The world demonstrably does not need another Cletus safari into the heart of Trump’s America, but The Politico has one for you anyway. In this one, writer Michael Kruse checks in with Trump voters in and around the multiply depressed city of Johnstown, Pa., a year after the election to see how they feel about the job their big wet boy has done so far. You won’t be shocked to learn that they all believe he’s doing great.
The reason we’re drawing your attention to this particular entry in the “this is what Trump voters are really like” genre is the anecdote that ends the piece. After quoting multiple Trump voters saying venomous things about NFL players who have chosen to protest injustice and inequality, the story’s author takes us into the living room of Johnstown resident Pam Schilling, a 60-year-old retiree who is already keyed up to vote for Trump in 2020:
“The thing that irritates me to no end is this NFL shit,” Schilling told me in her living room. “I’m about ready to go over the top with this shit. We do not watch no NFL now.” They’re Dallas Cowboys fans. “We banned ‘em. We don’t watch it.”
Schilling looked at her husband, Dave McCabe, who’s 67 and a retired high school basketball coach. She nodded at me. “Tell him,” she said to McCabe, “what you said the NFL is …”
McCabe looked momentarily wary. He laughed a little. “I don’t remember saying that,” he said unconvincingly.
Schilling was having none of it. “You’re the one that told me, liar,” she said.
She looked at me.
“Niggers for life,” Schilling said.
“For life,” McCabe added.
The piece doesn’t quite hold up the rancid feelings of these two yokels as representative of anything beyond this particular sad little tranche of Trump Country, but there is some utility, and something clarifying, in being confronted with two Americans who are willing to cut the shit and state precisely why they so detest Colin Kaepernick and the protest movement that he galvanized.
I’d bet all the money in my wallet that Schilling and her husband have at some point expressed their opinions on Kaepernick in a public forum—on Facebook, at the grocery store, at a party—and that those opinions aligned pretty closely with what you’ll see in the comment section of any news item about the NFL, or in the replies to any Clay Travis tweet. It’s stilted and silly and it’s already very familiar if you follow any of this at all: These NFL players are just spoiled millionaires. Kneeling is disrespectful of the troops. Keep politics out of sports. It’s not until they’re in the privacy of their own home, perhaps feeling a little flattered by the attention of a fancy magazine writer or perhaps just too angry about too many things in too many ways to hold it back anymore, that they skip the canned stuff and start using words that more accurately convey the true nature and intensity of their opinion.
We get angry emails about a wide variety of topics, but the emails we—especially our female staffers—get in response to any post about the NFL protests are enraged and incoherent in ways that our standard hate mail isn’t; they are all over the place, sprawling vengeful catalogues of betrayals and blasphemies and enemies. When this anger shows itself, it becomes pretty clear that the righteous moaning about patriotism and privilege is a misdirection, or just a safe—politically correct is maybe the best term, here—way of saying things they otherwise don’t feel safe saying. What really enrages people like Schilling is the fact that a bunch of black men who once seemed to exist for the sole purpose of entertaining white people in their living rooms are now suddenly exercising some control over their environment, showing that they are not—to borrow from Curt Flood—simply well-paid slaves. It’s not any affront to the military or decorum that makes this so intolerable. It’s something much more simple and obvious.