2020.11.13 United States of Assholes

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The deep and profound relief at the (eventual) election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is thankfully still salving the past four years of horror. Emotional, philosophical, spiritual, pragmatic utilitarian horror. But the gestalt horror is not forgotten. And, worse, the visceral terror of the implications of the numbers of the election cannot be un-discovered.

People looking at the title of this post might be triggered, classifying this as just more of Clayton's typical pro-Canada elitism finding an opportunity to gloat. And it's a fair comment. But the United States really is magnificent, and Portland in particular is full of all kinds of awesome. I've been here for almost 2 decades now, and have a lot of important roots, and that deepens how significant what goes on in the US is to me.

With that in mind, the fact that about 70 million people voted for Donald Trump in 2020 is... sad.

Even acknowledging the extreme polarization, it still means that almost twice the population of Canada worth of people were willing to at least "put up with" a fascist racist lying failure of a president. And why would they do this? Well, last month I speculated that it functionally makes them bad people - but virtually nobody does anything with the specific intent to be bad people (Mitch McConnell excepted).

I think the reason comes down to how the US is systemically structured to facilitate assholes.

It has gotten better over the centuries, but fundamentally it's still about harnessing the power of assholes. It's not that everyone in the US is an asshole, or that only assholes thrive. It's more that being an asshole is a distinct advantage in most aspects of living in the US. And even further, the pitting of people's stoked avarice against each other allows for considerable achievements. It just so happens that those achievements are usually at considerable human expense. This every-asshole-for-themself individualism was key for expanding through a wild continent. But it is now very much out of step for the interests of living with ourselves in civilization.

The divide politically is most obviously displayed with the geographical results - urban versus rural. Many of the conservative people I know all have worries about reality where the only solution they can conceive of is raw independent self-sufficiency. Even when I snarkily suggest adjusting shared societal factors to eradicate the selfsame problems. However they insist such ideas are impossible - because there are too many assholes. Which, inevitably, means that they have to pre-asshole to out-asshole the hypothetical assholes.

The trouble with assholes, aside from the inherent assholery, is the tendency to assume that everyone else is an asshole too. Perhaps more than just a tendency for some, but a full blown paranoia that the world is stuffed full of dicks out to fuck the unwary. This causes them to forgive all sorts of crazy shit for the purpose of supporting political forces they think will be the right kind of assholery.