On Tuesday, I happened upon a conversation that by rights should have given me PTSD, or at the very least a lazy eye. I go in to work earlier than most and start at it pretty much right away. There is an older gentleman who comes to work an hour early and spends that hour trying to consume as much food as he is able. He is fond of his “Vietnam Vet” hat but looks entirely too young for it. He has raged against the Bilderberg’s, is a bit of a black nationalist, and loves the 24 hour news cycle. Usually, he is good for a laugh. I walk in the break room and he is has put down his sandwich and is staring intently at the TV screen that is currently highlighting whatever Bernie Sanders is up to.
So I says to him, half-jokingly, not really caring about his politics, just making small talk,” So you feeling the Bern, are you?”
Considerately, “Well, I am, I just don’t think he’ll win”.
Sweet baby Jesus, I hit pay dirt. I can get an unvarnished opinion from a Bernie supporter. The last one I tried to talk to was not very sporting at all. He played grievance Olympics by becoming offended at my use of a curse word in a sentence. I believe it was, “How the fuck do you think that would work?” or words to that effect. This one, I can jump right into his mind a bit and root around to see if I can get to the root cause of the madness.
“Okay, I’ll bite. What do you think that he will do for you personally?” I ask.
“Well he doesn’t like Wall Street.”
"Who do you think is financing his campaign?” I retort. I am bluffing, of course. I really do not know nor care how he is funding his war chest.
He is noticeably blinking. The RAM is having difficulty processing the new information.
I redirect the question. “Okay, you do know that Bernie is a communist, right?” I figure he MUST have heard that this probably is a bad thing to be at some point in his life.
“No, he a socialist”
Okay, he did not quite take the bait but we can work with this. If I can make him see how ruinous socialism is, maybe…
“What do you think is a difference between the two?”
“Well theys either communist or socialist”.
I feel my left eye drift over towards my right.
“That may be more true than you know, but you do understand that there are more forms of government than socialist and communist, right?”
He blinks again. Harder this time.
He retorts, “But you say that Trump was going to bail out of the race”.
This is a reference to my original idea that Trump was just in it for the campaign contributions, and would exit the race at the primary so he can keep the money. I am quite sure his success was as much of surprise to him as it was to everyone else, so I stand by it as being correct for the time.
“Are you saying that he is not an opportunist?”
I ask, “Are you saying that me being incorrect on Trump exiting the race is the exception that disproves the rule that Bernie is a communist?”
I immediately regret the question and quickly move on, as he is now visibly losing interest.
“Well Bernie is going to raise the living wage.” He says triumphantly. This is something that he just KNOWS.
“Cool, how is he going to do that?” I parry.
‘Well he is going to take it away from the corporations.” He reposts.
“Do you know that 75% of the businesses in America are small businesses that are either a single or family run and employ less than 50 workers? You want to tax those guys? How are they going to pay for it?”.
Ah ha, now I got him.
“Well if you don’t know, I aint going to tell you.” He exclaims quite as-matter-of-factly.
‘Wait, did you just use the ole ‘I know the answer, I just want you to tell me first’ trick?” I ask.
“Well if you don’t know, I aint going to tell you.” He commits.
“But..” I stammer, having forgot all of my 3rd grade comebacks. I feel as though my left eye is looking directly at my right eye.
“Well if you don’t know, I aint going to tell you.” He repeats this over and over again. This is his final stand. I know I will get no more from him.
We go back and forth a little bit and he catches me off guard with a moment of clarity.
He says, ‘Well, no matter what we say, we just won’t agree.”
That was the most profound thing he had said to date. No, we will not see eye to eye on much of anything. It bothers me a bit that I know that he congratulated himself on his stunning victory, but I also know that it only bothers me. The differences being irreconcilable are clear and palpable. I see that we, as a country, are finding less reason to debate and more reasons to just shut down foreign ideas with noise. It remains to be see how long we find it politically or economically advantageous to continue this charade and simple find an amicable divorce.