Long conversation this morning with an elderly gentleman, Glenn Beck fan. Called to talk about how the world is going to hell. His life, economically, has gone to hell. Claimed to have some conversation with “kids” at a wedding who told him communism was a better system than capitalism.
Do I believe that? Not really. What I believe is, this guy is scared. Freaked out by his own deteriorating economic circumstances. Worked for years and years, retired, but had to sell his house for less than the tax assessment, moved with his wife into a one-bedroom apartment. Forced to shop at the Sharp Shopper; wife just bought two “new” outfits for which she paid under $5 (for both) at the reuse-it shop.
Do you know people like this? I do. And not just in talking to the one that calls here or there.
I think that when people think – Hey, I worked hard. Hey, I did what I was supposed to do, and now it all feels like it’s slipping away – I think people can get into conspiratorial mode. Because it’s clear to them that something’s gone wrong – and something has. But their explanations tend to be the ones handed to them. He got into this big diatribe on how voting precincts in Philadelphia were 100 percent (or more!) for Obama and what a crock that was, and you mean to tell me not a single Republican vote, and how come no one in the media is talking about this except for maybe Beck’s “The Blaze.”
You see what I’m saying. This guy knows something has gone wrong in his own life, believes that translates into something gone wrong in the broader society, and believes that it’s the liberals who want us to be communist. The conclusion is blunt and maybe ridiculous but it’s heartfelt, and it’s a product of sorrow and fear.
Over the years I’ve read several commentators write of how the right has done a very good job of selling an “answer” to such folks. Here’s what went wrong, the right says. And there are some aspects of that explanation which are legitimate. Government? Liberals are supposed to believe government can save the day, or that government is the closest thing we have to the manifestation of the will of the people, but over the past few years I’ve come to see that government can also be bumbling and inefficient and captured by those it’s supposed to police. It’s not the blunt conservative “Government is bad!”; it’s too often government turns out badly. Government isn’t nefarious; it’s simply disappointing.
Who sells that version of events? No one. Who sells the messy, ideologically complicated, full-of-grays story that is really what’s gone wrong with us? Well hell, you can’t wrap that up in a neat package, tie it with a bow and shout it from the cable newscast – so nobody sells it. It’s not salable. It’s simply what is.
And that must seem hollow and empty for those who want definitive answers.