Interlude—Dark as a dungeon: It may be the most dangerous four-letter word in the English language.
The word in question is "Them." Also its relative: "They."
This morning, in the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof explores the concept of ThemThink. More precisely, he explores the type of ThemThink which is quite prevalent within our self-impressed liberal tribe.
We liberals have failed to perform for decades now—but in our minds, the problem can only be Them. As he starts, Kristof describes reader reaction to a recent column, in which he said Those People, the 63 million, may not be all just alike.
Hard-copy headline included:
KRISTOF (4/6/17): How I Angered My Readers, AgainThe woman who tweeted that tweet is just one person, of course. She doesn't represent all liberals. Whatever you think of her furious tweet, that one tweet can't represent the full range of her own human qualities.
When I write about people struggling with addictions or homelessness, liberals exude sympathy while conservatives respond with snarling hostility to losers who make “bad choices.”
When I write about voters who supported President Trump, it’s the reverse: Now it’s liberals who respond with venom, hoping that Trump voters suffer for their bad choice.
“I absolutely despise these people,” one woman tweeted at me after I interviewed Trump voters. “Truly the worst of humanity. To hell with every one of them.”
That said, that woman went straight to "them" when she discussed Trump voters. She also went straight to "these people," using "these" is a stand-in for "those."
Those People! They're "the worst of humanity"—the 63 million all-alikers who can be found Over There!
That one tweet was just one tweet. It came from just one person.
But Kristof says he received a lot of such tweets after his recent column from Oklahoma, in which he spoke with Trump voters who are unhappy with some of Donald J. Trump's proposed budget cuts.
Our tribe has been dumb for decades now; more accurately stated, we've been spectacularly dumb. But as is true within all tribes, we only hate and despise the dumb when we see it Over There.
In some cases, "hate" may be the accurate word. Kristof quoted other reactions:
KRISTOF: “I’m just going to say it,” tweeted Bridgette. “I hate these people. They are stupid and selfish. Screw them. Lose your jobs, sit home and die.”Bridgette says she hates "These People," in part because she finds them stupid. She went straight to "They."
Another: “ALL Trump voters are racist and deplorable. They’ll never vote Democratic. We should never pander to the Trumpites. We’re not a party for racists.”
The torrent of venom was, to me, as misplaced as the support for Trump from struggling Oklahomans. I’m afraid that Trump’s craziness is proving infectious, making Democrats crazy with rage that actually impedes a progressive agenda.
Another respondent went straight to "ALL." Bridgette wants "them" to die.
These three respondents are just three people. They can't, and they don't, speak for all the nation's liberals. In moments of spleen, we humans may not even speak with full fidelity for ourselves.
That said, Kristof says he got a lot of responses like these, and surely no one will doubt him. When we speak with liberal friends, we're often surprised by how quickly the discussion goes to "They," and from there to sweeping denunciations of Them, who seem to be 1) all alike and 2) deeply undeserving.
Kristof says we shouldn't do that! What follows is the most obvious fact on the face of the earth, except when we in our self-impressed tribe get our Big Dumb on:
KRISTOF: One problem with the Democratic anger is that it stereotypes a vast and contradictory group of 63 million people. Sure, there were racists and misogynists in their ranks, but that doesn’t mean that every Trump voter was a white supremacist. While it wasn’t apparent from reading the column, one of the Trump voters I quoted was black, and another was Latino. Of course, millions of Trump voters were members of minorities or had previously voted for Barack Obama.Now they've even got Bernie Sanders! How fiendish Those People can be!
“Some people think that the people who voted for Trump are racists and sexists and homophobes and just deplorable folks,” Senator Bernie Sanders, who has emerged as a surprising defender of Trump voters, said the other day. “I don’t agree.”
Last month, Sanders joined Chris Hayes for a town hall meeting in McDowell County, West Virginia. The state overwhlemingly voted for Trump—but Sanders said the coal miners who cast some of those votes are "heroes:"
HAYES (3/13/17): So Senator, coal, I think, is on a long-term decline. What do you tell the folks here for whom, like Philip, that is the one job that pays a decent wage and gives benefits?Many of West Virginia's coal miners voted for Donald J. Trump. Like Kristof, we'd be inclined to say that they made a bad judgment.
SANDERS: Let me be honest and say two things. I think—and disagree with me if you think I'm wrong on this, but coal in this area has been in decline I think, since the '70s and the '80s. It's not anything that's new.
