Before leaving for South Georgia last spring, I pinned a note within my carryon.
It read: " DON’T SIT IN ROOMS FULL OF RELATIVES.
Don’t sit in rooms full of Baptists.
And don’t sit in rooms full of Republicans.
You will certainly get yourself in trouble !"
But -- going to the Historic Preservation meeting at the beautiful, classically proportioned historic church building, I stepped right into a trap. All, and I mean all, of those in attendance turned out to be “Primitive Baptists”.
And then my second cousin invited me to lunch out by the river, an area of rolling lawns and lakes. And it turned out to be a birthday celebration for another distant cousin. So, I found myself in a very large room with lots and lots of relatives.
All that’s left of my 1958 graduating class - a room full of Trump voters. The empty chair and the glasses are mine.
And in the ophthalmologist’s office I should have gotten the clue, when at each visit the audio system played “Be Still My Soul, Fairest Lord Jesus and What a Friend We Have In Jesus” and filled the rooms with quality, orchestral transcriptions. He kicked me out and refused to operate, because of my bad attitude !
Another trap ? Or just a normal doctor’s office in Valdosta, Georgia ?
It seems that I didn’t, or couldn’t, take my own advice. And after several months of trying to prove Thomas Wolf wrong, I found out that “You can’t go home again.”
Wolf's novel, written during the year of my birth, is about a writer who starts to search for his own identity. His search takes him to New York; to Paris; to Berlin. "The journey comes full circle when the protagonist returns to America and rediscovers it with love, sorrow, and hope."
What I found:
" is that rural, Christian, white Americans are entrenched in fundamentalist belief systems; don’t trust people outside their tribe; have been force-fed a diet of misinformation and lies for decades; are unwilling to understand their own situations; and truly believe whites are superior to all races. No amount of understanding is going to change these things or what they believe. No amount of niceties will get them to be introspective. No economic policy put forth by someone outside their tribe is going to be listened to no matter how beneficial it would be for them. I understand rural, Christian, white America all too well. I understand their fears are based on myths and lies. I understand they feel left behind by a world they don’t understand and don’t really care to. They are willing to vote against their own interest if they can be convinced it will make sure minorities are harmed more. Their Christian beliefs and morals are truly only extended to fellow white Christians. They are the problem with progress and always will be, because their belief systems are constructed against it.
The problem isn’t a lack of understanding by coastal elites. The problem is a