by W.D. Ehrhart
Recently, I had occasion to drive the length of the Pennsylvania Turnpike all the way to the Ohio border. Western Pennsylvania is beautiful and mountainous. It is also, for the most part, solid Trump Country. Indeed, aside from Philadelphia and its suburban counties, and less dependably Pittsburgh, the entire state is as red as a male cardinal.
I did not see a single billboard supporting Democrat John Fetterman’s bid to win a U.S. Senate seat. And the only billboard mentioning current Democratic state attorney general Josh Shapiro’s run for the governorship was sponsored by his Republican opponent and Trump-endorsed Doug Mastriano, that said, “If You Love Higher Murder Rates, You’ll Love Josh Shapiro,” and included huge photos of Shapiro and Joe Biden with a big grin giving a thumbs-up.
But my favorite was a highly visible tractor-trailer perched on a hillside along the highway with TRUMP in huge red block letters painted on it. Below that, in smaller black block lettering, were the words GOD, GUNS, FREEDOM, and NO SOCIALISM.
This is not just a Pennsylvania phenomenon. Trumpism has taken hold across the length and breadth of this nation. And as I drove along on my way to Detroit, hours and hundreds of miles away, I had plenty of time to think. Why would anyone imagine that Number 45 has anything to do with “God,” this man who holds a Bible he’s never read upside down and brags about grabbing women by their genitals?
“Guns” I kind of get, though I don’t agree with it. If you’re steeped in gun culture, I suppose it’s possible to believe that “guns don’t kill people,” and maybe the guy with that trailer likes to hunt deer (I hope he eats what he kills) or shoot varmints around his farm. But “freedom”? Does he mean the freedom of #45 to play by his own rules, turn lying into an art form, cheat on everything from his wives to his taxes, thumb his nose at the Constitution, and foment insurrection?
And as for “No Socialism,” that one just drives me bugfuck. What does the guy with that trailer think Social Security is? And Medicare? I don’t know who that guy is, but I know a lot of Trumpsters who are all on Social Security and Medicare, and don’t even know such programs are socialism-in-action.
How does that guy and others like him think they get drinkable water when they turn on their taps? That the crap they flush down the toilet gets treated and disposed of? That their roads get plowed when it snows, and paved when they get too full of potholes? That someone will pick up the phone when they dial 911, and send police or an ambulance if they need help?
All of these things, and a whole lot more, are socialism-in-action. Everyone pays into a common fund, and that money is then used for the common good.
Indeed, the biggest socialist organization in this country is the United States military. Everyone with the same rank gets pretty much the same pay, regardless of their jobs, whether you’re a private or a general. Everyone gets free housing, free clothing, free medical care, free dental care, and free food.
We’re not talking Communism here. We’re not talking Karl Marx or Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong: “you will work in a steel mill, and you will go to the country and grow rice, and this factory had better produce 500 tractors a month or you will be shot for treason.” That’s not what socialism is.
I don’t suppose that guy with the trailer ever stopped to think about it, but Jesus Christ himself was a socialist. He healed the sick and didn’t even charge them for His services. He provided counseling and advice for free. He got really angry with the greedy financiers who had taken over the temple. He criticized the Pharisees and their “holier-than-thou” elitism, and stood up for the poor and the outcast and the down-trodden.
That’s what I found myself thinking about as I whiled away the hours driving to Detroit. What would Jesus think of Donald Trump. Or Mitch McConnell, or Lindsey Graham, or Kevin McCarthy, or even Joe Manchin? Which model of rifle would Jesus buy? Who would Jesus vote for in November 2022?
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a very good opinion of Democrats, either. To a very large degree, the foibles and corruption and incompetence of the Democrats over the past forty years have a lot to do with how we’ve all ended up in this mess. And I could go on at length about the Democrats’ willingness to lock up whistle blowers, and toss around drone missiles like they’re handing out American flags at a 4th of July parade, and genuflect to Big $$$$ like they were, well, Republicans.
But I hope the guy who put that trailer out there along the Pennsylvania Turnpike doesn’t get the future he’s wishing for. He may not like it as much as he thinks he will. And I’m damned sure I won’t like it at all.
W. D. Ehrhart, PhD, is a former Marine Corps sergeant and veteran of the American War in Vietnam. He is the author of a memoir trilogy: Vietnam-Perkasie, Passing Time, and Busted.