This is the story of an American. Some would say an average American, others would not. This is the true story of James Richardson, who is not a man but a mirror. A mirror for someone and a portrait for many, but a reflection of a real person. So this is his story. The story of James Richardson, a Patriots fan, a lover of the series Ray Donovan but also the movie How to Kill A Mockingbird; a Harley motorist, and a habitual reader; a boater, and a gun-owner; an American and a Trump supporter.
Let’s be clear what this is not: this is not an apology for Trump or even Trump supporters. This story doesn’t have a right-side or a wrong-side; it isn’t promoting a specific agenda or even advocating for a specific position. This story isn’t supposed to give you the facts or the objective truth. It is just a story and that’s all it can be. If you chose to not listen then you are no worse for it, and if you do that doesn’t mean that you are any better as a result. Take away whatever you want from James’s story. My job isn’t to tell you what to think, only to tell you the story as best I can.
James was born in Lowell, Massachusetts to a father that he never got to know and a mother who provided as best she could for him. He grew up in the kind of neighborhood that few want to stay in, but even fewer manage to get out of. He got thrown out of high school for punching a teacher who verbally abused him during gym class. Life went on and James went on to get his G.E.D, attend community college, and later trained to become a fireman. All his life he had wanted to be a fireman. He passed his physical test, and got a perfect score on the written exam. But James did not become a firefighter. He lost his place to another man. He was black. He did not have a perfect score.
There was a minority support quota, in essence an affirmative action program, for the Lowell firefighters, which helped minority groups join the force. Does that mean it was the right thing to do? Probably. But it was different for James. He never had a problem with the color of your skin. He never was a racist or committed a hate crime. So why was he paying for a crime he didn’t commit? Arguably a crime even his ancestors, being Irish immigrants never committed? To James, it isn’t that it wasn’t right, it’s that it wasn’t fair.
James made it out of Lowell after joining the airforce, and made a life for himself. He got a fair job, married and started a family. He always was intensely aware of the world around him and, of course, that includes politics. He was a Republican and Reagan was a hero.
But in 1992, Bill Clinton ran for president and won. Four years later, James, a Republican, walked into a voting both, closed the curtain and voted. This time he had decide to vote down ballot for Republicans in Mass., except for one candidate, a William Jefferson Clinton. The economy was good, and James felt Clinton had done a fair job as president, so without prejudice he voted for him, no questions.
James had done well for himself. He raised two daughters on his own. He got a good job and started saving up money. He never got into financial trouble and always kept a tidy house. He never had a run in with the law and had a great credit score. He got a license to carry and often would head over to a gun range to go out shooting with his buddies. He got a girlfriend and when his kids had grown up, he helped to raise hers, no question asked whatsoever. He never stopped listening though, even as the world around him changed. But during that time, he lost something. Faith. He lost faith in America.
He felt that America, over the course of the last couple of decades, had failed. We had a War on Poverty; there is still poverty. We had a War on Drugs; there is still drugs. We had a War on Crime; there is still crime. And the War on Terror seems to be going no better. He had gone through a lifetime of politicians saying “Yes, we can” with the “we” ending the day after an election. He was frustrated with politics and even more with politicians. James does not understand why the last few decades have been solely a fight about more rights for minorities or less rights for minorities, when he sees roads, bridges, airports, and communities that need to be rebuilt. What about his home? How can a politician stand and be praised for his successful and progressive agenda when he has neglected the very people who elected him? Everyday James is told that his privilege being white makes his voice louder than others, so why does he still feel like he is never being heard?
James looks at the election cycle today and is skeptical. Trump isn’t his first choice, but after decades of the living with the ‘evil you do know’, he believes that the ‘evil you don’t know’, may just be the change we need. He has seen what the other side has to offer: a decline of manufacturing, trade that is disportionately affecting Americans, increased spending and deficits, welfare programs that do not end poverty, and unaccountability between a leader and their electorate. James still isn’t sure if he’ll vote for Trump, but all he knows for certain is that he can’t vote for the system that has let him down after so many years.
That is James’ story. You may disagree, as do I, with the way he sees certain parts, but that is not the point. James is a person. James is human. He is not the vilified or ignorant caricature of a Trump supporter that is constantly portrayed. No doubt these people exist. But if on November 9th, Trump is the new president elect of the United States, he will not have won from bigots or racists, but from Americans who lost faith in our country not so long ago. At the end of the Civil War after Lee surrendered to Grant, Grant famously quieted his celebrating soldiers remarking: “The war is over. The Rebels are our countrymen again.” After November 8 and the next president is chosen, that is what we will have to be “countrymen” or else we will cease to be a country altogether.