Monthly Archives: November 2016

The state of the union according to my friends

I’ve had several conversations now with people in my life and friends about this election. I was curious to find out which side of the debate they fell on.

Friend No. 1 (The woman who cuts my hair)

The first conversation was with the woman that cuts my hair. I like her, in the past she has said insightful things about my life when I shared my stories. I was curious how she felt and I asked her a question during the 2016 campaign. I have heard her say negative things in the past about Obama, but I wanted to know if she supported Trump. She told me that she didn’t like that colleges were reserving space for a percentage of minorities to enroll.

She’s talking about affirmative action. It’s an attempt to protect against discrimination, primarily in employment and education. To her it’s not fair that colleges reserve space for minorities. The implication is that minorities should not be further ahead in line then her white cousin. There is no nod to the history that the school has been, and is still white by a wide margin. Her viewpoint only points to how it’s depriving her cousin of a space in line.

Friend No. 2 (A childhood friend)

I wrote a letter to my parents about this election and I shared it on Facebook. This elicited a semi incoherent response protesting what I had said, from a childhood friend.

In the response he made mention of Steve Bannon. Steve Bannon was a board member of Breitbart News a news organization which has connection to the alt-right movement. My friend is jewish, actually quite religious and he’s talking about a man that is supported by David Duke, a former grand wizard of the KKK. 

I honestly didn’t have the energy to argue with him online, I thought it would be never-ending, but I was curious about his views. He texted me later that evening and we got on a phone call. We caught up at first, then he asked if we should broach this subject. I said, no because we disagree. Inevitably we did end up talking politics.

He seemed to want to first tell me why he voted the way he voted. He told me that he watched political ads from both candidates and he like the professionalism and tone of Trumps better. They seemed more polished and had a way of soothing him. He also watched the video of Robert De Niro disparaging Trump. Ultimately he chose Trump and I thought to myself. Had he not been following along this entire time? Why did he have to “look up information” to make this decision? Was this the undecided voter that I’ve read about?

One thing I found upsetting and frustrating was that he questioned my news sources, and what I believed. I made mention of BBC news, NHK World, and NPR. I talked to my wife after and she made a really good point. She said he questions THE news, my news, but not the news he consumed that helped shape his point of view.

I remember a couple things that came up in conversation, one was Black Lives Matter. He said, but don’t you think Obama incited violence with regard to this movement. I didn’t say it outloud, but my reaction was WTF. How could he think this? Where did this come from I wondered. To clarify, No I don’t think Obama incited violence, I have seen no evidence that illustrates this. I’ve been following along with press conferences, speeches, and what is written.

At the end of our conversation he told me about these videos he enthusiastically described as amazing. He said they are so good just to sit back and relax to. He sent them to me as a text message. There were five and the rules were you had to watch them in order. He warned me because he had previously sent them to a girl he liked and she watch video number three first. Apparently she lost interest in him after that. I wasn’t interested in dating him, but I decided then and there I would watch them in order.

I got partly through video number one. The video is a cartoon that starts in the Oval Office, Obama is sitting there when president Regan walks in and decides to give Obama a calm and soothing lesson about socialist ideas with regard to the tax code. The video goes on to completely distort how socialist ideas and a more fair taxing plan is equivalent to stealing. It’s incredibly condescending, inaccurate and completely insulting to anyone of any intelligence. I honestly feel stupider after watching it. It feels like an infection just sitting on my phone as a text message. Not only is the information in this video distorted it made me think this man is a complete child by taking it in without question.

The black panthers is another topic that came up. Nothing of significance was said about them, but it was used to illustrate some negative point about black people. I thought about this, why did it seem so familiar… After the call my memory banks kicked in. Not too long ago I had seen a documentary about the black panthers. I remembered now. In short; the Black Panthers were a response to the sweeping migration of black families out of the South during World War II.(Wikipedia) During that time white men would go to areas where blacks congregated and would beat them up. Many times the police would do this, and sometimes the police would stand and watch as the white men beat up black men. The Black Panthers was a response to the racism and abuse, as well as a push for equality. They had a 10 point plan. It included employment equality, decent housing, education, and an end to police violence against blacks.(Wikipedia) They also provided breakfast, lunch, and dinner for children; books and school supplies; children were taken to have medical checkups; many children were given free clothes.

