2016: The Year White America Broke Bad

Image result for "jesse pinkman" images

[Note: I’ve had to delete some inflammatory comments on this post. I did so without apology and will continue to do so. However, in the course of one rant, a person did ask why I am making an analogy to a “horrific” show that “no Christian should be watching.” In response to this, I do offer the caveat that much of it is horrific, and I personally stopped watching after Season 1. I would recommend similar discernment in other Christian viewers. However, my attention was recently drawn to a specific couple of tragically poignant, well-written scenes from the show past the point at which I stopped watching, and this was why it happened to be on my mind at the time of the election.]

Half of America woke up yesterday morning feeling despair. The other half woke up feeling drunk elation.

I woke up feeling nothing.

A few of my friends are mourning Hillary Clinton’s national humiliation, but I cannot muster the sympathy to comfort them. I shed no tears for the fall of the Clinton dynasty. She got nothing. She lost. Good day, ma’am.

More of my friends are celebrating Donald Trump’s poll-defying, media-shaming win. Yet I cannot muster the enthusiasm to join them.

I read post-mortems dissecting the demographic breakdown. I surveyed bar graphs and maps showing in stark red and blue how the sleeping giant of underclass America had been roused to cast their ballots, like a wretched dog that’s been slapped across the nose one too many times. I read anecdotal reports of people physically bringing their mail-in ballots to the polls, just to be sure.

But amidst all the cheering, the weeping, the gnashing of teeth and quaking of stock markets, all I could think of was Jesse Pinkman’s wooden box.

In the show Breaking Bad, chemistry teacher Walter White creates the perfect meth formula and becomes a powerful drug-dealer. Along the way, he recruits and corrupts his former student Jesse, who drifts in and out of addiction throughout the series as the two wade deeper into crime together. At one point, Jesse makes a stab at attending a support group, but no amount of vapid self-help talk can touch the guilt that relentlessly gnaws him.

In one of the most heart-breaking scenes, he opens up and shares about the passion he used to have for wood-working in high school. His first attempt at creating a box was greeted with a brief, “Is that the best you got?” by his carpentry teacher. It was not unkind, it was an honest question. The honest answer was no. He would try again. He would do better.

And one day, it was finished: the most beautiful thing he had ever made with his own two hands. It glinted in the light with a dark richness. It filled his nostrils with scent when he put his nose in it. It was perfect.

“What happened to the box?” asks the group leader.

“I traded it for an ounce of weed.”

At that moment, the viewer is yanked back to the present with an echoing clang. The memory of the box was a daydream. Jesse is now bearded and haggard, enslaved to a rival gang who is forcing him to cook White’s meth recipe for them.

I think of Jesse when I think about the people who voted for Donald Trump. I think about the losers, the white trash, with their bad teeth and B. O. and nothing to give away but their souls.

I think about the people who didn’t just vote for Trump because the only other choice was Hillary, but because he had tapped into something inside them, something deep and raw and primal.

I think about the people who didn’t just tolerate Trump. They needed Trump. They needed to hear that they were not forgotten, that they were liked, and they were powerful. They needed to hear it again, and again, and again. Because all they had been hearing before was that they were racist, sexist, irrelevant, deplorable.

And maybe they were at that. “Deplorable.” They liked how that sounded. Very well then. They would own it. They would be everything the left said they were, by embracing a candidate who was everything the left said he was. They would put their hand on their heart and swear fealty to the one who understood them enough to say he cared about them, and despised them enough to let them think it was true. They followed the one who understood their sins so well, because they were his sins too. And like him, they would never repent.

Some said a vote for Trump was a vote for life. How could that be, when the stench of so many dying souls hangs about him? To play upon man’s worst appetites in return for loyalty and flattery, what manner of affection is this? What manner of love?

I did not see life set before me. I saw death. I saw darkness. I saw millstones draped about bowed necks. I saw people’s faces rapt with worship, as they pledged in deadly earnest, “In Trump we trust.”

I see their faces still.

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8 thoughts on “2016: The Year White America Broke Bad

  1. An apology

    I wanted to extend a note of apology regarding my previous comment that I posted this morning. I’m frustrated like you are at the current mess we are in. I can totally get behind a post of sorrow for the state we are in and a call for all of America needing to repent. I understand the disgust of taking a look upon trump supporters and that the general consensus seems to be that most proclaim something just short of Trump being the savior this country needs.
    I can get behind a post claiming that this is not where things should stop and there needs to be a mass repentance and turning towards God because He is our savior.
    I imagine, you like me, prayerfully considered what you must do this election and acted upon your convictions. And I’m sorry for getting angry at those convictions. But I think what really angered me is the arrogance involved in generalizing and placing ALL of the people who voted for Trump in such a vile category. There are some like me, who while disgusted by things he has said or done in his past, felt that voting for him was the only viable choice.
    I hope you can forgive me. I’m sorry for lashing out at you.

    1. I deleted the comment you had earlier because it wasn’t appropriate, but I accept your apology now. Also, I agree that not every Trump voter fell into the same category. What I was focused on for the purposes of this piece was the groundswell of people that had been left out of the pollsters’ calculations, many who’d never even voted before, because they were deemed irrelevant. And those people did fall into a typical underclass. However, my intention was not merely to rebuke their embrace of Trump, but also to demonstrate pity and compassion for them, and for the fact that they were, as I believe, conned. Trump can’t possibly deliver on half the promises he made to this demographic.

  2. Rick

    I voted for neither candidate. However I have a lot of friends who did who are nothing like you have described and I find your generalization offensive and disappointing. However, it does seem to be the prevailing opinion for some reason. I’m sorry you feel that way.

    1. I will repeat myself, again: I am not characterizing every single Trump voter in this way. I am saying that it does make a fitting and moving analogy for one of Trump’s biggest, most devoted voting blocs, and the bloc that was neglected in the pollsters’ predictions. By distinguishing explicitly between those who voted for Trump reluctantly as a lesser of two evils and those who did so out of enraged, passionate loyalty, I acknowledged in the post itself that there were people in the former category. People, please read more carefully. That’s all I ask. You don’t need to agree with my conclusion.

      1. Rick

        Thank you. I did read and I don’t agree with your conclusion but currently that’s what makes this country great. Perhaps the title of the article distorted my interpretation of your view.

        Thanks for your response. Have a great day.

  3. David Kugel

    I could not vote for either Trump or Clinton. All the members of my family supported Trump. I can not help thinking there has been a white backlash against Bruce Jenner, LGBT, our liberal media, the liberal Hollywood crowd, our liberal universities and our liberal judicial system which allows guilty first degree murderers many, many years on death row. Little did Clinton know that when she told the coal miners of blue state Penn that she would put them out of business that they would be the people who would put Trump in the White House. I am sick of being told that the United States is responsible for all the world’s problems. I am sick of being told dead and living men of European descent are guilty of causing all the world’s maladies.
    I remember the elderly Mark Twain saying that we Americans have an insane man living in the White House speaking of TR. We can only pray that Trump has some “adults” around him like Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Senator McCain when important national decisions have to be made.

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