By Andru McCracken, Editor
Many people are trying to fathom how Americans could vote the way they did. Well, we can understand one side, but the other? What are people thinking? I don’t have to tell you who I’m talking about. You know the one. The other side is an untenable wreck, wretched and corrupt to the core.
What are we to make of the people who voted that way? What do those voters believe in? I learned the answer about what people care about when I travelled outside my comfort zone in my 20s.
As a kid I was trained not to trust strangers. Nominally, my Catholic elementary and high school wanted the world to join hands, but in Religion (yes, we had a course called religion) the truth came out. Different religions weren’t just different, they represented an existential threat to our souls.
In religion, they taught me yoga was evil. They told me meditation would allow the devil to jump into my soul.
That’s BS, teacher
As a kid, sometimes you can just see right through the bullshit. I felt like part of the real reason my school didn’t want to see Catholic kids meddle in the dark arts was because of a deep seated inferiority complex and big case of small mindedness.
So as soon as I felt I could, I travelled. My first adventure travel took me through the states to Mexico on a motorcycle. I raced through the US, stopping only once. Way sooner than I had hoped, I started meeting Mexicans. It was not on my terms: My bike broke down.
I didn’t have time to worry about muggers and drug dealers, because my clutch cable snapped and my bike would no longer move under its own power. I was stuck, couldn’t speak a lick of Spanish, let alone use a Mexican payphone. A couple guys noticed my distress on the road side. They knew I was in trouble and helped me find a place to stay for free and helped me fix the bike.
The man I stayed with was Jose Diego Riveira (if memory serves). He lived at his mom’s, was kind and while we went to festivals and parties, he protected me from the unseamly aspects of party-life in Mexico and dressed me in his clothes. I appreciated that, sorta. When people offered me drugs, or cued up to fight the gringo, he’d intervene and say, “He’s a nice Canadian boy. No.”
By the time I left his place, the bike patched up 3 days later, I discovered the truth about Jose. He was a drug dealer. It all made sense, the brief and frequent meet ups in the driveway, meandering all over town on my bike. Secret meetings while I waited. I had never met a drug dealer before.
I left before I could really contemplate what happened. But this much is true. A bonafide, working Mexican drug dealer hosted me, protected me and showed me the city of Mexicali. Odd.
Later I went to India. I was prepared to be shocked by the culture and it didn’t disappoint.
Sitting cross legged in a very strange dining room of an ancient house completely surrounded by a new set of smells, a radically different language, food that was beyond my experience or wildest imaginings, encountering the person who would become my future grandmother-in-law, I felt completely lost.
My go-to was just to act polite and mind my manners, but as a Canadian, I didn’t know the manners. I couldn’t sit cross legged for lon and by projecting my feet forward, towards others, I was being incredibly rude without meaning to be.
When my future grandmother in law offered me food, I wondered if the trope about grandmothers feeding their grandkids was true here, too. I knew it was true for Ukrainians, Germans, Poles, Irish, Scottish and Dutch, could I just eat my way into this lady’s good books?
I wasn’t sure, but it was worth a shot.
She was peeling a jackfruit, a massive 20 to 50 pound fruit with a very intense smell. She offered me a piece she had just cut, a little bulb from inside the fruit, and I ate it. She smiled.
Sometimes we are offered glimpses into human nature, what other people want. What your political opponent wantsmay seem foreign, complex, contradictory and strange… but the motivations the desires behind it aren’t alien to you. They come from a place you know well.
Voters for Trump and Biden are trying to imagine the monsters that could vote for the other candidate. If you want a clear unvarnished close-up of the insanity of the other side you won’t need a telescope or even dispatches from recent converts to your side; just look inside.
Stick to your principles, protect your beliefs, be wary of your political opponents, but be mindful that the same desires and impulses that are driving you are driving them. Are they monsters? I can’t say so on your behalf, the best indication would be to check the mirror.