I am sitting at my client’s desk in his home office on an unseasonably warm December day, gray with rain clouds threatening to burst at any moment. We need the rain. Earlier in the morning, I awoke to a thunderstorm accompanied by a heavy and very welcome downpour.
My client’s house faces the golf course in a country club development. No one braves the threatening weather to play today, but two sandhill cranes are scouring the greens for their breakfast. Perhaps some worms or bugs surfaced during the rain.
My client is economically comfortable as evidenced by his colonial-style home on a golf course. He owns several small businesses, some with partners and some on his own, and his wife is an attorney. He, his wife and two teenage children live, what appears to me, to be a life that would be enviable to most Americans, but one that could not be called lavish. They take one big family vacation each year — sometimes out of the country and sometimes to a distant state. Most of their other travels revolve around the children’s sports activities. They don’t have extravagant tastes, but seem to be able to do whatever they desire to do.
I like my client. He is a laid-back, easy-to-work with man about 20 years my junior. He spends most of his working hours in shorts, a t-shirt and sandals. When I see him dressed in trousers and a button-down shirt I know he has an appointment. He has a quiet nature not prone to chit-chat, but friendly nonetheless.
The books pleasantly displayed on the shelves in their house are ones I have read or would read. I know his wife and children are the readers. He is content with sports articles and business magazines. His wife is an officer in a non-profit that works to empower young girls through sports. I don’t believe they are religious, or at least have seen no evidence of that, but they seem to be caring, decent people.
I wonder if they voted for Donald Trump.
As election day drew closer last month, more and more Trump/Pence signs appeared as I made my weekly trip through the country club estates to their home. Not one sign for Hillary Clinton. I assume that, like my client and his wife, their neighbors are well educated people. They obviously are not struggling financially nor would I guess they have fears of unemployment. Eight years under the leadership of Barack Obama could not have been too difficult for them and probably increased their incomes, business holdings, and investments in spite of some programs they may dislike, such as Obamacare. Unlike the unemployed of the Midwest Rust Belt who may have legitimate complaints about job scarcity and unlike those in low paying service jobs who may have a genuine fear of being replaced by immigrants, my client’s neighbors have none of those concerns and probably never will. They are, undoubtedly, highly-educated, successful professionals or, perhaps in a few cases, just very lucky people who inherited wealth or created it in spite of having few advantages.
Being mostly well-educated they must realize that Donald Trump is a con artist and a very poor businessman who exploited the bankruptcy and tax laws and who stiffed many subcontractors over the years, leaving them facing bankruptcy and foreclosure and unable to pay their employees.
Since most people in our geographic area are churchgoers, they could not possibly approve of his pussy-grabbing comments and his other various immoral statements and activities. If they pay any attention to what he says, they must realize he is not an active Christian in any sense of the word “active” and rarely if ever attends church services, that he has almost no knowledge of the Bible that they hold so dear, and that he lives a hedonistic lifestyle that is the opposite of what they are taught in Sunday school and from the pulpit.
So, why did they vote for him?
Perhaps they also exploit tax and bankruptcy laws and envy his success at exploiting those laws even more and better than they do. Perhaps they are Christian only as far as showing up at church and doing the minimum to be considered a charitable Christian — fulfilling a distasteful duty instilled in them during childhood and lauded by the community that provides their support. Maybe they envy his ability to claim Christianity without sitting through long droning services on beautiful Sunday mornings when the golf course beckons. Perhaps they envy that he has his own charitable organizations that appear to benefit him more than those in need. No boring hours organizing food and clothing drives, no mission trips to help poor, sick people who don’t speak English. Rather than dropping money in the basket every Sunday, Trump buys paintings of himself and pays off fines with funds donated to his so-called charity organizations. Do they feel like chumps for following the rules when he does not? Do they hope four years of a Trump presidency will teach them how to con the system like he does?
Or, perhaps their support for him is more basic and more frightening. Maybe, beneath their veneer of Christianity and respectability, they are sexist, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic bigots. Maybe their perfectly manicured lawns hide the secret of who they truly are. Now, with a president who is like the real them that they have hidden under veils of respectability, they can finally be who they truly are, come out from hiding, show pride in their own bigotry, join the White Lives Matter movement, raise a Confederate flag next to the American one hanging from their front porch. November 8th was their Independence Day — the day when bigoted whites rose again. Maybe they toasted with champagne and laughed at their darker-skinned help who do the menial jobs that keep their lives clean and orderly. Maybe they snickered and snorted and danced with glee. Not in the streets, mind you. Too soon to be that open about the victory of bigotry. Wait a few months and that is when the real fun begins. Perhaps those with businesses sat down and made plans to slash the pay and benefits of their employees. Who needs health insurance or sick pay or paid vacation? Who needs regular raises or, for that matter, livable wages? We can pay women even less than they make now! Look at how much money we will save! Regulations? What regulations? Our president-elect hates regulations! We can pollute! We can cut corners and create dangerous products! Who needs workplace safety or workers compensation? Out with OSHA! Out with the American Disabilities Act! Out with the EPA! Out with Fair Labor Standards! Let the employees sue! Let the customers sue! Just like our leader, we will tie them up in courts for years — they can’t afford to win, but we can. Chop, chop, cut, cut. Watch those rules and regulations drop to the floor! Step on them, dance on them, drown them in champagne. We are free of all that government interference. We can do whatever we want because that is what He does. He does whatever he wants and we don’t care, we don’t judge him. He could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” and we would still love him. We applaud him, we cheer him, we laugh at his inappropriate jokes, we want to be like him! Because he is us, the us we always wanted to be, tried to be, and can now openly be. We, the white bigots of America, have come out of the closet!
And, still I sit and wonder about my client and hope — truly, deeply hope — that the reason he did not have a Trump/Pence sign was because he is not bigoted, because he cares about something more than himself and his little corner of this big world, because he and his family acknowledge their great fortune and want to share it with others, because he is a decent person who would never vote for hate, because he is someone I like and I don’t want to not like him because I found out who he truly is.
The wind has picked up and the trees surrounding the greens are swaying. Suddenly the air is filled with rain and the sandhill cranes spread their wings and fly to a house across the course, landing beneath a large oak tree with heavy, draping branches. They are not wondering about the people in that house or the people in the house in which I sit or the people in any of these lovely homes, but I do. I wonder.