And I think, and second of all—and I know not everybody, you know, will be happy with me saying this. But I happen to believe, unlike the President, that climate change is real and it is a threat to all.
But having said that, I don't hold this gentleman and the coal miners responsible for climate change. In fact, in fact, these guys are heroes. I remember, I grew up in a rent control apartment House in Brooklyn, New York and I will never forget the piles of coal. I don't know if it came from here or wherever it came. You kept my house warm. Thank you. So you're not—you are not my enemy.
SANDERS: I mean, you know, these guys are heroes. How many of them—and by the way, while we're talking about the issue, you may know, Phil, that right now there are tens of thousands of coal miners who were promised health care when they retired, whose families were promised pensions and got a Congress, including Senator McConnell from the coal state of Kentucky, which is holding up legislation to make sure these families have the health care and the pensions that they were promised. So if you think about all of the miners who suffered and died from black lung disease or all of the other injuries, I would say that as a nation, we owe these folks a great deal.
That said, we liberals have made ridiculous judgments for the past oodles of years. That includes many liberals who are better "educated," and more "sophisticated," than the people who decided to vote for Trump, at whom we love to kick down when they come up from the mines.
Is imperfect judgment only found Over There? For spectacular liberal cluelessness, just watch the first ten minutes of this C-Span tape with Rebecca Solnit, live and direct from Berkeley. We plan to discuss that tape next week. In that first ten minutes, you see standard pseudo-liberal condescension at its dumbest, least disguised, most raw.
Note especially Solnit's condescending account of her visit to that "bleak little suburb" north of Reno. Try to choke down her earlier account of "how you know you're in America." We liberals are often amazingly dumb. It isn't just found Over There.
For the record, there's nothing wrong with being dumb. That's good, since everyone is.
That said, there's no one quite as dumb as the modern liberal. Once again, Kristof tries to explain that we liberals have to persuade conservative or conservative-leaning or independent voters in order to make political gains.
He also explains how we sometimes lose votes. He makes his latest try:
KRISTOF: I asked the people I interviewed in Oklahoma why they were sticking with Trump. There are many reasons working-class conservatives vote against their economic interests—abortion and gun issues count heavily for some—but another is the mockery of Democrats who deride them as ignorant bumpkins. The vilification of these voters is a gift to Trump.According to Kristof, our sweeping denunciations of Those People "is a gift to Trump." Many journalists who have ventured into Trump Country have come back with this report, but we just keep trashing Those People, all of Them, all 63 million at a time.
Nothing I’ve written since the election has engendered more anger from people who usually agree with me than my periodic assertions that Trump voters are human, too. But I grew up in Trump country, in rural Oregon, and many of my childhood friends supported Trump. They’re not the hateful caricatures that some liberals expect, any more than New York liberals are the effete paper cutouts that my old friends assume.
Tomorrow, we'll return to our current report on the nation's health care "discussion." That "discussion" is, and had been, spectacularly dumb.
That pseudo-discussion has been spectacularly dumb for a good many years. Unfortunately, we liberals have always been too dumb to notice this fact; to insist on something better; to notice how little enlightenment comes from our overpaid "liberal leaders."
No one's dumber than We have been, but we seem to love to kick down Over There. That coal miner who spoke to Sanders that night? He's the one who's really dumb. And "these people" are ALL alike!
We liberals are human, all too human. We're lazy and clueless and nobody likes us.
We're also convinced, and are willing to say, that the dumb ones are all Over There. Kristof keeps saying that we shouldn't do this.
Kristof keeps saying Those People are human. "Nothing...engender[s] more anger."
Tomorrow: The dumbness our tribe promulgates
Dark as a dungeon: Bernie Sanders never went down in the mines. We never went there either. We were too busy going to Harvard. We'll guess that few extension courses are being taught down in the mines.
Sanders doesn't suffer from black lung. He respects the people who do. He says they were keeping him warm when they were down in the mines.
"It's dark as a dungeon way down in the mines." For the Johnny Cash version, click here.
Here's the second verse, plus the refrain:
Well I pray when I’m dead and the ages shall rollHe'll pity the miner that’s digging his bones.
That my body will blacken and turn into coal
Then I’ll look from the door of my heavenly home
And pity the miner that’s digging my bones
Where it’s dark as a dungeon, damp as the dew
Danger is double and the pleasures are few
Where the rain never falls, the sun never shines
It’s dark as a dungeon way down in the mines.
Merle Travis wrote it. Good God!