trump tapped into the deep stories of these white people.
He confirmed what these people felt and that validated them.
His rhetoric even gives them a way to talk about their stories.
This has been one of my ‘not-understandings’.
They voted for him. Now they approve of him even more! ??
I wondered where these people had been.
Why hadn’t I heard of them before?
But that was part of the problem.
They didn’t have a voice until Trump came along.
Sure they elected a lot of crazy, of the rocker congresspeople. But that is the nature of the South.
‘A different country’ when I talked about Alabama.
Okay. That explains the attitudes of the people that lined the top of the freeways in Kentucky.
My story was reinforced by an up-and-coming singer. Dolly Parton. She sings of the squalor that she and so many others lived in.
I just didn’t pay enough attention to the words.
Ms. Hochschild explored the ‘deep stories’.
“The phenomenon of the tales we construct and tell ourselves to create coherence, to explain our values, hopes and disappointment.’
The stories may not be accurate but they ‘FEEL’ TRUE.
That still is only part of the story.
Last week Pence was in Duluth. A month earlier it was Trump.
The city was upside down!
How did these people, those that I grew up with, that I attended school devise such different ‘deep stories’ than mine?
I heard my rage and utter despair at the conditions that were and are developing.
Hochschild describes the “empathy wall” that makes us feel different even hostile to those who hold different beliefs
Boy that describes me to the hair I don’t have on my head.
What still befuddles me is that approximately four in 10 Americans support Trump even though a majority say they don’t like the way he conducts himself.
How can someone vote for a person they don’t respect or admire? Especially for president?
Ms. Wittes Schlack describes the theory of Arlie Hochschild.
“In her telling, the conservative right’s deep story is about standing in line to get to the summit of a hill where you’ll finally realize the American Dream.”
You will have the prosperity and security of your dreams.
“The line moves slowly, but despite your lack of progress, you feel proud for not complaining.”
You are tenacious. You are patient.
But now, the line quit moving.
It was moving at a snail’s pace, but now you see women, African-Americans, and immigrants cutting in line in front of you.
That you made you mad as a child and maybe even more now.
You feel “increasingly outnumbered and victimized.”
But you are like your ancestors, stoic and not complaining.
You won’t be a ‘whiner’.
It is safer for your ‘deep story’ to “characterize them, those people who cut in line, as rapists and criminals.
“They are job-stealing parasites infesting the homeland.”
You blame them and then you can hold onto your self-respect.
I am like the rest of the Americans that are increasingly contemptuous of the Republicans.
I even have created a name for them “The Trumpsters”. Those who follow Trump are “The Intolerants”.
In my story, it makes no difference whether you ‘born into privilege or poverty’.
We don’t look at the losses we have experienced we look at the great things we have accomplished.
We have redressed the wrongs of Civil Rights and Women’s Rights.
We “champion diversity and economic fairness.”
“We see the last 50 years not as an erosion of American values” but as a fulfillment of them.
We can agree with the conservatives that the “American Dream’ is increasingly unattainable.
But I blame the 1% and the skewed capitalist system on which they gorge.
I don’t blame the destitute or the working poor.
Granted liberals congratulate themselves on doing good works.
But what do we do when we see the world rails ‘off the rails’?
I get angry and I despair for the future.
We have achieved all the ‘rights’ but now, in a blip, gone.
How do we address the rising tensions in our midst? The rising likelihood of racial violence?
We have already been thru this once!
What did the hard work of the last 50 years accomplish?
Each story feels right for the people living in it.
It looks equally twisted to those that are looking in from the outside.
I don’t understand how we will reach common ground?
Thanks for stopping.