I guess I always knew why, rationally, I was #NeverTrump. Took me until now – to read Ray Allen’s letter to 21-year old self, connected to Kobe’s New Yorker interview and the FT’s piece on Obama, to realize why the antipathy is also visceral.
You grow up being the new kid and outsider enough that, deep down, you get what it feels like to be a disabled American reporter being mocked for being disabled, a Muslim American family being denigrated for being Muslim, … and it just sets you off.
This election is personal.
For many of us who have spent large chunks of our childhoods or even lives as #outsiders, a Trump candidacy probably causes visceral discomfort. Kids like Trump were probably the ones who went out of their way to point out to other kids how different we were to them, and make it harder for us to blend in when all our differences were being highlighted.#KobeBryant #RayAllen #BarackObama
If Trump was black, he’d had been the kid bullying Ray Allen with “You talk like a white boy.”
Instead, he grew up a rich snotty white boy, and chose to push the Birther movement against Obama.
“You’re used to being the kid that nobody knows… You’re used to being an outsider.
“Northern California. Then Germany. Then Oklahoma. Then England. Then Southern California…. You spent your formative elementary school years in Britain. So you don’t even realize it, but to some people, you speak very proper.
When you step off that school bus in South Carolina tomorrow and open your mouth, those kids are going to look at you like you’re an alien.
“You talk like a white boy,” they’ll say.
You’ll look around the school and see groups of kids all paired off, and you’ll feel like you don’t have a place.
You’ll think to yourself, I don’t understand. Who am I supposed to be?
I’m going to be 100% honest with you. I wish I could tell you that it will get easier, and that you’re going to blend in, and that it’s going to be alright. But you’re not going to fit in with the white kids, or the black kids … or the nerds … or even the jocks.
“You talk like a white boy,” they’ll say.
You’ll be the enemy to a lot of people simply because you’re not from around there.
This will be both the toughest and the best thing that will ever happen to you.
“When Kobe was six, the Bryants moved to Italy so that Joe could continue his career in the European professional leagues. They remained there seven years, as Joe thrived. Kobe had to read a Latin version of the Iliad. “And do presentations on it, in Latin, at nine years old, know what I mean?” he said of his Italian schooling. “That’s growing up a little differently.”
Bryant found the social adjustment difficult, re-assimilating as a black teen-ager used to speaking Italian, in the Philadelphia suburbs, where his parents resettled. “Combine that with blacks having their own way of talking, and I really had to learn two languages in order to fit in,” he once said. “Kids are cruel. It’s always been hard.”
“There is a bigger issue in terms of being an African-American athlete, and the box people try to put you in because of it,” he told me. “And it’s always a struggle to step outside of that.” When I brought up LeBron James posting online a photo of the Heat players dressed in hoodies, with their heads bowed, in solidarity with Trayvon Martin, as a political expression, Bryant seemed nonplussed. “I won’t react to something just because I’m supposed to, because I’m an African-American,” he said. “That argument doesn’t make any sense to me. So we want to advance as a society and as a culture, but, say, if something happens to an African-American, we immediately come to his defense? Yet you want to talk about how far we’ve progressed as a society? Well, if we’ve progressed as a society, then you don’t jump to somebody’s defense just because they’re African-American. You sit and you listen to the facts just like you would in any other situation, right? So I won’t assert myself.”
… Bryant’s refusal to take up golf is a point of pride, related to the box he resists being confined to, as an African-American athlete. He told me, “I get questions all the time: ‘What are you going to do when you retire?’ As if I had no life, no talent outside of playing basketball. It absolutely drives me crazy. ‘You just going to golf all day?’ I’m, like, ‘No. Who the fuck said that?’ It’s maddening.”
… The European childhood inspired in Bryant a sense that there is “a much bigger world out there,” as he put it to me, and, as an adult, he travels widely in the summers, both as an extension of his brand (doing promotional work for Lenovo in Manila, say) and in order to expose Natalia and Gianna to different cultures.
