After all, there was a march in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year full of white men with tiki torches chanting "You will not replace us." Which translates as get the fuck out of my bubble, a bubble that is a state of mind and a sentimental attachment to a largely fictional former America. It's not everyone in this America; for example, Syed Ahmed Jamal's neighbors in Lawrence, Kansas, rallied to defend him when ICE arrested and tried to deport the chemistry teacher and father who had lived in the area for 30 years. It's not all white men; perpetration of the narrative centered on them is something too many women buy into and some admirable men are trying to break out of.And the meanest voices aren't necessarily those of the actual rural and small-town. In a story about a Pennsylvania coal town named Hazelton, Fox's Tucker Carlson recently declared that immigration brings "more change than human beings are designed to digest," the human beings in this scenario being the white Hazeltonians who are not immigrants, with perhaps an intimation that immigrants are not human beings, let alone human beings who have already had to digest a lot of change. Once again a small-town white American narrative is being treated as though it's about all of us or all of us who count, as though the gentrification of immigrant neighborhoods is not also a story that matters, as though Los Angeles and New York City, both of which have larger populations than many American states, are not America. In New York City, the immigrant population alone exceeds the total population of Kansas (or Nebraska or Idaho or West Virginia, where all those coal miners are).
Sympathy in pro-bubble America often goes reflexively to the white man in the story. The assumption is that the story is about him; he's the protagonist, the person who matters, and when you, say, read Stephens defending Woody Allen and attacking Dylan Farrow for saying Allen molested her, you see how much work he's done imagining being Woody Allen, how little being Dylan Farrow or anyone like her. It reminds me of how young women pressing rape charges are often told they're harming the bright future of the rapist in question, rather than that maybe he did it to himself, and that their bright future should matter too. The Onion nailed it years ago: "College Basketball Star Heroically Overcomes Tragic Rape He Committed."
Recently people have revisited a 2010 political-science study that tested the response to fictitious senatorial candidates, identical except for gender; "regardless of whether male politicians were generally preferred over female politicians, participant voters only reacted negatively to the perceived power aspirations of the female politician." They characterized that reaction as "moral outrage": how dare she seek power. How dare she want things for herself rather than others--even though seeking power may be a means to working on behalf of others. How dare she consider the story to be about her or want to be the one who determines what the story is.And then there's the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. We've heard from hundreds, perhaps thousands, of women about assaults, threats, harassment, humiliation, coercion, of campaigns that ended careers, pushed them to the brink of suicide. Many men's response to this is sympathy for men. The elderly film director Terry Gilliam said in March, "I feel sorry for someone like Matt Damon who is a decent human being. He came out and said all men are not rapists, and he got beaten to death. Come on, this is crazy!" Matt Damon has not actually been beaten to death. He is one of the most highly-paid actors on earth, which is a significantly different experience than being beaten to death. The actor Chris Evans did much better with this shift, saying recently, "The hardest thing to reconcile is that just because you have good intentions, doesn't mean it's your time to have a voice."