Family Time

Hillbilly country. Trump country. Perry County OH. It’s a strange twist of fate that our family origins are in this part of the world. Legions of dedicated Trump supporters; ignorant beyond words of why they are so fervently committed to destructive policy and cruel rhetoric. Not one that I have ever encountered can articulate a coherent rationale for their hatred of Obama or Democrats in general (do-gooders, liberals, tree-huggers et al). They are deeply committed to the very same political party who has for years treated them with indifference and disdain and consistently lied to them about almost everything. In my view, they’re not really as committed to Republicanism as they are anti-Democrat. Most around here have a deep fear and fanatical distrust of anyone who doesn’t look like them or whose roots are not in agriculture or small-town life.

Most don’t even bother to go through the hassle of trying to understand why they think the way they do. It seems so much easier just to repeat what you heard down at the shop, or in the butcher shed, or in the fields, or leaning on a shovel by a ditch. As far as I can tell, all the coal-miners still support Trump, even though the coal mines have continued to shut down and jobs disappear. The faint glimmer of hope in Appalachia comes from job-retraining programs that are allowing many coal-miners wives to use government funded education programs to get jobs in health care or some people to learn to work in technology. These people are profiting handsomely from government support at the time when they need it most, but will continue to vote against their own self-best interests, or more importantly, to deny someone else that same assistance.

They continue to believe that climate change is a hoax or is not related to human activities. They are fervently in favor of government handouts for crop price control schemes or trade wars, but that is not welfare, in their view. That is just good common sense. But helping someone else is ‘welfare’. Like the term liberal, the terms welfare, communism, socialism, progressive & environmental all sort of blend together to equate to a deep hatred for freedom and America. It’s such a myopic view of the world, that I actually struggle to understand how someone can get up, go through each day, and not by some accident, learn something every day that challenges their belief system. I am sure this happens. But apparently they must work very hard to keep their mind closed to even the possibility that the guy they share a shovel with could be mistaken in his view that immigrants are destroying the country. Or that climate change is a hoax. Or that government has a responsibility to help others, or that we need to fund our education system, or all the other things that are obvious to even most of the cats and dogs living in our homes who are picking up bits and pieces from the TV’s and the dinner conversations.

Thankfully, all of my nuclear family are disgusted by Trump and Republican behavior and all that they stand for. Some have voted Republican in the past, but not in many years. I suspect there were some George Bush supporters, but they switched to Obama against McCain and Romney. Or maybe a few went for Romney even. But we are now at an entirely new category of stupid. I always thought McCain was a buffoon—politically, at least. Which was proven out by his disastrous and campaign-killing choice of Sara Palin as VP. But Romney was credible. Probably a decent guy and while he would have heavily favored the rich over the common person, especially in tax policy, he is likely a decent guy and clearly no dummy.

My nieces and nephews, at least the ones who live here, are as far as I can tell, 100% on the Trump train. One of my nephews’ own father received $80,000 last year from the federal government for not planting crops. This is part of how the Republican Party buys farm votes. By paying out welfare money to farmers to not plant crops. This does two things. It obviously is a direct benefit to tens of thousands of farmers, most of whom are already wealthy. And it also artificially inflates the price of crops so the farmers who do plant are guaranteed a tidy profit. Between this scheme, government backed crop insurance, and the most favorable tax laws on the books, it’s virtually impossible to lose money as a farmer. This is actually a policy much more closely associated with socialism than capitalism, but that nuanced detail escapes this crowd. But if the government tries to assist another demographic, especially if the color of their skin is something other than white, then that is communism and a threat to their freedom. Many people around here receive health care through medicaid or medicare and other forms of government assistance. A blind eye is turned to all in this area who receive federal assistance, while everyone else is demonized.

It’s truly mind-boggling. But otherwise a lovely place. Good food and nice farm scenery and patches of old hardwood forests and always lots of cold beer.

Couple of terrific days with the family. Saturday was Oktoberfest in Somerset. Which equated basically to two sad little tents with someone selling t-shirts and some other merchandise. Someone else had a llama that you could pet and get your picture taken with. There was a 15-year old kid playing guitar and singing on the sidewalk, who was surprisingly good. Terri had all kinds of gifts and trinkets outside on the sidewalk for sale. Mom, dad, Terri and I sat outside of Terri’s shop and drank beer on the sidewalk for a couple of hours, but in that time not more than handful of people wandered by. The motorcycle gangs rolled through, but they mostly went to the Hole-in-the-Wall or WannaBe’s for beer. Aunt Nancy, Mom, Dad and I had a good Brat and Kraut and a cold beer at the Rathskeller. So calling this Oktoberfest was really a stretch. It was sort of a normal Saturday in a small farm town—but with a kid playing guitar on the sidewalk and a pet llama. But my family is so cool, we had a lot of fun anyway.

Later we went to mom and dads and cooked terrific carne asada street tacos and sat outside and chatted.

Sunday was dutch oven cooking. Mom made gumbo, Shannon au gratin potatoes, Terri ham and beans, and I made corn casserole out of an old Mormon dutch oven cookbook I had. Inexplicably, dad drug every camp chair he had out to the back behind the garage in the open sun. No idea why we didn’t cook in the shade by the garage and house, but he put so much energy into setting up the area back there, we sucked it up and sat outside in the heat. Terri and I worked the NY Times Sunday crossword—and we got 60%-70% which is pretty damn good for Sunday. I’ve never in my life completed a Sunday NY Times X-word. We don’t cheat, and so the puzzle remained unsolved.

In other news, nice evening tonight. I made a lovely vegetarian penna pasta with mushrooms, capers, green olives, onions, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, a little tomato paste and more olive oil. Fresh basil and a little more olive oil on top. It was nice. Easy. Quick. After I read a bit and then sat outside by the fire with a little Dalmore 12-year and my last Cuban cigar.

I mostly have my Namibia trip sorted. I still need to finalize my flight from JNB to WDH, but got my hotel (on points thankfully) at Intercontinental at JNB. This is a luxury. A beautiful hotel with great food and a great bar. I’ve stayed there perhaps 20 nights over the years. It is an indulgence, but after 20+ hours of traveling, the last thing I want is to take a taxi to Sandton or take a chance on some local hotel. I have done that, and mostly it’s okay, but this is so easy and the beds so nice and lovely after that brutal flight. All those Tokyo hotel points came in handy once again. Quick trip so I won’t be able to visit anyone in J’burg. Vera is sorting out the usual little flat for me in Swakopmund and I will sleep on Beverly’s couch in Windhoek.

Will be good to see the kids, so I am looking forward.

Work remains complicated. As all big organizations do, we trip over ourselves. Egos, competing interests, and genuinely good people who simply don’t have the right skills for this work make things harder than they need to be. But we are drunkenly stumbling forward.

Early morning here. I started this post last night but fell asleep around 10:30. Woke at 4:30 again, so will get this set in e-stone, read a bit, write a bit on ‘Webb’ and then get to the office.

No other news of note.

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