You owe it to yourself to take a look around. Yes, you, my beloved readers: wherever you happen to be seated right now, you really ought to stand and turn your head a bit. Admire these environs, in which we have been planted since the beginning of this journey of ours. I’m speaking, of course, of that ruthless ecosystem known amongst its savage denizens as the “primary season”. Take it all in, the cold and the heat and the madness of it all. Take it all in, because it won’t be around forever, you know. In fact, it will all disappear in exactly two weeks’ time, swallowed up by the terminus of the brutal life cycle to which it belongs. Soon, every one of these candidates, the wealthiest and the slightest, will flee the Granite State, once and for all, boarding their planes with one-way tickets and abandoning us for good. They will return us to the predictable lives we led before they swept in like a crew of buccaneers, riding the restless waves to these shores—foreign to them, and forever changed for us.
Perhaps their impact is less indelible than I suggest. Do the students of Plymouth State University recall their event with Bernie Sanders, the same during which he met me and my gaze? If one were to walk the frozen orchards of Mack’s Apples, would any evidence emerge of Joe Biden’s curious speech, performed under the relentless summer sun? No more than would be found on the floor of Gibson’s Bookstore, where, seven months ago, Andrew Yang suggested Julian Assange stand trial for an imaginary crime. Soon, there will be no way to tell that any of these people ever visited this state—unless, of course, one of them imitates John McCain, whose presidential campaign banner could be found suspended in the trees of Ossipee eight years after he failed to win the White House.
When I walk the streets and cul-de-sacs of my neighborhood today, I see an abundance of banners for Yang. One of my neighbors has his sign hanging underneath her mailbox, as well as a bumper sticker clinging to her car. If we walk half a mile in the other direction, we reach the intersection of this road and another, the latter being the local teens’ preferred route for nocturnal joyrides and burn runs. Here, we will find another sign for the Yang campaign—although, if we check back in a couple of hours, it may be missing, just like the duplicate that stood beside it until pretty recently. Should we search for it? We can turn right and make our way towards F- Road, the quintessential artery, which reaches from the prison to the freeway. Once we arrive at this thoroughfare, adjacent to a strip mall with just one vacant venue, we can look across the street and spot an abandoned lot, surrounded by construction vehicles that are busily bursting and disposing of the earth. The great mounds of soil, capped by dirty slush, dwarf a couple of Yang’s banners, none of which was taken from our prior point of interest.
We are on the borderline of Penacook and Concord, in the heart of the capital’s designated space for peaceful white trash. This zone for the poor, or what passes for poor in this part of the country, is placed several miles past the prison, thereby ensuring that no unsuspecting tourist stumbles into it accidentally. There’s no work out here, save for minimum-wage drudgery: slapping sandwiches together at Subway or ringing up purchases at Family Dollar. If you’re making money, then you’re making it out of town, and on your daily commute, you avoid looking closely at your surroundings. You don’t want to see the people walking around in pajamas that scarcely cover their pudge, their swollen fingers sallow with the residue of cigarettes they can’t even afford. No, you don’t want to see any of that. You want to hurry back to your bleached-blonde wife and medicated kids, safe at home in a house that looks like exactly like each of your neighbors’, the front door and windows turned away from the decadence engulfing.
Amusingly, Concord’s great experiment in gentrification failed, and the squalor of my district was never contained. On the contrary, the city’s gravest desperation is discovered downtown, where a parade of paroled felons roams the frigid streets, all of them awaiting their next (and last?) arrest. They provided lots of cheap labor, too, but after a while, their presence proved inhospitable to the doctors and lawyers who live in the hills, hidden from the failure foaming at their feet. Ergo, most of the criminals were forced out of town, though none of them seemed to make their way here. On the outskirts of town, but still in the flatlands, we see only the people who have adapted to a crude form of living: they consume their drugs quietly, without inviting hoodlums into their den; and if they can’t get their fix, then they will take their disappointment out on their children, and possibly their wives, but never on their neighbors, lest the cops take notice.
Can you imagine a more suitable scene for Yang to plant his placards and pitch his politics? Enter a man who, despite his decent suits and elitist education, speaks without pomp or prejudice of the white trash for whom the twenty-first century has been a nightmare. He recognizes their lost wages and encumbering disappointments, all of which was handily preventable, and offers a solution: $1,000 in monthly allowance, guaranteed by the government. His is not a traditional solution—nor, in my view, is it adequate—but at least it’s something, and every one of my neighbors could certainly use something. The car wash across the street is staffed fully by computers, every gas station is grungier than the last, and most of our own population doesn’t know if this is Penacook or Concord. There’s not a lot here, and where there’s little, there tends to be very little hope: how does anyone intend to rebuild this pocket of town? how can you replenish that which was never hale?