“Obama ate dog, snake and grasshopper, learnt Bahasa Indonesian, and got used to children throwing stones at his black skin. Aged 10, he returned to Hawaii, where he was born, to live with his grandparents but he continued visiting his mother in Indonesia. He rarely discusses his Indonesian years, presumably because most US voters don’t like their leaders foreign, but this formative experience as a cultural outsider makes him almost unique among US presidents.
Even in Hawaii, Obama remained an outsider. The state was nearly five hours’ flight from the continental US, and hardly any black people lived there. He got to know the American mainland only at college. But by then he was already a confirmed outsider, taught both by his experience and his mother’s anthropological outlook to see every culture — including the US itself — from outside. It’s wrong to understand Obama chiefly as a product of his ethnic identity, or as a mainstream American liberal like his mother. Rather, he wasn’t raised in any group.
The “birther” jibes, therefore, aren’t simple racism against a black president. After all, although black Americans suffer horrible discrimination, hardly anyone questions their Americanness. Instead, birthers are pointing up Obama’s perceived foreignness.
Viewing the US from the outside, President Obama never seems to have bought the notion that it is an exceptional country with a superior culture and God-given duty to save the world. Asked on his first trip overseas as president whether he believed in American exceptionalism, he replied: “I believe in American exceptionalism. Just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism, and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”
That upset some voters. Obama can seem apart from his own country, haughty, almost a foreigner in the White House. Stephen Gudeman, anthropologist at the University of Minnesota, says: “He keeps a distance from what is going on, which I think is classically anthropological.”
Later, Obama sometimes paid lip service to American exceptionalism but his actions don’t suggest he believes it. I suspect one reason he didn’t intervene in Syria is that he doesn’t think the US has a manifest destiny or indeed any unique expertise to fix other countries. As for America’s domestic arrangements, he commented after last year’s mass shooting in Charleston: “You don’t see murder on this kind of scale, this kind of frequency, in any other advanced nation.” He was talking about the US as just another country — something almost taboo in American political discourse.
Another tenet of anthropology, says Gudeman, is that all people are equally valuable. Obama has spent political capital on America’s untouchables: prisoners and people without health insurance, who are usually ignored in US politics because they enjoy little public sympathy, rarely vote and don’t make political donations.
But it’s in Obama’s diplomacy that the organic anthropologist shows clearest. After talks last year with the Afghan president and anthropologist Ashraf Ghani, Obama quoted the anthropologist Ruth Benedict: “The purpose of anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences.”` Anthropologists accept that different people see the world differently: Indonesian blacksmiths don’t think like Californian accountants. The anthropologist attempts to communicate with the other #tribe, understand it, and bridge those differences rather than try to erase them….
“Maryanne Trump declined to comment for this article except to say, ‘He’s still a simple boy from Queens. You can quote me on that.’”
“The Republican candidate is far more popular than Hillary Clinton among people who still live where they grew up.”
“Hometowns simultaneously repel and attract.
“As it turns out, that odd magnetic quality might be playing a role in the 2016 race. How people plan to vote appears to correspond, albeit broadly, with whether they decided to move away from where they grew up. According to the just-released PRRI/The Atlantic poll, 40 percent of Donald Trump’s likely voters live in the community where they spent their youth, compared with just 29 percent of Hillary Clinton voters. And of the 71 percent of Clinton voters who have left their hometowns, most—almost 60 percent of that group—now live more than two hours away.*
“The effect is even stronger among white voters, who already tend toward Trump. Even a bit of distance matters: Trump wins by 9 points among white likely voters who live within two hours of their childhood home, but by a whopping 26 percent among whites who live in their hometown proper.
“…. you realize how deep culture really goes — because when people realize you don’t share all their habits, they suspect you don’t share their values either. An instinctive tribal hostility gets activated.”
#Nativists – “America for Americans”