I’m not one to advance anecdotal evidence about anything. I prefer data, but in this instance, I think anecdotal examples are important because they indicate trends. Especially in states like Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas where support for the current empire president and his dismissal of the corona virus is strong.
Speaking of the empire and the presidential election, outward support for him is dominant in these states. “Trump 2020” signs are everywhere. On properties, vehicles, and businesses. In fact, I drove through four actual Trump caravans. I’m talking about dozens of vehicles with people with signs, flags, the U.S./Confederate ones, even some swastikas. People with guns in states that permit open carry. In one instance in Texas where road work required drivers to stop, these people came up to my vehicle waving confederate flags. The woman walked up to my open window and yelled an apparent question towards me. “Do you support our president?!” I responded in absolute monotone fashion. “I support Malcolm X when he said I’m not a politician, I’m not a student of politics. I’m neither a democrat, nor a republican, nor an American, and got sense enough to know it!” At that I deadpanned her while she struggled to digest my response as she slowly walked away from me without further comment. I’m still not sure if she processed my playing NWA’s “F - - k the police!” while she was standing there in front of me.
Something else that struck me was my constant interaction with service people in gas stations, hotels, etc. I stayed in six different hotels on the drive to and from and I alone, and while with my daughter, ate food from a number of establishments. There were ample opportunities to engage people with questions about how things were going with people’s patience towards them. This question came to me because in many instances, places were forced to close doors and provide drive through and/or walk through services only because of their staff being overwhelmed. My experience working in labor has taught me to observe work conditions on all job sites. I repeatedly observed short staff situations so I made it a point to ask employees about this. What I heard from people in restaurants, gas stations, hotels, and coffee shops is that most people are patient and calm, but there is unquestionably a definite uptick in rude and impatient people.
I experienced the latter before my trip even began. In checking out my rental car here in Sacramento, I was forced to wait in line for an hour despite my prepaying my reservation. Also, once checked in, I had to wait another hour for my vehicle to be ready. The two representatives who were forced to attempt to serve all the people in line explained that their increased cleanliness requirements made cleaning the vehicles a much more detailed process. While waiting in line, I observed a number of people displaying overwhelming impatience. There were constant complaints being aimed at the few staff people. And, this was such a constant that I intervened multiple times with people, chastising them for blaming the workers instead of the bosses who decided to staff so sparingly despite the clear necessity for increased personnel. The irony of that reality was that these people, mostly older white people who probably support Trump more than not, expressed the type of impatience that makes it impossible for me to believe they would tolerate and cooperate with being pulled over to the extent that they constantly claim Africans pulled over by police should do. If they couldn’t even manage to stand in line and wait their turn, which most of them clearly struggled with, you cannot convince me that they would exhibit patience in the face of being pulled over with any level of demands being made against them.
Other contradictions I observed was the institutionalized reduction in wages that is accepted as the norm in most of these so-called “right to work” states. The normalization of the $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage as an acceptable wage has forced these states to reduce prices as a business necessity. Gasoline was routinely below $2.00 USD a gallon. I stayed in five star hotel rooms for less than $70.00 USD a night. I mean really nice hotel rooms. And, finally, I had the opportunity all week to observe my daughter, a PhD student who teaches undergraduate courses, engage in virtual class with her students. Anyone who claims that doing so virtually is easier for instructors than in person classes doesn’t have a clue what they are talking about. Especially for instructors of small students. I thought of Kindergarten teachers who are forced right now to instruct five and six year olds who have never been in a classroom setting before, not to mention sitting in front of a computer to have that experience.
The essence of what I am left with from my experience is as is always the case, the people expressing opinions about the impacts of a real or imagined virus on social media are very much detached from the day to day realities of most everyday people. This capitalist economy is not equipped to prioritize people’s needs and this pandemic is not the cause of that. Its simply a method of exposing that contradiction for all who desire to see it. People focusing on the virus/pandemic and/or the election are missing the point also. The real element here is this profit over people system of capitalism. Its inadequacies and the clear courage and character of all the people I encountered who do the best they can everyday to try and navigate through this backward system with care and respect for all they come in contact with while they receive low pay, no benefits, and very little else except abuse. In one exchange I had with some of those people in the rental car line an older white woman in front of me (who had complained multiple times in a matter of minutes about the situation), turned to me and said “how do you have such patience?” My response: “it’s the capitalist system you all love so much. This is exactly what it looks like. So, to me, you either work to create something better and give grace to people like the staff members who are doing the best they can with little support, or you shut up.” To that woman’s credit, from that point forward, which was at least another 25 minutes in line, she did cease her constant complaining. At least to the level that I would be aware of it.