In California, I used to love to go for long drives along the California coast. There is a wildness along the shores of the Pacific and in the forests that I loved. I mourned as vineyards ate up more and more farmland.
In Pennsylvania, when I find myself in rural spaces, I am beset by a wholly unpleasant dissonance. On the one hand, the countryside is spectacular, with deciduous forests more lush than anything I ever saw in California. The farmland recalls memories of my childhood—I had farming relatives—and still look the same. The towns have a look, particularly with small churches with steeples, that you simply won’t find out west.
But it’s not a place I want to be. Because I also see, even yesterday (January 26), after a coup attempt that Donald Trump incited, even after Joe Biden’s heavily fortified inauguration, campaign signs and flags proclaiming support for Trump are everywhere to be seen. Rural Pennsylvania is, as Politico reports, Trump country.
It isn’t just, as James Carville allegedly described it, that “Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between.” Certainly the white supremacy that support for Trump necessarily entails, with the thin blue line flags, the only-now nearly absent Confederate flags, the Gadsden (“Don’t Tread On Me”) flags, the occasional upside down U.S. flags, the gun nuttery that’s more about alleged “self-defense” (against Blacks who are presumed criminals) than hunting, and the ubiquitous, especially in Westmoreland County, “pro-life” proclamations against women’s reproductive autonomy, all inform me that were I to live in these areas, I would despise my neighbors. Even more than that is an idea that you can fly the U.S. flag, pin it on your lapel, post banners proclaiming that you “stand for the flag” (in opposition to athletes’ taking a knee during the national anthem) as I see so often along the Ohio River in Beaver County, thump your chest with a too-overwrought-to-be-credible “reverence” for veterans, and then support sedition.
I remember realizing as a kid in San Francisco that the “justice for all” in the Pledge of Allegiance that so many Trumpsters claim to revere, “under God,” of course, could not end on the Pacific shore, that it necessarily must extend overseas to the war we were waging in southeast Asia and the cruelty inflicted on civilians. I could only oppose that war but I recognized then the hypocrisy of U.S. patriotism. It turned my stomach.
Now I see, still on some of those flags and some of those banners that still support Trump, “Fuck Your Feelings” and “Make A Liberal Cry.” “Justice” does not even extend within our own country to Trump’s opposition. I see a widespread poverty that afflicts Blacks much more than whites and I know that “justice” does not extend even to those who, in generations past, we abducted from their homes and enslaved here. I notice the absence of any mention of American Indians whose land we stole and now occupy. I see the signs that demand of Governor Tom Wolf that he should “reopen Pennsylvania” despite a raging pandemic that has killed, at this writing, over 425,000 of Trumpsters’ fellow countrymen, and nearly 21,000 of their fellow Pennsylvanians, and I see that “justice” is for white male capitalists, at not merely the expense of everyone else, but at a cost in lives that can never be recovered.
It isn’t just that these people are bonkers, right wingnuts. It is that they so often take pleasure in the misery of others. It isn’t just that they are, as Hillary Clinton infamously but rightly described them, “deplorables,” but that they are unrepentant and vicious bullies who bathe in their own venom.
The revulsion I felt as a kid to the Vietnam War, I feel again. In rural Pennsylvania.
- Ted Barrett, Manu Raju, and Peter Nickeas, “US Capitol secured, woman dead after rioters stormed the halls of Congress to block Biden’s win,” CNN, January 6, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/06/politics/us-capitol-lockdown/index.html; Fiona Hill, “Yes, It Was a Coup. Here’s Why,” Politico, January 11, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/01/11/capitol-riot-self-coup-trump-fiona-hill-457549; Spencer S. Hsu, Tom Jackman, and Devlin Barrett, “Self-styled militia members planned on storming the U.S. Capitol days in advance of Jan. 6 attack, court documents say,” Washington Post, January 19, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/legal-issues/conspiracy-oath-keeper-arrest-capitol-riot/2021/01/19/fb84877a-5a4f-11eb-8bcf-3877871c819d_story.html; Talia Lavin, “The Violent Crescendo of the MAGA Conspiracies,” New Republic, January 6, 2021, https://newrepublic.com/article/160814/trump-protesters-attack-us-capital; Andrew G. McCabe and David C. Williams, “Trump’s New Criminal Problem,” Politico, January 11, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/01/11/trumps-new-criminal-problem-457298; Nicolás Rivero, “Is America experiencing a coup?” Quartz, January 6, 2021, https://qz.com/1953602/is-america-experiencing-a-coup/; Jonathan Stevenson, “Trump’s Lingering Menace,” New York Review of Books, January 9, 2021, https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2021/01/09/trumps-lingering-menace/; Rebecca Tan et al., “Trump supporters storm U.S. Capitol, with one woman killed and tear gas fired,” Washington Post, January 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trump-supporters-storm-capitol-dc/2021/01/06/58afc0b8-504b-11eb-83e3-322644d82356_story.html; Craig Timberg, Drew Harwell, and Marissa J. Lang, “Capitol siege was planned online. Trump supporters now planning the next one,” Washington Post, January 9, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/01/09/trump-twitter-protests/; Aruna Viswanatha, “Conspiracy Charges Filed Over Capitol Riot,” Wall Street Journal, January 19, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/first-conspiracy-charges-filed-over-capitol-riot-11611080191↩
- George T. Conway, III, “Donald Trump’s new reality,” Washington Post, January 22, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/01/22/trump-charges-george-conway/; Andrew G. McCabe and David C. Williams, “Trump’s New Criminal Problem,” Politico, January 11, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/01/11/trumps-new-criminal-problem-457298↩
- Zachary Cohen and Geneva Sands, “20,000 National Guard troops expected in Washington for Biden’s inauguration,” CNN, January 13, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/13/politics/inauguration-security-us-secret-service-washington/index.html; Jeff Seldin, “President Biden Takes Oath of Office Amid Heavy Security,” Global Security, January 20, 2021, https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2021/01/mil-210120-voa04.htm; Megan K. Stack, “The Week the Trump Supporters Disappeared,” New Yorker, January 22, 2021, https://www.newyorker.com/news/the-political-scene/the-week-the-trump-supporters-disappeared↩
- Holly Otterbein, “Pennsylvania GOP pledges full allegiance to Trump,” Politico, January 26, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/01/26/pennsylvania-republican-party-trump-support-462843↩
- Your Dictionary, “James Carville Quotes,” n.d., https://quotes.yourdictionary.com/author/james-carville/35910↩
- Katie Benner and Catie Edmondson, “Pennsylvania Lawmaker Played Key Role in Trump’s Plot to Oust Acting Attorney General,” New York Times, January 23, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/23/us/politics/scott-perry-trump-justice-department-election.html; Holly Otterbein, “Pennsylvania GOP pledges full allegiance to Trump,” Politico, January 26, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/01/26/pennsylvania-republican-party-trump-support-462843↩
- David Benfell, “Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count,” January 27, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html↩
- Katie Reilly, “Read Hillary Clinton’s ‘Basket of Deplorables’ Remarks About Donald Trump Supporters,” Time, September 10, 2016, https://time.com/4486502/hillary-clinton-basket-of-deplorables-transcript/↩