Trump Country USA
We have only been here a day, and it has been a beautiful day. Sunday brunch at Blue Heaven has to be one of the best breakfasts on the planet, plus their Peach Mimosas. So, despite Covid-19 and everyone masked, Cathy and I are having a wonderful time in Key West celebrating our anniversary weekend. Twenty-two years, woohoo!
As I’m walking down the street, a young woman holding a political sign for the local mayoral candidate starts pointing at me and waving at me. I wonder what she is mouthing from across the street and then realize she is appreciating my T-shirt, which says “Aho, Mitakuye Oyasin. We are all related.” When I walk past her, she asks how I know about that, and I reply I have been a student of the Lakota religion for thirty years. She says, “Aho!” (Yes!) Yes, it is a fine morning.
It is really warm in Key West at this time of the year, so we were pretty hot and sweaty when we returned from brunch, so off to the pool. Everyone was social distancing well, and one young woman got a laugh when she said she and her family were on a “coronacation.” We were having a nice talk about grandkids with the grandfather who was with his cute nine-year-old grandson. The boy was so proud he could swim the length of the pool underwater to our applause.
Then, the four guys, all from the same group, came into the pool. It turns out that, like us, they were all from Broward County. Davie, Deerfield Beach, Pompano, and we Southern Broward folk, Pembroke Pines. There was talk about their 33- and 43-foot boats respectively and their houses on the water. Obviously, they were not from the poor side of the tracks. It was interesting that there was a minimizing conversation about the Coronavirus, even though one of them had contracted it a few months ago. He said it was a bad few days, but his wife, the nurse, gave him some steroids and then he was fine. The other related that he worked at all the Memorial Health Hospitals in Broward and that the media always made it far worse than it was. [Note: The Memorial Hospitals reported over the past couple of weeks that they were overcapacity in all their ICU and Covid beds.] Whether he was a doctor or a hospital administrator, it was interesting to see him downplay the virus. So, I guess I wasn’t terribly surprised where the conversation meandered next.
He mentioned that he was from Minnesota originally. Cathy said I was from there, too, so I was pulled into the conversation. He was raised in Stillwater and I spent my childhood in St. Paul. We reminisced about the beauty of Northern Minnesota where his family had a cottage on Deer Lake and my grandfather had a cabin on South Long Lake. Despite Minnesota’s 11,000 plus lakes, I actually knew where Deer Lake was. Like me, as a child he had gone to Paul Bunyan Land amusement park, and we laughed at the memory of how fun it was. I said I was saddened to see how much the land had changed since my childhood fifty years ago. Once it had been all deciduous forests—birch, elm, oak, and maple trees—but it was now almost all pine forests. A disease had wiped out the birch trees. And, there was the cue for the conversation to change course.
The Davie-Minnesota guy said he had a Cuban wife, and he laughed that Cubans never leave Miami. When he married her, he said his family thought he stole her from them by moving all the way to Broward. However, she and her family loved Minnesota when they visited his family there.
At that point he talked about how much Minnesota has changed. He said it began in the 1970s with the arrival of the Mung people. [Note: It is actually the Hmong people from Vietnam and Laos. The racial slur database notes “Mung” can be a demeaning term for these Asian people.] He said they were fine, but then the Somalis came in later and everything went downhill. He made some disparaging remarks about Rep. Ilhan Omar, the Somali congresswoman from Minnesota. He added that twenty years ago the Mall of the Americas was still an amazing mall to visit, but today it was totally different. (Implication: It is too black these days.) He griped that Minneapolis had totally changed and years ago there could not have been an incident like George Floyd. There was no mention of how terrible his death was. All of his buddies were nodding and agreeing.
Things change and then some things do not. Not so many years ago, Davie was the heart of the KKK in Florida. Those days are gone, and I suspect these gentlemen in the pool would not be supporters of the KKK. No, it was more subtle than that. It was the heart of white privilege. It was the heart of upper middle-class privilege. It was the heart of white male privilege. Without stating it openly, these men managed to demonstrate their sexist and racist colors while ostensibly discussing their families and the beauties of Minnesota.
I didn’t even bother to ask who they supported for president. They were clearly from Trump Country USA.
This is a warning my friends. These are our neighbors and they are all around us. They are the ones who didn’t vote for the most competent and experienced candidate for president we have ever seen because as a woman she didn’t meet the “likeability” test. You never hear that applied to male candidates. Notice how the sexism and racism is now playing out with Joe Biden’s vice-presidential choices. “She’s too ambitious.” “She doesn’t know her place.” “She’s too self-promoting.” And so on.
This November is a clear choice between Donald Trump’s fascism and destruction of our constitution versus a return to democracy and the chance for real change. Please don’t be complacent this year. As President Obama stated in his one-word comment on our current circumstance, “Vote!” Remember 2016!