An amazing 64% of people in a survey conducted by USA TODAY/Ipso "believe protesters and counter-protesters are overwhelming American cities." Furthermore, "those who live in rural areas (71%) are more likely to agree with that sentiment than those in urban areas (59%)." An explanation for why most rural people have this feeling is not hard to formulate. The division of urban/rural values is as old as the hills. For them, the city is Sodom, racially impure, pandemonium, godless, lawless, and so on.
The recent cycle of Black Lives Matter protests and the calls for defunding what for many rural white Americans is the next best thing to the church, the police department, only hardens long-hard conclusions about city dwellers. But a rural person with deep negative feelings about the urban way of life will make their first step toward actual knowledge if they present these feelings with the same question a thoughtful rural character in Chenjerai Hove’s novel/poem Bones asks a person who is badmouthing the place where so many young men and women change their names and habits: “If the city is so frightening as you say… why are so many people living there?”
But what about the urban people who feel they are under siege? Where are they coming from?
A Department of Justice threat to strip federal funds from the "anarchist jurisdictions" of Seattle, Portland and New York City is just part of a larger GOP effort to bring cities to heel https://t.co/APGMBINcg4 via @citylab
— Bloomberg (@business) September 23, 2020
We can explain this move very easily. Its source of motion is the same one that drove the Department of Commerce to announce the plan to shutdown TikTok. Or the executive order about this or about that. All of this is a bunch of dust kicked up to keep the pandemic away from the headlines. We have just over a month of this left until election day. The kicking will only intensify because the dead are not going away. In fact, their number is growing like the rooms of the Winchester House.
And so, we are not surprised to learn this from the same USA TODAY/Ipso survey:
More than one in three (34%) Americans say crime, violence or unrest is the most worrying topic, and COVID-19 ranks No. 1 at 44%. There is again a partisan divide in which unrest is the top issue for 42% of Republicans compared with 27% of Democrats. The majority of Democrats (56%) say their top concern is COVID-19.
The source of the urban feeling of being besieged has less to do with the recent protests and more to do with the explosion of homelessness after the 2008 housing crash.
Three things converged to form the pipeline that poured thousands onto the streets of our cities. One was the destruction of public housing projects, which were sold to the public as massive failures that concentrated the worst kind of people in our society, the poor. The mission of the Hope Six program that in the 1990s replaced public housing was to de-concentrate poverty and expose the poor to middle-class values (mixed-income housing). About 30% of those in public housing did not survive the transition from one program to the other. They wound up without a place to stay. As is well-documented, this was a consequence of Hope Six not requiring a '"one-for-one" replacement of the old [public] housing."
Another, was the market crash itself, which resulted in what the urban geographer David Harvey called the raw dispossession of wealth, particularly that owned by the working classes (subprime people).
And lastly, post urban-renewal redevelopment was tied closely to property value inflation. This simply meant that life in the city became out of reach not only for low-wage earners but also those in what was once a secure position, the middle class. But a number of established homeowners (men and women who had chairs when the music on Wall Street stopped) blamed the rise of homelessness not on policy and economic factors that were in essence political, but on the poor themselves, on what was perceived as their self-conditioning.
This "Seattle is Dying" group effortlessly added to their list of grievances the protests. This was expected. The White House brought in the anarchism because it needed something (anything) to obscure the terrific size of the pandemic dead. And so, we do not live in anarchist cities in reality, but we do live in ones that have yet to address a housing crisis that the economic crash of 2020 has intensified.
We also live in a USA that has lots of white Americans embracing failure, which has its human form in Trump. This, I think, is an unexpected development.
We must begin to ask ourselves why failure is now a mark of pride for so many white Americans. There is no doubt that Trump was, to use the words of Michelle Obama, "in over his head" in all matters concerning the pandemic. The dead cannot be hidden, even with all of this dust-kicking. But his followers now show up at hi8s crowded speaking events deliberately with no protection against a virus that could kill them or their loved ones or people they do not know. How to explain this sorry commitment? I think it can be done in this curious way.
The fact of the matter is America has also failed the bulk of ordinary white Americans. The difference between them and, say, Black Americans, is the latter understand that they have failed because America has deliberately failed them. This pill is too hard to swallow for many white Americans, and so they are stuck with two choices that don't require the bitter medicine of siding with the anarchists, BLM, anti-facists, Bernie Sanders, AOC, Omar, and so on): One is: Just put an end to it all.
As Randy Essex of Detroit Free Press put it:
Like people I’ve known who have taken their lives, he was a hardworking middle-aged white guy with a solid track record — exactly the kind of American most likely to die by suicide.
Each case is heartbreaking and haunting.
I blame, in part, the American dream.
Suicide is steadily increasing, from 10.4 deaths per 100,000 Americans in 2000 to 14 in 2017. Statistically, in an area roughly the size of metro Detroit, that means about 600 people killed themselves in 2017 — about 150 more than in 2000.
The second way is to celebrate the failure. To say: This is who I am, a total flop. It's who Trump is too, one big dud. Society failed me? You're asking the wrong question. The fact of the matter is I wanted it to fail. This is why I wear no face mask at these super-spreader rallies. It's not to challenge the science (it is right, of course) but to embrace and impose on others this other white greatness, its failure to live up to the hype of middle class happiness and satisfaction for all who work hard. This, as you can see, is nothing more than social form of the first option.