“every wet stranger”

Excerpt from Chapter 6 of LONELYHEARTS 2016:

(in which I use my own hometown as inspiration to delve into the psychology behind Trumpism. Please let me know how you think I did!)


I recognized his bow-tie. Why did I recognize that bow-tie?
‘I just didn’t think our conversation was finished. From earlier . . .’
Oh yeah! He was the guy from my morning-class. I’d forgotten about our debate; the memory had sunken into the murk of the day. But it was definitely him, the guy from the class where we’d discussed welfare reform earlier that day.
I’d argued that welfare was a waste, that it ‘makes people lazy, and it’s too easy to take advantage of.’ I passionately believed these things because I had been taught them. I was still possessed by the politics of my hometown. I’d been taught and surrounded by under-educated and under-represented people. Furthermore, I’d been taught and surrounded by lower-class and lower-middle-class people, who’d been taught to be ashamed of themselves; but they’d also been taught to be too proud to ever admit that they were ashamed, or that they needed help.
They channeled the anxiety of these contradictions into blame. They blamed people who were poorer than them, and they blamed people who were richer than them; but they blamed the richer a little bit less, though, because they admired those people and wanted–more than anything else–to be them. And they never blamed people in similar circumstances as themselves, because that would welcome the possibility that they themselves could also be blamed.
They believed the world was at fault for all their failures, but their successes were theirs and theirs alone. I believed this, too. I called myself a ‘rugged individualist,’ which was a term I’d heard in History class when I was younger. I remembered that a President had coined the term, but I’d forgotten the exact context of it. It meant that I believed everyone was responsible for solving their own problems, no matter what caused them.
That was why I argued with The Bow-Tie in class earlier, after he asserted that welfare programs ‘are good investments for any society.’ He said that such programs made the world safer, because they helped provide sustenance, education, and healthcare for people–and especially children–who would otherwise be powerless, malnourished, and desperate.
After he said this, I lazily reached into my bag and brandished my umbrella. I explained that I carried an umbrella with me everywhere, no matter the weather.
‘So, when it rains,’ I said, ‘I’m ready. I like to say that it’s my Northeastern blood; expect the unexpected. I’m not going to walk up to someone who wasn’t prepared and just hand them my umbrella. I’m going to expect them to figure it out for themselves.’
‘But what about people who can’t afford umbrellas?’ he asked.
‘Oh! So every wet stranger on the street is my responsibility?’
‘Society is everyone’s responsibility.’
I sniggered and dismissed his point with a sharp wave of my hand. I didn’t feel like expending the effort of finding words to rebut him, which was probably why he was sitting down on the bench next to me, claiming our discussion wasn’t finished. Damn him; and damn his perceptiveness . . . that gorgeous perceptiveness.


 

ALSO: you can read the current draft of the FIRST FIVE CHAPTERS here!

Love always,

real cover

Be gentle; this is only a tentative cover.

Miss L.

Open your heart to me?

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