Iceland, Day 3. I finally met two Trump supporters. It isn’t easy when you live in a liberal, educated community. I met them in Iceland, on the bus to a guided hike to beautiful hot springs up in the mountains. He was a white man in his late sixties, traveling with his wife also in her sixties. They were educated. Didn’t he say he had two masters’ degrees? He and his wife were finally able to afford a vacation abroad, after putting their children through college and getting out from under debt. “It’s the blasting taxes, they’re robbing us!” He stated. I asked why they supported Trump. “Obamacare, we hate Obamacare. It’s going to cost us trillions!, unsustainable!. Trump will be able to negotiate, he’s a good businessman.”
“You don’t think that healthcare should be a basic right for all?” My question. “And what about taking care of people without insurance, as we end up doing, which drives up the insurance cost of those who have it?” “No”, he said, “Maybe”, she said, she seemed to waver and said she didn’t agree with him on everything. Good for her. Any argument, any explanation of facts I gave, was met with a Trump slogan. He told me how he had worked hard all his life, how he didn’t have much, spending 7 years in Seminary (a Baptist one, the conservative fundamentals were coming out), being in education and motivating the minority kids to work hard. “It’s possible, you just have to motivate them, I did it. You don’t have to support them”. Good for him! I gave him a few stories from my work in a juvenile prison, it did not seem to make him wonder a bit. That was just it, we weren’t having a discourse, exchanging thoughts, ideas, looking for solutions for all. We were having a volley of opinions going over the divide between worlds we came from.
I wanted to understand why he ended up on his side of the divide, so I continued the conversation to get a glimpse of his world. He chose a cruise ship from which to see the world, I chose an international youth hostel. On the day tour we were on, he wanted to tell stories about fast cars and rodeos in Arizona to other group members, I wanted to hear stories from the theater director about life in Greenland. He and his wife lagged behind so much (weight issues) on our hike and made it to the hot springs so late that they didn’t have time to actually enter and soak. Why they chose a hike for their day trip, I wonder. Maybe because it was the cheapest tour on the market, and didn’t require any gadgets (except good lungs and legs)?
This man felt “gypped”, the twisted smile when he told how they didn’t get to soak said it all. This was a man who was missing the boat, time and again in his life, from seminary living on a low budget, to a job in social services that didn’t pay, to supporting kids who had to do better (but didn’t do it on their own power), from dragging a too fat wife up a mountain, to not being able to read the label or ask a question and buying a heavy bottle of sugary soda, instead of filling up a small water bottle on the hike up (he didn’t know water in Iceland is free and safe to drink out of all faucets and springs). This man could see others, including me, were enjoying themselves, either because we were faster, better informed, or just stronger (the Norwegian sailors hiked up drinking beer from start to end).
This man longed for the good years (which ones, I wonder) when a man got somewhere when he worked hard. I feel bad for him. I now understand that he will listen to someone who tells him that he will make America all better again. This man is tired, tired of trying to keep up with the times, the changes. He wants to have some fun, even if his fun speeds up climate change (driving fast cars), destroys the environment and people (bull riding) He looked wild eyed, when I told him that demographics are changing, creating unstoppable changes in our society, and that a wall won’t stop that. I feel sorry for him, he seemed scared, lost in an ever faster changing world around him. I get it. This man wants someone to stop the world. There are many people who want the craziness around them to stop, including the Jihadists, refugees, and traumatized, hungry children all over the world. Trump will certainly stop the world as we know it, at least for a period and then all hell will break loose. I wonder who this man will blame then for his misery?