Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Donald Trump explained for Artists

In case you've been living under a rock, Donald Trump is now the US president-elect.  And people are legitimately frightened not only for their livelihoods, but their lives. Just click here, here, and here to see what Trump's rise to power produced in the first 48 hours. It ain't pretty.

Those who minimize this by asserting that it's how Republicans felt in 2008 after Barack Obama was elected are in need of a serious reality check. The only person fearing for their life in 2008 was Obama. The bulletproof glass was for him, not for us.

  (NBC News / msnbc.com)                                                       

Points to whoever's idea it was to save a few bucks by giving the guy who checks guns at the door the night off.

But we must be careful not to characterize all Trump supporters as hateful bigots. Hell, even Hillary fell for that. Her lack of understanding of what neoliberalism has done to America is what's deplorable here.

Or, in plain English - the majority of small town folk are scared, full stop. Their way of life is disappearing.

This election revealed a magnetic reversal of the political poles in America.  Sure, the Democrats have unsurprisingly attracted the enlightened professional class, having embraced multi-culturalism and caught up to 21st century social ideals as implemented by the rest of the civilized world while drinking all the lattes that their decent salaries can buy.

But there's one important omission this time around:

The working class.

Disillusioned blue collar voters who have marked an X on the Democratic candidate for the last half century have abandoned the party that abandoned them. Trump is their man. He says trade deals have screwed them.

Republicans, on the other hand, are now rejecting unbridled free market capitalism, which has basically been their entire platform since rotary telephones.

It may be surprising to most, but some people called this as far back as the mid 1990s, never mind Noam Chomsky.

Rural America finally feels like they have a voice again for the first time in decades. And urban America is scratching their heads wondering how a bigot just got handed the nuclear codes.

(20th Century Fox)                                                       

"It's pronounced 'nuc-u-lar'."

Card-carrying members of the two parties hate each other now more than ever, and most of them don't even know why.  How do we get them to talk to each other?

I have just the solution.

Let's start by framing this in a way the artistic community and anyone with a vested interest in the field can understand.

We have seen cuts to the arts over the last century. When schools fall short of budget, what's the first thing to go?

The arts.

Even some governments make cuts to the arts. Hell, even as far back as Churchill this discussion was happening.  During World War II, expenditures had peaked and they needed more money.  "How about we dip into the arts?" suggested one well-meaning bean counter.  But rationality prevailed, as the British PM quipped, "Then what are we fighting for?"

So this isn't crazy talk.  It's real to all of us who make a living in the creative field. We don't want to see orchestras shut down. We don't want to see films stuck in the pre-production stage because the money didn't turn up.

  (ANONYMOUS / AP)                                                       

Although we can probably all agree that Jersey Shore shouldn't have even made it to the editing stages.

Now let's take it a step further - where the arts are eliminated altogether.

No music, no TV, no films, no visual art, no drama, no fiction, no poetry, no video games.

Sound ludicrous?

Not to about 50 million Americans.  This is how they feel right now.  They used to work in a factory that shut down.  Or a coal mine. And they live in a ghost town now, because that factory is literally all they had.  They couldn't care less about how the big cities are doing well.  They're broke, and their kids are sick of Kraft Mac & Cheese.

And it's Heinz Mac & Cheese now.

And if you talk to one of them about this, they'll mention the generations before them.  Let's stick with the arts language for perspective:

"But my father was a musician, and my father's father was a musician.  It's all we knew."

Just entertain the idea that the public education system sucks (it does), your IQ level is about 85, and you have few tools for intellectual improvement because this just isn't what your community did. You learned to be a musician, because that's all you needed to be. Things like depending on government handouts and seeing the big city as more than a possible vacation destination were completely foreign to you (without a passport that's about all there is - two thirds of Americans don't have one).  You played music, because that's all you needed to do to feed your family, and you were content to do that and only that.  But now all the music jobs are gone, and half your town is on food stamps.

And then a politician running for office comes along saying this:

"We're going to make America great again. I'm going to bring back the arts. I love music. You're going to have more gigs than you've ever had."

"I have great gigs.  The best gigs."

He's talking to you, trombonist who hasn't had a gig outside of your living room since the Clinton administration. He's reaching you on both a professional and an emotional level. You feel respected and validated. He understands you in a way that the last few presidents haven't. Even Reagan said 'screw you'.

And the thought that you might work again overrides literally everything else.  You don't care that he thinks he can grab women by their genitals without their consent because he's famous.  You don't care that he's blaming immigrants for why you're out of work.  You don't care that he says he's going to build a wall to keep the Mexican musicians out.


There's gonna be hell toupee.

When you're poor, nothing else matters.  You're afraid, and you're desperate.  And now with this guy in the race, you're hopeful.

You'd better believe you'll be voting for him. And in case you still weren't sure, the other person running for election barely mentioned musicians at all throughout their entire campaign (and when she did, it didn't go down so well).

Assuming most people who worked in those factories don't understand the science of climate change (that's very likely the case), their jobs being outsourced to Asia pretty much boils down to "Let's hire that other band for the half the money even though they suck; plus the drummer is banging your girlfriend."

Every faction of urban American society needs to find a similar analogy to understand their rural counterparts.  Until Trump's detractors engage with his supporters in this very style of dialogue and thereby humanize this overlooked part of the conversation, the country is not going to begin to heal.

IT consultants?  Cancer researchers?  It's up to you now.

Because when Trump is given a second term in 2020, I don't want to be the one who says "I told you so."

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