“Cockney patriotism,” they used to call it back in the 1890s and early 1900s in Britain: conservative, uneducated working class men, a lumpen proletariat of dispossessed souls, mostly failures in their own lives, whose injured pride sustained itself through identifying with England’s position as the world’s great colonial power. “Hooligan imperialism” they also called it: the yahoo-jingoistic patriotism of slum-dwelling Londoners who flew the Union Jack and roared for more colonies in India, South Africa, Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, Ceylon, West Africa—wherever British military power had pounded subject peoples into submission.
Why the cockneys—the poor denizens of East London’s slums—should have supported the imperialist efforts of the landed aristocracy that exploited and despised them has never been satisfactorily explained, but we can look to our own modern example of “cockney patriotism” in the tea party and its affiliated side-groupings. Here, too, we see uneducated, laboring people expressing a jingoistic patriotism that loves to watch Donald Trump drop the Mother of All Bombs on foreign countries where dark-skinned “terrorists” threaten American values; laboring people who clamor for tax cuts for the tax-dodging plutocrats who cheat them every day of their lives; white hooligans whose angry and often violent lives can find no greater cause than to celebrate that notorious working-class hero, Donald J. Trump.
Who are these people? One commented to a post of mine yesterday on my Facebook feed, where I’d put up a map of red and blue counties in the 2016 election and pointed out the scary reality that many of those red districts are populated by furious white men with guns. My interlocutor, whom I’ll call Jocko, wrote: Hopefully you will wake up at some point. The people on the red parts of your map do not enjoy the elitist lifestyle of a wine critic. They are struggling to put food on their table and support their families. Trump offered to help them, Clinton called them deplorables. You keep that dialog going with your hateful posts and elitist bias. The Democratic Party needs to address the economic needs of these people or continue to lose easy to work elections. The Jobs That Weren’t Saved – TIME
Let me address Jocko, who is the millennial son of two old friends of mine. What exactly is the “elitist lifestyle” you refer to? You’ve stolen that maligning phrase from Rush Limbaugh (is he a favorite of yours?), but you right wingers never quite define what or whom you’re referring to—it’s just a stupid buzz word for “People I hate.” What is so objectionable about my “lifestyle,” Jocko? Am I an elitist because I live in the Bay Area? There are about 7 million of us in and around San Francisco. Are we all “elite”? Do you know anything about my “lifestyle”? I suspect it’s not much different than yours. I wake up in the morning, take a leak, brew some coffee, chow down some breakfast, brush my teeth, feed my dog, walk him, and get on with my day. But wait, you offer a clue to your resentment with your nasty smear that I am a “wine critic.” Aha! Now we’re getting someplace. I suppose if I were a brick layer, or a plumber, or even a beer critic, you would show me a little love. But a “wine critic”!!! I must be effete. I must consider myself “better” than others. I must be swirling and sniffing with my elite, effete, intellectual pals, sipping Chardonnay and nibbling on brie, while you workers suffer at your pitiful jobs and struggle to underwrite your miserable little existences. I and my elite friends sit around laughing at you slobs, with your lunch buckets and and snotty little children.
Is that what you think? That’s in your head, Jocko. Since when did you and your tea party become the god-given champions of “poor people struggling to put food on their tables”? Who the hell gave America social security, unions, unemployment insurance, Medicare, pensions, healthcare for all, the 40-hour work week, child labor protection laws, the minimum wage, anti-discrimination laws, gay marriage? The Democratic Party you insult, Jocko; you Republicans did all you could to oppose the slightest break for working people. It’s Democrats who help working people survive a system that is by, for and of the rich—the billionaire class your president is hell-bent on making even richer. Do you really think Rex Tillerson and Betsy DeVos are on your side, or on the side of working people? Do you really think Trump is? I have news for you: Donald Trump wouldn’t let you anywhere near Mar-a-Lago, with your calloused hands, unkempt fingernails and scruffy sneakers. Donald Trump’s numerous wives and mistresses—who knows how many he’s had and discarded?—were spoiled gold diggers who gladly took his money for designer clothes and lavish parties—parties to which you’ll never be invited, unless it’s as a serving boy.
My ”elite” friends are skateboard kids, tattoo people, surfers, Uber drivers, waiters, personal trainers, retired people living on pensions, commuters, school teachers, comedians, nurses, winemakers, secretaries, musicians. I don’t hang around with Eric Trump, going on African safaris to kill innocent beasts. I don’t party on Mykonos with Jared and Ivanka. I don’t belong to a Trump golf club where the Goldman Sachs crowd trades insider secrets while plotting out ways to fuck people like you. That’s Donald Trump and his family you’re thinking of, and the Republican party hacks like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, contriving to take away your grandma’s diabetes coverage while they con you into thinking they’re on your side (knowing that you’re gullible enough to believe them). Be angry with Republicans, Jocko, not with me and my friends, because we’re just like you.
How did they get to you, Jocko? I mean, the right wing. You’ve heard them denounce Hillary Clinton all your life and now you hate her too. What a coincidence! How did these Republicans infiltrate your mind and make you so angry and resentful? I knew your parents. They were loving people, hippies who believed in justice, peace, compassion and fairness. Now here you are, talking about physically assaulting people on the left. Perhaps we’ll see you in Berkeley, wearing your little MAGA cap, with brass knuckles and a chain, bashing liberal heads during the next Ann Coulter rally. That’s why you people are deplorable: not because you’re poor, but because you run on one gear: Hate of “the other.”
When did you turn into such a piece of work? You are America’s own “cockney patriot,” Jocko, a worker who props up his self-worth by identifying with a bully and sexual predator who makes more in one day than you’ll earn in your entire life—and doesn’t give a crap about you. Is Trump really what you admire? Would you leave your daughter alone with him? Does he really exemplify the values your wonderful parents instilled in you?
You tell me I hate “trailer trash.” No, Jocko, I don’t hate people who live in trailers. I hate people who are bigots, homophobes, xenophobes, people who countenance sexual assault, people who try to impose their religion on everybody else, people who bash Mexicans and Muslims, white people who think they’re God’s gift to the world just because they’re white, people who are so stupid that they vote for politicians who want to destroy them.
OMG. Talk about waking up, Jocko, my little Cockney patriot. #Sad.