A supporter of Trump emailed me, a few days ago.
Just for the record,” she wrote, “you need to stop publishing lies.”
The “lies,” according to the writer, involved the death toll from COVID-19 and, in her mind, this important distinction: When Trump left the White House on Jan. 20, the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus pandemic stood at nearly 400,000, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now that tragic number has surpassed 570,000.
Since President Joe Biden sworn in, 170,000 Americans have died of complications from COVID-19. Which, in the mind of this email writer, is an important point to be made.
“You should have made that distension,” she wrote, misspelling “distinction” and adding: “Leave President Trump alone. Focus on the awful job this flesh puppet for the left is doing to our country.” By “flesh puppet,” she meant Biden, who seems more like a grandfather. (Small point, I guess.)
I receive my share of feedback from readers. Actually, I expect this. My “fan mail” folder is thick with all manner of put-downs adroit criticism, praise, laugh-riot humor, incomprehensible blather and occasional keepsake craziness from some who claim to have a direct pipeline to the Almighty or, failing that, a strong desire to inform me that I am a hapless and hopelessly stupid tool of the devil.
I try to reply everyone. In a few cases, answer is impossible and I ask readers to do some homework — not easy with an internet that seems to crave inaccurate information.
Once, gun rights advocate got offended of military-style assault rifles in the civilian world that he taped my column to a toilet seat and then took the trouble of sending a photograph of his artful handiwork. I framed the picture and put it on my desk to remind me of the immense diversity of readers.
Some writers call me idiot and spell the word correctly. Again when I wrote about military guns they wrote to inform me that “more people are killed by knifes than guns.” It is untrue. Check the fact that more people die from guns than knives but Americans don’t bother to see the statistics.
These are just a few examples. There are hundreds more.
But now ‘Trump Nation’ and its alternate reality are even angrier
In last four years I followed the current situation and fears of “Trump Nation” — the slice of America that felt forgotten by the by Democrats and Republicans as jobs disappeared overseas and their faith in the American Dream of opulence dissolved into paltry paychecks and dead-end jobs.
Many spoke sorrowfully and wisely of an America that had disappeared. In turn, I walked away enlightened and often moved by their stories. These were real people, with real problems. They did not take their cues from Tucker Carlson or Jim Jordan. For decades, both the Democratic and Republican hierarchies ignored large swaths of Middle America.
Trump promised to “Make America Great Again.” If your steel mill just shut down or your coal mining job disappeared, why wouldn’t you take a chance on Trump?
You know what happened.
Trump turned out to be an incompetent phony who couldn’t even bring himself to read basic reports from intelligence experts who monitored Russian hackers and terrorists. After Trump failed the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic — remember his suggestion to inject disinfectant? This disappointed Americans a little more.
Trump’s voters mourning has increased dramatically in recent weeks. Sadly, so has the bigotry, especially after the recent murder and manslaughter conviction of a former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.
The Floyd’s brutal killing was not just about crushing his neck and back but the issues was his criminal record.
“What disappointments me is George Floyd being held up as a martyr,” a woman wrote, adding that the anti-Trump media had not focused on a “story yet to be told” which, in her view, was “Floyd’s violent life of crime which he chose to live.”
Many writers claimed that one of Floyd’s crimes was even depicted on an episode of “Judge Judy,” the arbitration-based reality TV show in which a so-called judge appears to adjudicate a legal dispute. In real, Floyd never appeared on “Judge Judy.”
Much younger man named “George Floyd” was featured years ago in an episode of “Judge Judy.” But that didn’t prevent Trump supporters from spreading the falsehood. Video segments of the younger man quickly circulated through right-wing social media.
“It is sad,” she noted, “but the breakdown of Black families, respect and education is a big part of the problem.”
And so, racism raised.
This author never stated the central issue in Floyd’s death — namely, that Floyd was wrongly killed by a police officer. Instead, she focused on the Floyd’s history of troubles with the law — as if that somehow balanced off the fact that he was murdered — and then comment on African Americans in general. “Start reporting some truth,” one wrote.
Of course, we’re not surprised. Are you shocked? Don’t be.
The segment of America I chronicled — “Trump Nation” — once had a compelling story of a political world that did not serve them, of an economy that did not connect to their lives, of an education system that left them without guideposts and hope. Now far too many members of that clan seemed mired in an even deeper bitterness.
Their hero is gone, voted out of office because of his failings, banned from Twitter and Facebook for his falsehoods and exiled to his Florida mansion as he plots a comeback or a court fight. What’s left for many is a narrative of self-proclaimed victimhood fueled by a litany of new hurts and self-perceived scars. As one wrote in trying to criticize Biden: “How about the border crisis or making us energy dependent or kissing China’s butt or stifling free speech or destroying opportunities for female athletes or the lack of support for law and order? And let’s not leave out race baiting.”
For a few moments, Trump Nation seemed on the verge of actually focusing attention on something important. Now they seem to be angrily searching for something else.
The truth is that America hasn’t left them behind. I fear they have left America.
Mike Kelly is an award-winning columnist for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to his insightful thoughts on how we live life in New Jersey, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.