Red States, Blue States, Great States, HUGE States: Post-Trump Reflections and Rants from an American Road Trip
You’re looking at molecules, but you can’t see them.
You’re looking at the pixels on this screen, but you can’t see them.
When you stare into the night sky, you’re looking at rocks and little starry particles, and hot hot 12,000 Fahrenheit hydrogen. But you can’t see them.
They’re there. Right in front of your open face.
You just can’t see them.
And sometimes you get out your telescope and your microscope and you zoom in real tight, and you see something for a moment.
And then you switch off your telescope and you look at the stars again and maybe you just figure all that subatomic, elemental shit is still there.
But, you can’t see it anymore. So, like, is it there?
I drove across the USA a couple months ago. I drove through the whole big thing. You can’t hop and skip when you drive. To get from A to Z, you’ve got to pass through all the other letters. When you fly, you get to look down and see the criss-crossed squares that look like miniature green and brown electoral maps and maybe some silent factories. You get to look, but not really see. When you drive, you’ve got to acknowledge their existence, you know.
I saw my first Trump Pence sign a mile after leaving my house in Connecticut.
And I saw him again in New York and Pennsylvania (Bigly in Pennsylvania), Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Washington.
Then I came back and I saw him in Oregon and California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas (again, here, Bigly), Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio again, West Virginia, Pennsylvania again, New York again, and, finally, we’re back to the one right down the road from my childhood home.
I tell you, I saw thousands.
And I shrugged at them.
I saw a few Clinton-Kaine signs too. I saw them in Seattle and Portland and San Francisco and Chicago and a couple in Gettysburg, PA and some in Louisville. I saw a few in St. Louis and two Little Rock.
But shit, I didn’t see thousands. I didn’t even see hundreds.
Since my trip I have been spreading an uneasy gospel about these signs. I have told people that I was enlightened driving through the D’s and the P’s and the W’s and the O’s of our free and brave country. A and Z are my day to day. I met and observed people and all that shit with the wall and being taken advantage of by little Chinese shoelace seamstresses and the disillusionment with rationality did begin to sort of crystallize. I never acquired their views, but I at least kind of began to understand where their views came from and why the yard signs were on the yards they were on. I wrote about it here.
Nowhere. They came from nowhere.
And then I told people that all that shit about the thousands and thousands of yard signs—it didn’t mean a thing.
All that was just fervor.
I told people—and I told myself—that every Trump disciple had a yard sign. But, Hillary supporters, you know, they just weren’t yard sign people. Look, she had supporters and he had rabid, chest-beating, mouth foaming disciples.
Bottom line is, you see more crosses out in in the world than you do signs that say, “eh, I’m not sure and I don’t give a fuck, really.”
And I’d say, in the end, we didn’t really give enough of a fuck.
And I’d say most of the ones that colored in the little oval for Clinton-Kaine did so with a quick flick of the wrist as the ones that colored in Trump-Pence gripped the pen and ripped through the paper.
All across the T’s and the K’s and the L’s of America. The Dardanelle, Arkansas’s and the Chambersburg, Pennsylvania’s and the Pahrump, Nevada’s and the Zanesville, Ohio’s.
The nowhere’s of America.
They went at that little oval like the future of the fucking universe was riding on it.
Sometimes after elections, we like to say shit like, “Man, we really should have let them secede in 1865,” or “What is wrong with Kansas?”
We push this coastal v. landlocked or North v. South or minority v. white mentality.
And there is truth to all of those mentalities.
But, pull up one of those electoral maps of the United States of America (Pres Elect: Donald J. Trump) that splices the country into little red and blue counties and it’s pretty clear that this wasn’t a strictly regional deal.
Washington DC: 93% Clinton
Manhattan (Home of our next president): 87% Clinton
Queens (Birthplace of our next president): 76% Clinton
Brooklyn: 80% Clinton
Boston: 80% Clinton
Atlanta: 69% Clinton
Charleston: 51% Clinton
Little Rock: 61% Clinton
Jackson MS: 71% Clinton
New Orleans: 81% Clinton
Houston: 54% Clinton
Dallas: 61% Clinton
Chicago: 74% Clinton
San Francisco: 85% Clinton
Detroit: 67% Clinton
Philly: 82% Clinton
Indianapolis (Residence of our next Vice-President): 59% Clinton
St. Louis: 80% Clinton
L.A.: 72% Clinton
Dardanelle, AK: 74% Trump
Chambersburg, PA: 72% Trump
Pahrump, NV: 68% Trump
Zanesville, OH: 65% Trump
Anyways. I think we can stop that now.
I can’t get over it.
Donald Trump—purveyor of New York Values—just became the president elect of rural America.
And, rural America, apparently has a fuckload of people in it.
This is the story.
Cities began as trading posts—the destination or rest stop of people from somewhere else. Cities are and always were outlets to the world, by default, by definition, places of comingling—places where ideas and lumber and cash and debauchery and culture and opium and disease and turmeric and viewpoints come to be contracted and exchanged. You can find fucking Cambodian food in cities. They are by nature full of opportunity and failure and change and disruption. You do not move to Dardanelle, Arkansas with six bucks and a guitar. You move from Dardanelle, Arkansas with six bucks and a guitar. You do not go to Pahrump, Nevada for Cambodian food. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just the way it is. Pahrump, Nevada just doesn't have the demand for Cambodian food. Or the Cambodians.
Cities are miniature globes.
The thing about cities, though, is that the people that inhabit them tend to forget that they also inhabit something larger, something greater and huger and biglier. We city-dwellers tend to forget that there is another acronym that follows, say, New York, NY on our postal addresses.
We know it is there. Sometimes we even see it. But, often, we refuse to remember that it exists.
And, as I write this from Boston, MA, USA, a few months removed from driving past a veritable, actual, seen-it-with-my-own-two-20/20-eyeballs assembly line of Trump-Pence yard signs, I seem to have forgotten that, too.
How powerful it is, how (I mean, come on) American it is that our global power centers, our glass and steel windows to the world, our consummate national somewheres, lost the presidency to dirt-road America, rusty, cold, pack of cigs at the Seven-Eleven, Wal-Mart, nowheres. Remember those places?
Sixty-One Percent in Little Rock.
Look at those maps. Like a sea of fucked-up, nearly monochromatic yin-yangs.
San Francisco’s Starbuckses will still be full of coders. New York’s skyline will still be full of cranes. London will still have enough financiers. But, the people that live in these places will be annoyed—are annoyed—that they don’t entirely control their own destiny.
See, we thought when we left our small towns for the opportunity, the $2400/month two beds, the dreams, and the Cambodian food, we thought it was over. We thought we’d positioned ourselves snugly inside of our little miniature globes.
I guess it’s not that simple.