Sadness has engulfed me. Perhaps a morning-after of the US-Elections.
Feeling that half of America failed to understand the other half — the urban has neglected the rural. I thought of my early days as an undergraduate in Ohio in the early 1980s when professors gave me readings such as Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, O’ Neill’s The Hairy Ape, John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook the World, Bellamy’s Looking Backwards, and Michael Harrington’s Socialism. I was into understanding America the Real, The Rural Real, The Social Realism of America. The Steinbeck America of The East of Eden, The Tennessee William’s and most importantly, as it pertained to my early experience, The Appalachian America. That was The Willy Nelson Farm Aid America, of early Billy Joel’s Allentown America, and the Coal Miner’s Daughter America. I understood all those, albeit theoretically what the reality was and how through literature as human experience, I emphasized and often shared this sadness of the poverty in the Appalachian, with my professors.
That was Reagan’s America I was in then — when MTV was still at its infancy. When globalization and “the magic of the marketplace” was Reagan’s slogan. In my classes, my professors were preaching a socialist America and opposing the Star Wars program, as well as speaking up against Apartheid. I was a passionate and angry young man then — I marched with the Amnesty International and frequented talks by the Socialist International whilst trying to find answers ranging from the meaning of life to what a perfect socialist society would look like, and in-between reading like a best-seller the work of those of The Frankfurt School.
That was it: Social Realism.
Today, in 2016. It is America of the Speculative Fiction, of Hunger Games, of Harry Potter, of pulp fiction, of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, and the like of Quentin Tarantino’s America I was feasting myself. The cultural enrichment stuff of the Post-Post Modern, Post-Truth, Post-Transhumanist America of the Manhattan genre I was lavishing myself with. I knew that is only one view of America. The Liberal, the Democrat, the Cyber-Punk, the Urban, The Urbane, and the Metrosexual and Saposexual America of the Brooklynites and the gangstas of the Bronx-America.
I felt a sense of an uneasy swing of delight – between the rural Neil Young America I cherish and Kurt Cobain’s America I too am trying to understand as an educator as well as a transcultural philosopher. I resorted to reading stuff like J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zoey sometimes and glad that the opening scene of the James Cameron’s “Interstellar” movie had Steinbeck’s Grapes-of-Wrath imagery of the “dust-bowl” — the Great Depression of the 1930s, besides a great line from Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night”.
So here I am today — in-between consciousness. Between the surreal and social real America. Here I am back to understanding why people voted Trump. Why Americans are surprised, although 46.7% did not vote. Why the MTV America must now not only understand but empathize the other America — the America not represented by the glitzy-hyper-intellectual America of the cities. The farmland and factory America — this is the America that wanted to be heard. Those whose jobs have been lost, whose farms no longer yield livelihoods — the forgotten America. Blinded by the bright city lights.
Here I am wondering what the next four years will bring. I feel for the Mexicans, the Asians the LGBTs, the Muslims – and the groups of people who felt appreciated, safe and protected under eight years of Obama Rule. The young are protesting in at least 15 major cities with those in Portland, Oregon getting violent, as reported. Those protesting may have been hoping that they will have free education for four years, had Hillary Clinton won. Utter despair, a state they are in – taking their anger the streets a day after Trump won. But those are perhaps city kids primarily. Those who did not realize that there is another America – the America whose children did not get to go to college and sit in classes talking about Socrates, Plato, Marx, Rousseau, and Thoreau. Those who went to trade school, those whose parents are farmers and factory workers or those who lost their jobs. That America that voted for Trump.
I wonder: is this an America of a clash of its own civilization, as Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington wrote about, albeit in a global context – a clash of civilizations of the urban and the rural? Is this akin to the story A Handmaid’s Tale told by the Canadian speculative-fiction author Margaret Atwood of the emergence of a Republic of Gilead, populated by handmaids who tell the tale of an America whose days of the glory of multiculturalism and diversity is dead – replaced by a system of “friendly fascism”?
I don’t know. The end of 2020 will give us an answer. If we do not descend into chaos – of the rise of violent post-industrial tribes such as neo-Ku Klux Klan or neo-Black-Panthers. Or neo anything to respond to the rise of neo-fascism-ala’-America.
I am glad I am reading Steinbeck again, The Grapes of Wrath.