Stabbing at Oedipus’ Eyes: A White Man’s Reaction to Donald Trump

I’m a white, non-immigrant, non-Muslim, able-bodied straight male. I’m a citizen of the United States and I possess a strong sense of patriotism toward the country I’ve lived in my whole life. I believe in change. And I did not vote for Donald Trump.

Though, it’s not a secret that his whole campaign has been a concession to the type of person I am. The type of person he says should be scared about women aborting their unborn children or Mexicans pillaging our job market or blacks attacking our police force or Muslims blowing up our buildings.

All this plays off of our worst post-colonial, post-industrial anxieties. Trump won in the traditionally blue Rust Belt states. Whether that speaks to his expert campaign planning or Hillary Clinton’s complacency errors is beside the point. Trump compelled these northern unioners by way of invoking a “take back what’s yours” mentality. A mentality shared by the second-wave KKK members of the 1920s. A mentality shared by the millions of peasants inspired by V.I. Lenin’s anti-czarist rhetoric. A mentality shared by 1930s Germans who’d been crippled by the war reparations clause of the Treaty of Versailles.

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But what exactly was ours to take back? It’s a question that can’t be answered because it doesn’t mean anything.

Then where does the fault lie? Am I, again a straight, white male, culpable for the choices of these Michiganers and Wisconsiners who felt aggrandized by those historically fatal buzzwords even if I opposed them from the start?

Let’s consider Oedipus, a man who unknowingly killed his father and procreated with his mother. As he learned what destiny the fates had conspired for him, he, without hesitation, stabbed his eyes with the pin of his mother and lover. The ultimate display of self-punishment.

I suppose there is a real post-colonial psyche shared by all white men. In it, we confront our sins and our mistakes and our prizes acquired by our past domination of all other races on Earth. It’s how we react to its decline that shapes our ideology. Do we view it with nostalgia, a reverie distracting our conscience from a world that’s rapidly globalizing? Donald Trump’s supporters must answer to that themselves. Or do we feel shame toward the choices the peers of our ancestors made, with an overwhelming wish for an unachievable process of atonement brought up in instances like this, when our country has elected a bloviating, sexist hatemongerer for its highest office? Oedipus then has our sympathy.

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But we have to consider why Oedipus disciplined himself so harshly and without hesitation. He had no say in his fate. The consequences didn’t arise from any of his choices. Yet he felt compelled to blind himself. I feel as if I need to apologize for the decisions of millions of people I’ve never met. We, the collective white male, bear the responsibility of a Trump presidency. It’s a humiliation I will feel every time I look at the face of a woman or a member of the LGBTQ+ community or a black person. It will make me question where we failed you, and because of this election cycle, I’ll have the answer. We’ve endorsed someone with strong messages of white exclusivity. He beat what many hoped would be the first female president in history. All the “post-racist” rhetoric proliferating after the election of President Barack Obama, while duly questioned after every episode of police brutality, is downright invalid after we gave Donald Trump more than the requisite 270 electoral votes.

The only consolation might lie within further questioning of Oedipus’ self-disciplinary action. Was he stabbing himself as punishment for a fate he had no hand in, or that a fate so wicked and evil could even exist, in which case he’d rather shut himself off from such a cruel world than be a part of it? If the latter is true, it could provide justification for the unfathmoble reality that Donald Trump will be this country’s 45th president. Then, analysts will be questioning for years what is worse, realizing you’re a patricidal fallen king engaging in a decades-long incestuous relationship with your mother, or that you’re part of the electorate body that campaigned for, supported and voted for a man who’ll surely be one of the worst presidents in our country’s history. I apologize vehemently for both.

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