Old man …
Old man he looks out the window
You know he gets quite a fright
Whole world has gone and changed on him
Feels like it was overnight
-John Butler, “Oldman”
I had this whole plan to write about the 48 Laws of Power and how each one can relate to professionalism and the workplace … and I’ll come back to that. Because it is a matter of importance (to me, as a professional) and something I am interested in breaking down and looking at … but today is not the day for that.
I am sure you are all aware that today is the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States of America, Joseph Biden and Vice President, Kamala Harris. There is plenty to be written and said on the incoming administration, and the outgoing administration, and the last 4–5 years … and I’m not going to delve into those waters. Not with this piece, not at this time. My thoughts are my own there. But this Inauguration Day, more so than any other, has me in a reflective mood … and some experiences I have had recently here in the Driftless.
Remember that phrase, that mantra from the post-9/11 America nearly 20 years ago? We all swore that we would “never forget” what happened on that day, where we were that day … that was the thing to say. Never forget. While we may not have forgotten about 9/11 and the tragedy that was suffered by so many of us Americans that day, our country has shown a great proclivity to forget other things, “lesser” things … even “lesser people”. The Democrats are no better at this than the Republicans are — they are both guilty as hell.
You see, I live in a deeply red county, I think Trump took a 4:1 win over Biden in our county. It’s Republican country — a significant change from 20 years ago, when Al Gore won this county and (narrowly) the state. And that’s a sign of something greater at play in this country. In 2020, this area was awash with signs and flags supporting Republican candidates and (of course) President Trump … and the local results reflected that.
The reasons for voting Republican are many and varied, from “life-long” Republicans, to angry folks who feel left or forgotten by some in Washington, to proud Trumpublicans … as an Independent, it’s interesting to see and hear the reasoning and the reactions. There are legitimate grievances, there are over-exaggerations, there are those who have been fooled, and (yes) there are those who would back the storming of the Capitol and those who are racist.
And there are a lot of really good people.
There is one local, I’ll call him Oldman (OM), who has visited my shop a few times. His political preference is widely known to anyone paying attention, and (yes) he is an old white man (in his 70’s or so) … and yes, this is about him. I haven’t talked politics with OM, nor will I (my office/shop space is a politics free zone, regardless of your affiliation), but he’s admitted his admiration for President Trump.
I bring up Oldman, because the man I spoke with last week (on Friday) is not the man I expected when I first spoke with him (back in October). I cannot agree with his political affiliations, and that has forced me to approach him differently — especially after he came to me asking for technical help (which is something I do). I have observed him in a “neutral” setting, and (statement said above) I think he’s a pretty good guy, overall. I also think he feels hurt and afraid of what’s here and what’s next.
You see, the world has changed from what he knew … it’s grown and progressed since the 1950’s of his youth. And likely done so at a pace that he struggled to keep up with, living in the rural Midwest. But that is what life does, that is what the world does — it changes, regardless of whether we like it or want it or not. I get the impression that he isn’t thrilled with the way things have changed.
And I think he feels forgotten, overlooked … which speaks to his staunch support of someone like President Trump. Make America Great Again spoke to him, he remembers it being “great” when he was younger … when he likely didn’t see or hear what was going on in the cities or in the south. The innocence of youth sheltered by the area of the country lived in. The world, especially technological advances, is moving faster than he can keep up with now, given his advanced age. He’s fearful, he’s hurt, and he’s mad. Fear makes people irrational.
It’s easy to bring others on board with a generic, catchy slogan that leaves interpretation up to the individual — as I have seen from so many people (including myself) who ask “when was America great, really?” or “How can we keep America great, when there is significant racial inequality and gender inequality and fiscal inequality and people don’t get along because of their political affiliation?”
People like Oldman buy into these slogans out of hope and out of fear. Fear of the unknown is a powerful tool to use against someone, especially when it is propagandized and weaponized. While he may not acknowledge it, fear is what drove Oldman politically — he’s become afraid of the Democrat Party, even afraid of what the Biden Administration might be about — fear of the unknown future based upon the past.
In some ways, he’s not entirely off base in fearing the Democrat Party of today … most of the loudest voices are those from New York, Washington (state), California, Massachusetts — the “Coastal Elites”. While all politicians have an “obligation” to look out for those who voted them into office, so many politicians stop there. We have a terrible knack, in this country, of overlooking those who did not vote for us and hating those who voted against us.
Growing up and having lived in the Midwest, my perspective was heavily influenced by a working class family and Reaganomics policies. I went to college and I bought into the “elitism” that so many buy into … especially our politicians. So many people from older generations, throughout the Midwest and into the Rust Belt and the Sun Belt did not go to college. They do not have the same perspective. When politicians speak down to them, it only exacerbates their alienation and their lean in the opposite direction.
He comes from the supposed “good old days”
People like Oldman stuck in a spot that both political parties seek to keep him (and others like him) in. It’s easier to vilify to the opposing party, and their chosen party uses that to their advantage. “They don’t know you like we know you” … however, people like Oldman, people who vote Republican in nearly every election cycle, are the same people that the Democrat Party should be reaching out to, should be listening to, and should be trying to ease that fear and mistrust — through mutually beneficial action.
A liberal Representative from New York City is not as likely to flip the affiliation of an old white conservative voter in rural Iowa any more than a staunchly conservative Senator from Texas will do the same to a liberal from San Francisco. But reaching “across the aisle” is what this country needs. There are voices that need to be heard, that need to be allowed to make their concerns known and acknowledged. That is something both sides are choosing to overlook … that is something the Biden Administration and the Democrat Legislative majority have to change if they are going to ease the divisiveness in this country.
While I don’t agree with his politics, I think Oldman likes me on some level (he has come back to my shop a few times). And I think it largely comes down to how I treat him, especially in terms of technology. I treat him like an adult, like my neighbor, I treat him with basic decency and respect. I explain what I’m doing or what I will do to fix his issue — in a way that he might not completely remember or understand — but I do so in the same way I would speak to one of my peers.
I wish we could get more of the same from our leaders in this country. No, change and improvement won’t happen overnight, the events of 6 November should not be forgotten nor excused. Those who acted and led the events of that afternoon must be held accountable for their role. That is critical to the long-term gain of our country. I hope the Biden Administration can get us started won that path towards healing.
However, the divisiveness will continue for as long as our leaders and our citizens allow and encourage it to … for as long as we treat one another like a lesser, like an “enemy” based upon who we voted for. I love this country, and I want to see America be “great”. (note: We haven’t been there before). We have shown that we have the ability to band together, to work together for the greater good. But doing so means that we cannot overlook one group in favor of another — whether that is division by gender, identity, sexuality, race, income, location, background, affiliation, or any other way we can be separated or divided.
Until we learn to look upon one another with due respect, we will always be divided. As long as we remain divided, we will always be weaker. As long as we are weaker, we will always dream of greatness without being able to achieve it as a people. I hope for my friends, my peers, my neighbors, my wife and kids, and for people like Oldman that we find that ability, and we start down that road. We have a long way to go.