Yang’s team put another banner on the corner of Bog Road. This is a ghostly intersection, traveled by one pedestrian in the three years I have lived here: when somebody finally crossed the street a couple of months ago, I realized that I’d never known there was a crosswalk signal there. Not that I had cause to expect foot traffic: why would anybody want to visit the apartment complex on the left, which the police frequent almost as often as the tenants; or the apartment building on the left, from which a Confederate flag flew just days after Charlottesville? Somebody must, I suppose. In any case, you’ll find more people there than you will at the Chinese takeout restaurant, in front of which Yang placed one of his banners: that dilapidated shack was shuttered years ago, long before I ever stopped by here . . . and judging by its haunted exterior, I doubt if I’d have had the courage to eat anything that emerged from within.
Don’t misunderstand my intentions here. By no means am I taking a potshot at the white trash. I’m white trash, despite my pseudointellectual stylings—and even if I weren’t, there is hardly any pride to be taken in a punch delivered against the ruined and defenseless. The social justice warriors and the aloof elite despise American white trash, who, they believe, exist in a vacuum, breathing solely to inflict misery upon the moral and urbane. How little do they know that the white trash exist on a plane: we are not a self-contained entity, but a stage or a condition. We are part of a continuum, a process whereby the fortunate and affluent decline into irreversible hardship and woe. Allow us to dispense with Reaganomics and its ridiculous tenet that, through financial dispersion, the weak become strong; no, it is the strong who become weak, the prosperous who, through the decadence of generations, sink into the pit of poverty. My father was far wealthier than I, and if I am sadistic enough to have a son, he will never reach my standards of living. We the white trash are merely a product, the survivors of the charlatan’s economy—and if our voices are not heard in 2020, then our blood will be shed in the years to come.
How much blood do we have to spill? Can you draw, would you draw, blood from a stone? You’ll have to ask the folks who were laid off from Corriveau-Routhier, a masonry shop that went belly-up almost two years ago. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but since that palatial building, situated just a mile from my house, closed its doors and announced it was for sale, the entire climate of my neighborhood seems to have shifted and downturned. The sidewalks look dirtier, blanketed with a surplus of litter, while the abutting tarmac feels all the more brittle, almost as if it is about to give way and send all of us plummeting beneath. In the final days of Corriveau-Routhier, the marquee read “Make America Great Again”, a defiant valediction roared by a man who knew his days as a proprietor were up. Yang wasn’t quite callous enough to place his banner here, but he did drop one in front of the bus stop jus a few meters off—the bus stop, where the poorest of our poor and the unluckiest of our drunken drivers wait to take their seat upon a filthy, humble shuttle.
Directly across the street is a condominium complex, set for expansion sometime this summer. I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting any of these dwellings, but here I did witness the brutal arrest of a prepubescent child by a member of the Concord Police Department. Last year, the cop grabbed a young boy and slammed him to the ground, grunting at him: “Not so tough now, are ya?” I filed a report of excessive force, although the officer who took my complaint was much more interested in where I lived than he was in protecting the kid—or, for that matter, in promising I wouldn’t face retaliation. The beaten child looked to be white trash, as well, undernourished and underserved by a nation that promises him relevance and safety. His violent arrest, on the grounds of housing units for the well-to-do but within spitting distance of the have-nots, has been forgotten because, yours truly excepted, it was never seen.
The scene of the beating.
In a couple of weeks, the multitude of Yang’s banners will be forgotten, as well. People saw them, of course, more so than saw that kid get his face shoved into the dirt, and I have no doubt that the struggling inhabitants of this side of town thought about them: they thought about what they could do with $1,000 a month in extra spending money, for themselves and, indirectly, everyone around them. Just down the street from my own home, there is the charred husk of a house that burst into flames about a year ago, forcing a family of five . . . somewhere else. What could they do with that kind of money after they rebuild their house? Maybe they would look to rebuild our town?
Maybe they would, but how many people have this latter thought in mind when they look at those banners? How many of them will keep it in mind when they make their way to the polling stations two weeks from today? Can the dislocated family even make it back to town to cast their vote for a longshot candidate? And if anybody does keep all of this in mind when voting for Yang, will any time or mind be paid to the question of why we need this cash assistance in the first place?
Some people will think about this, I suppose, but fewer, I imagine, then it took to plant this banner, a new one which appeared after I took the rest of my pictures.