Friend No. 3 (A firefighter)

Upset by this election, I texted another old friend to see if he was up upset too. I told him that I was upset by this election and the first thing he said was, “Don’t waste your time, Presidents aren’t dictators” I interpreted this statement as don’t resist this president. Whether he meant it this way or not, it was shocking. I wanted to probe deeper. I asked more questions. I asked if he thought building a border wall was a good idea. He replied, “Heroine is an epidemic!!!!!” I think I got the number of exclamation points correct. He continued on, but only seemed somewhat convinced that a wall should be built, saying that it would be cost prohibitive.

He said, “I honestly wonder how many of these racial graffiti incidents and what not aren’t Hillary supporters trying to make a statement against trump if you get what I mean.” No, I really didn’t. Sure, I think it’s possible to spin anything. During this election cycle I watched Trump making racist statements. After the election there has been an increased number of violent incidents against blacks and Islamists. For the same reason I don’t think, “Hillary supporters” when I read stories about white men threatening blacks or Islamics, I don’t, when I see a swastika spray painted on a Islamic place of worship, or “go home nigger” on a bench.

We talked about the welfare system. This seemed incredibly unfair to him. In the past he has told me stories about the homes he goes into as a firefighter. In poor black communities he finds big flat screen TV’s in many of the houses. Somehow this is the line for him; If you’re poor, your TV should either be smaller or possibly no TV. I did agree that there are cases of people taking advantage of the welfare system. However, I said it was there to help people survive, I challenged anyone to try to live that life if he thinks it’s so great and so easy.

He went on about the welfare system. He was outraged at what he called, a beautiful new community. Housing projects are being built in our area for low income families. He called it the life of leisure. He described it as one where you have all the time in the world to spend with your kids. (didn’t mention his wife) This is a place he describes as, has no worries and you can eat steak or chips. He said, “Entitlements I believe should have limits, poverty should be uncomfortable, it’s the incentive to better yourself, instead some of these people live better than me, not even kidding”. He has a government job, a house, and is a savvy investor.

He made it sound like heaven on earth to me, but I wonder, does the drug problem in the US that he talked about tie in? Is it related to economic and social conditions he speaks about with such envy? What about these kids; how good is their education, how good is their healthcare? What are the options and incentives for upward mobility? He talked about 3rd and 4th generation welfare. Would he be in favor of cutting welfare to protect against the ones that take advantage. I’m not an expert, but it sounds like that would increase crime. 

I think what he’s saying is; if you are poor you should not have good housing, or be able to eat what you want, then your suffering will inspire you to work harder and move up in the world. I think his pull yourself up by your bootstraps talk ignores many of the social and economic issues that affect the poor. It doesn’t take into account the story of their actual lives. They might have cool stuff, but do they also have massive credit card debt, payday loans, or health issues? I doubt he has asked.

He offered me a challenge, He said,”I dare you to walk into a black bar in Homewood by yourself and see if you’re treated with such hospitality” Homewood is a predominately black neighborhood of Pittsburgh. When I worked at my dad’s sign business I use to go to the Crawford Grill (Wikipedia), a famous bar in the Hill district, also a predominantly black neighborhood to install their signs. I always enjoyed going there and the people were nice.

Another example; This isn’t a bar, but I think it compares. My wife and I like to roller-skate. At the rink we are close to the only white people in the entire building. Well actually, Jewish and Filipino. There we are, going around in circles in a sea of black people to R&B and Hiphop. We’ve skated in Ohio and Pittsburgh without so much as a rude word. I’ve also worked for Charlie Batch of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I installed a computer lab that’s used for the children of the Homestead community, another predominantly black neighborhood. He would be considered a rich black person and the people we roller skate with would not be considered rich. Either way my wife and I always enjoyed ourselves and were never treated rudely.

He gave me a great deal of statistics on whites that commit crime vs blacks that commit crime. Including details about Black Lives matter. He believes based on the statistics that blacks cause more crime than whites. Statistics can be tricky to discuss, what they mean can vary depending on who’s making the interpretation. I told him I thought he was making the case of black vs white. Other then race he didn’t mention anything else that could cause crime.

In the end, likely of our friendship, to illustrate my point that Trump is racist. I told him that David Duke supports Trump. He asked for a news source, saying, “let’s not deal in propaganda.” I asked him if he trusted any news source and the answer was, “No”. I later mistakenly sent him a CNN article that showed David Duke supporting Steve Bannon. Strikingly he asked if the Black Panthers supported Obama, would that make Obama racist? The Black Panthers were not racists. So, the question didn’t make sense. He then asked if David Duke supported my politics, would that make me racist. I said that he wouldn’t support my politics, unless I said some racist shit.

This is the video news story that shows David Duke in his own words supporting Trump.