Social Security

I experienced a Trump supporter today.  In theory, anyway.  We didn’t speak to each other and he was not sporting that regulation ball cap, so I only presume he was a Trump supporter because of the stereotype.  The vicious spew of bigotry and white male bile that I was witness to was so reminiscent of Trump-trash-talk that it just struck me – he’s one of them.

Lou and I had been at the Social Security Administration office exploring our filing options now that Lou is 66.  After looking at all the options and doing the math, we determined that now is not a bad time for both of us to start collecting; Lou collecting his and me collecting part of his.  I won’t actually start collecting my whopping $400 a month for another 4 years, but the way it’s set up, if my payout is less than half of his, I am entitled to part of his.  Who knew?  It’s ironic, because as two career artists, we haven’t paid in bunches of Social Security over the years, but Lou had paid in enough to make our situation comforting.  The young woman who tried to help us understand the morass of rules was wonderful.  She kept pointing out more and more ways we can actually benefit from our modest Social Security stockpile.  Our expectations were so modest, it felt like Christmas; one little middle-age-rite-of-passage gift after another.  And the holiday will continue; starting next month, a little present will automatically show up in our checking account every month.  For all the government bashing and Social Security doom and gloom I have heard, today’s revelations were pretty damn rosy.  I kept thinking: what a great country we live in.

When we left the office, we were joined by a man I had seen in there speaking to another Social Security officer.  He was maybe late 50’s, early 60’s, a little grizzled, wearing an oversized Harley Davidson shirt and walking with a cane, although with no obvious limp.  In the elevator on the way up to the 5th floor of the parking garage, where all Social Security visitors are asked to park, he was silent, while Lou and I quietly marveled at what we were just beginning to understand about how this is all going to work.  When the elevator door opened, a woman was standing there to greet this man.  She was crying.  When she began to ask him what had gone wrong, which she somehow already knew, he launched into a tantrum about how he had been cheated by the system.  His verbal vitriol elevated as we all walked towards our cars, parked side by side, as it turned out.  Lou and I quickly slowed our pace to avoid the wake of his tirade.  The man’s litany included: he couldn’t pay his bills, they didn’t give a shit, it was his money but because he was white, he couldn’t have any of it, if he were black or Haitian, they would’ve given him everything, the whole system is bullshit, that a white man in this country can’t get what’s his is bullshit, etc.  The expletives became uglier as his volume increased. The poor woman was terrified and kept crying.  They got into one of those huge Tahoe/Escalade/Whatever/Megatruck/SUV’s, the kind that get about 5 miles to the gallon; she crawled into the passenger seat, crying.  He opened the rear door on his side, threw his cane in and slammed the door shut, then flung himself into the driver’s seat and slammed that door even harder.  He burned rubber out of his parking space, and continued to do so louder and louder as he raced down all five flights down out of the parking garage.  Lou and I held our breaths as we waited for the crash, but thankfully it never came.  All I could think was, “He’s one of them.”

We know bad theatre when we see it, and this was pretty bad.  Not that the man’s pain and anger weren’t real; certainly the woman’s pain was very real.  It seemed obvious that a big part of his performance was for us, the dopey older white couple who were enjoying thinking they had just hit some kind of Social Security jackpot.  Maybe the performance was a needed release for him.  Still, it was scary theatre; his palpable anger at the government and just about everyone else, and his bitter blame-lashing at blameless people who live daily with levels of discrimination and injustice he will never ever know, much less suffer.  It was bad theatre, but it was also . . . Hate.

Hate is very scary.  Something has gone very wrong in that poor man’s life, and for that I am sorry.  But he is still driving an expensive gas guzzling vehicle.  And he is still white, which in this country gives him an unfair leg up, regardless of all else.  I am just sorry he hates so much.  And I am really sorry that Trump is making it okay, or even laudable, to hate so much.  I thought as a country we were better than that.  Even a generous Social Security system is no consolation if we are not.

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