Among the basket of interesting things I encountered on Day One of my drive along I-90 from Spokane, Washington to Milwaukee, Wisconsin were: the continental divide, a sign for the 33rd Annual Testicle Festival in Clinton, Montana, and the fun fact that a 26-foot Penske rental truck packed with all of one’s earthly belongings and towing a car can’t do much better than 30 miles per hour on an incline of any degree greater than 0%.
I also encountered Linda the Cashier.
I pulled my rig up to a diesel pump at the The Town Pump truck stop in Three Forks, Montana and discovered that there was a confusing array of fuel choices at this establishment—diesel #1, diesel #2, 50/50 diesel, diesel exhaust fluid. Unsure how to proceed, amateur truck driver that I am, I went inside to seek guidance from the friendly staff.
And the staff was friendly—especially Linda the Cashier. When the first attendant I spoke with couldn’t answer my stupid question, she referred me to Linda. Linda was happy to explain, “You want diesel #1 because it’s not winter yet, honey.”
Seeing that this process was new to me, Linda forewarned me that I wouldn’t be able to pay at the pump and asked me how much fuel I’d like. Not yet sure how much the truck would take, I asked if I could just prepay $100 and have the balance refunded. “Sure,” Linda offered, “but just so you know, honey, depending on your bank it can take a little while to put the money back on your card.”
Then my card was declined. It turns out that my bank had grown suspicious of my debit card’s travels and needed me to verify some transactions to prevent fraud. All the while, Linda was exceedingly patient with me. I stepped to the side and let another customer step up to transact with the lovely Linda.
That’s when the following interaction occurred:
Customer: [out of the clear fucking blue] Well, it’s just like Obama says – none of us should even have jobs, we should all just sit around like bums and take government checks.
Linda the Cashier: [full throated and matter-of-factly] He’s not even a citizen.
Customer: Like he’s ever held a real job in his life.
Cashier Linda: [Looking around to make sure she’s being heard.] He’s not even a citizen. He’s not even a citizen.
I steeled myself, realizing that I was in the wrong place to get into a debate about the President’s provenance. It’s not that I don’t know these people exist—I do—but it’s always a shock to the system to hear these things uttered aloud. My blood boiled and I honestly had to take a few deep breaths before stepping back up to complete my fuel purchase.
Yes, I thought about leaving. Instead, I calmly and politely told Linda “I doubt that it will matter, but I want you to know that I’ll be contacting Town Pump to let them know that they have an employee who actively and repeatedly questioned the citizenship of the president of the United States in front of customers. Have a nice day.”
But here’s the point I really want to make about this experience: Linda the Cashier is exactly the sort of person the Trump campaign is defending in their manufactured furor over Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment. They say that Clinton is “viciously demonizing hard working people like you.”
You know…people like hard working, sweet-as-honey, corn-fed, church-going charmers like Linda.
Feel the phony indignation:
NEW Trump TV ad responds to “Basket of Deplorables” comment by Hillary Clinton NEW Trump TV ad Trump TV Ad Deplorables Deplorable Attack Ad Hillary Clinton Basket of Deplorables Donald Trump 2016 General Election Television Ads Campaign Racist Sexist Homphobic Racism Sexism Pepe Alt Right 4chan AntiMuslim Syrian
Here’s the conundrum. Yes, in her everyday life, Linda is a real slice of home-cooked apple pie in the eyes of those who encounter her (just as she would have remained in my eyes had I not overheard this idiotic exchange). And in that extremely limited sphere, they’re 100% right.
But Linda the Cashier is also a deplorably ignorant fucking bigot who is actively making America a more hateful, less functional, more dangerous, less prosperous place. I suppose we could argue about whether it’s Linda herself who is deplorable or Linda’s ideas that are deplorable—but that strikes me as a distinction without a difference.
On the surface, the deplorables are paragons of American virtue. Beneath the surface, they believe very stupid, very noxious things:
- Two-thirds of Trump supporters believe Obama is a Muslim
- 59 percent of Trump supporters believe Obama was not born in the United States
- 40% of Trump supporters believed that blacks were more “lazy” than whites and nearly 50% believed blacks were more “violent” than whites
- A substantial portion supported banning LGBT people from the United States
The deplorables are out there—and they look and act like Linda the Cashier. Pointing to however many characteristics they possess that are not inherently deplorable is not a valid defense against their ghastly views. Their positive traits do not outweigh their hatred of non-white people. Their work ethic does not cancel out their support for hateful, discriminatory policies. Linda’s folksy smile does not mitigate the harm done by her execrable worldview.