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Beardcicle Chronicles: Opiate-Elect of the Masses

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Photo by Thomas Belarde.

How long is it until Trump jumps out from behind a curtain and yells, “you’ve been punked?”

I hope soon. Otherwise I might not be able to go on.

I know. Whiny liberal needs his safe space, right?

My fear isn’t so much about Trump and his administration. I mean, yes, shit’s going to get worse for a big majority of the American people. Particularly for a good majority of those who voted for him. He promised to drain the swamp, he promised to be the champion of the working class, yet he is surrounding himself with the rich and the powerful and the white and the male (yes, he has a few token minorities and women, but…). Do any of his cabinet picks actually know what it means to be working class in America?

I don’t even really remember what it means to be working class in America anymore. I don’t wear workboots or Carharts, except as a fashion statement. I hung up my tool belt years ago in favor of pursuing a couple of useless liberal arts degrees. These degrees have allowed me to move from working class to middle class (strapped with all the student loan debt that entails) — lower-middle class to be sure, but middle class all the same. A knowledge worker rather than relying on my hands and my body.

I hear a lot of grumbling about how the American economy is leaving the working class behind. And it is. It has been. For a long time. The thing is, though, that it was never a big cover-up or a big secret. Anyone who cared to look around even in the late 80s could see that the landscape was changing.

Imagine you work on an assembly line and have since you graduated high school. Let’s say you make televisions. As you’re working this job, you’ve got good benefits and decent wages and you watch as the components with which you are building the device change.

They get smaller. Then, they migrate from transistors and resistors and tubes and all of the analog thingies that took a bit of skill to solder and assemble so that they actually work into ever smaller and smaller IC boards that require just the plugging in of a couple of cables — ends conveniently keyed so that they can’t be plugged in wrong.

Then automation starts coming in. If you’re working that line and you watch these changes occur, doesn’t it seem reasonable that you’d realize that those skills that the manufacturer used to need — soldering, understanding of circuit wiring — are quickly becoming outdated and unneeded? Then, see at the local Sears or Kmart that the Zeniths and RCAs are being supplanted by Sony and Philips and other Asian brands.

So you have a choice to make. Either improve and diversify your skills or stagnate and get left behind as the world changes.

I’m not saying I am a great savant when it comes to… well, anything. I’m just a simple guy who, after giving up construction in favor of manufacturing, realized that where I was — at a large computer manufacturer — without an education meant that I’d pretty much gotten to the top of my career ladder. I could either be content to be a supervisor for the rest of my career there or I could go back to school and diversify.

Looking back, I think I had the inkling that the business was changing and starting to go south and that I wouldn’t be able to make a career out of it. I was into gadgets and electronics big time and noticed, whenever I went into Best Buy, that there were myriad manufacturers of the same types of products as my company’s, but being sold for cheaper than we were selling ours and with materials and support that were just as good.

At the same time, I understand just how hard it is for someone who has been working the same career path for 30 years to change. Hell, who in their 50s wants to start over again just to work another 12 or 15 years in hopes of a decent retirement? I’m 40-ish and have no desire to try to start over again.

So, we have this billionaire come in like a typhoon saying he’s going to bring good paying, working class manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. and he’s going to save the working class and he’s going to drain the swamp.

A billionaire who, and this is just conjecture on my part as I don’t know his complete biography, hasn’t ever swung a hammer, soldered a vacuum tube to a circuit board, snaked a clogged drain, or dug coal. Yet, a huge swath of America’s disaffected and disenfranchised working class — those most affected by the changing economic environment, those whose very livelihoods have been compromised by the economic policies put into place by both sides of the aisle since Nixon if not longer — threw their votes to someone who lives in a marble-and-gold-encrusted penthouse in a building he named after himself. A big, phallic castle.

And now he is surrounding himself with advisers who, in large part, are just like him in terms of socioeconomic status and standing. Millionaires and billionaires.

Last I checked, most of America will never know what it is like to have a million dollars at one time, let alone billions. Many of us, working class or middle class, live paycheck to paycheck. We keep trying to get ahead and keep getting slapped back down. We succumb to capitalistic desires and go further into debt or we lose our jobs when the corporations move overseas or replace us with robots. We struggle to remain relevant in a changing world — a world owned and run by the captains of industry, those who take full advantage of the working men and women to increase profits. Those just like Trump.

And some of us actually bought the lie that he was going to help us.

And some of us actually bought into the lie that he was different than other politicians and that the promises he made on the campaign trail he intended to keep.

And some of us continue to repeat the talking points — that Hillary is a crook, that anyone on the left is a “delicate snowflake” who can’t accept that their side lost, that Obama is the worst president ever and that he’s the one who’s divided the nation, that the swamp is being drained, and that Trump’s the only one who can make it all better because he’s not of the establishment — he’s an outsider and a regular American, just like the rest of us.

Yeah. He’s just like the rest of us.

Phil was born and raised in the Midwest. He moved to Alaska in 2010 and started his bike commuting life then and hasn't looked back yet. He is primarily focused on how bikes can be used to supplant other forms of transportation, when it makes sense to do so, but he is also interested in how to combine different forms of alternative transportation to create a sustainable and enjoyable commute. Besides cycling, Phil works as a business analyst, is a recovering poet, teaches technical writing, and still harbors a dream to write a great novel some day.

What do you think?