Who’s to blame?


One year ago today the presidential election in the United States caught a lot of people by surprise. Some voters were disappointed, some incensed, some blasé, some jubilant, but they all paid attention.

Disenchanted voters who had pulled off the miracle of the millennium seemed to offer smugness instead of cordiality to those who were defeated. Criminy, even hotheaded tennis players manage to be civil to the players they defeat.

But election anger took front and center. Gloating, bullying, bad manners, threats – no one seemed to want to make, or keep, the American Republic whole. Instead, the focus was on division. Letters to the editor in the Arkansas state newspaper were filled with sentences of admiration for a man who has disdain for truth, scientific fact, women, the Supreme Court, and anyone who isn’t obscenely wealthy.

We understand that it’s a hard time to be a man these days, at least in this country. Seems the menfolk are being publicly tipped like a pinball machine until they fall into the right hole. Which is plugged.

Now, for a while we were open to blaming our country’s problems on straight, white, Christian mothers. They are in large part the ones who have said, “Go wash your hands and I’ll call you when it’s ready,” because they were overwhelmed and it was just easier.

And so it became difficult for men to know what was expected of them, other than that they knew they were clearly in charge of women as soon as they started growing whiskers. Men got a job and no matter what it was, it paid them more than it paid women.

So, in many cases, fighting began. The nub was about money and power. Sure, there are plenty of people who figured out on their own how to build a strong relationship by allotting chores and responsibilities equally, or at least fairly. Kids raised in those homes were taught the holiness of contributing.

Kids got started with easy chores, like spending time on Saturday morning washing the family combs and brushes. Grownups hate dirty combs and brushes, so it was an easy job to assign and monitor.

From there everyone in the family knew what was expected and what amount of time it would take. It worked, and maturity took root.

But then one day a man was elected President of the United States who doesn’t seem to have ever had any chores. He didn’t feed a dog, polish a shoe, air up a tire or take out the trash.

Not his fault, right?

We’ve heard a lot about this man’s upbringing, at least about his schools and bankruptcies and girlfriends, but where did he come from and why do we think it’s okay to be reflexively mean to him?

Mary, his mother, was born on Lewis in the Outer Hebrides off the northwest coast of Scotland, an area known for wind, isolation and gloom. Scottish Presbyterians who inhabit the islands are considered insular by mainland Scots. They keep to themselves and not only don’t embrace outsiders, they don’t much embrace each other.

So although Mary gave birth to five Trump children, she was hesitant in displaying warmth simply because she was raised that way. Makes sense that she would raise her own children in accordance. Mom’s fault!

Now, suddenly, each aberrance we observe is a mental health issue. We have brains, we like to use them, and one would think that mental health is every bit as essential to our well being as eating carrots is for our eyes.

Yet when men achieve power they are admired, and when women achieve power they are criticized. Are we all screwed up?

It seems counterproductive to bring up every tacky, horrible thing someone has done before they pulled off their tacky, horrible final act. We are squabbling over whether those with mental fog should have access to certain kinds of guns, blaming everybody but the milkman for our tragedies, but not figuring out that by the time we’re 10 or 11 we’re responsible for who we are. By the time we’re 73, like the president, seems we’d know to believe Crosby, Stills & Nash – teach your children well.

Or at least look in the mirror and stop blaming the glass for what we see.

Mary Pat Boian