Lynn’s mom

Nancy, born in 1946 in North Dakota, didn’t want to talk directly to me, but she gave her daughter, Lynn, permission to do so on her behalf. This turned out to be a gift because what I got was a conversation with a woman who has been struggling for much of her life to understand the psychology behind her mother’s politics, which are so at odds with her own.

Whereas many of the women I’ve spoken with voted for Trump with the hope that he would shake up the status quo, Lynn feels her mom’s motivations were the opposite. Nancy, she says, is fearful of change. She voted for Trump in an attempt to stop changes, specifically those she sees in her own community.

Nancy has witnessed firsthand the changing demographics of her state. Over the last decade or so, the number of immigrants to call North Dakota home has skyrocketed. For the most part, these are legal immigrants who applied for asylum in the U.S. from countries in Northern Africa such as Somalia. They move there to work in the poultry processing plants and other farming-related industries. (The higher paying unionized jobs of the Dakota Access Pipeline are another major source of imported workers, though these tend to be American-born workers from other states).

As the faces of her neighbors and community members have changed, Nancy has not found herself in a welcoming state of mind or curious about the backstories of these people from faraway places whose customs are so different from her own. Instead, she feels threatened; she thinks her personal safety is endangered. She blames Obama; she believes Clinton she would have further escalated this trend.

Lynn has encouraged her mom to take a closer look at the forces changing North Dakota. She has tried to explain that many of the companies employing foreign-born workers, particularly refugees who have achieved legal status, receive financial incentives from the government and that these sorts of arrangements have a long-standing history in the U.S. and aren’t tied to any one administration. Corporations advocated for these deals with the argument that the local workforce is inadequate to meet their needs. Trump may have talked tough on immigration, but the changes in North Dakota are actually caused by corporate subsidies, which is an area he is unlikely to do anything about and, if anything, will probably protect and expand upon.

Lynn has also tried to explain that the immigrants who are relocating to North Dakota have gone through years of waiting and layers of bureaucracy to achieve this “dream.” They just want to live quiet, peaceful lives.

Nancy does not embrace the more complex story of her state’s changing demographics presented to her by her daughter. This doesn’t surprise Lynn, though Lynn finds it baffling because in an indirect way her mom benefits from the arrangement. If the factories in the region did not import workers, they would likely relocate and the local economy would suffer, compromising the services her mother relies on to live a comfortable life.

Here, Lynn’s tone takes on a somber note, one that speaks to me of a woman who is resigned to the fact that the person she loves most won’t change. Lynn says she has come to accept that her mom’s mindset is deeply ingrained, and is probably the result of thinking that goes back generations in her family. Lynn sees it not just in the realm of politics, but in the personal, too. Her mother doesn’t want to delve beneath the surface on any topic for fear that an analytic eye will find its gaze on her own life, exposing truths better left unexamined.

7 thoughts on “Lynn’s mom

  1. My old man was a southern farm boy who grew up during the Depression. Even after moving to Southern California as a Navy sailor during WW II and never going back, he still referred to southern Missouri as “back home.” He certainly wasn’t politically correct as we understand the term, but he never suffered from the cultural myopia that seems to infect Lynn’s mom. Maybe coming from a humble background himself, he never found it necessary to treat others as beneath him. My wife is naturalized citizen born in Mexico, and he loved her as if she were his own daughter. It’s got nothing to do with where you’re from, when you were born, or how you were raised. You either believe “all men are created equal:, or you don’t. Simple as that, as my dad would say.

    • I read your comment to David (my 70 year old husband) and his response was simple: “wow”. And I second it. You are right. It really is simple as that.

      It almost seems to me that we have become a nation divided amongst those who are afraid, (of life, people, change, etc.) or those who are not. It’s a mind set. I believe a study was done recently showing brain differences, that even showed that Republicans tend to live “in fear” and Democrats tend to live mostly not in fear.

      And sadly, as the aforementioned husband said after I read Corinna’s post to him, “Some people you just can’t help.”

      PS: I would have loved to have met your dad! 🙂

      • Thanks Patti. He was quite a man. And the perfect balance to my mother, a native Cali girl. She was a registered Republican who stopped voting for Republicans after Ike. My dad could give you 100 reasons to despise Nixon. My mother just said “Why, everyone knew he was just a common criminal,” She also went to work at 23 in a hardware store during the War because she had a daughter to raise while my father fought against people like Trump. And she never stopped working after that. I’m sure she would have had some choice words for Trump.

        And, and BTW, I’m sure Lynn is a lovely person, but her mother is a bigot. Its as simple as that.

  2. The story of Lynn and her mother, both gives me hope and makes me sad. As younger people are added to the voting population and fearful elders pass on, we may see the pendulum swing back to civil sanity. On the other hand, when some of us are “hardwired” for fear, how do we ever hope to have those conversations that are supposed to unite us. Doesn’t that preclude “educating for critical thinking”, which had been another hope I’ve had for more better demicracy.

  3. Wow. Glad I got to read this. I’ve known Ted and Sally since the Armadillo days and 33rd Street. Now living in a nearby small town. My equally ancient new neighbor told me the other day the tree rings in Vermont prove that global warming is an inconsequential brief warming trend. He hails from Vermont and told me that he’s “always known that Bernie Sanders is crazy.”
    Sally told me how proud she is of you, and now I realize I have a lot of writings to look forward to reading. Thank you , Ms. Nicolau, for caring so much and writing so well.

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