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Amber and Josh, A Potential Conversation

— October 8, 2016

Amber brings two coffees and sets one down in front of Josh, the green feathers of her rising-phoenix tattoo glinting in the sunlight. “It’s all about trust,” Josh continues. He has begun explaining why he and Amber will be voting for Hillary Clinton.

“So you started without me,” Amber says as she sits.

Amber and Josh have just moved into a remodeled two-story in Ann Arbor’s Old West Side, a neighborhood of professors and professionals just a ten-minute walk from the restaurants and coffee shops downtown, fifteen minutes from the University of Michigan campus. An assistant professor of Cultural Studies at the university, Amber says she appreciates the town’s laid-back vibe and racial diversity. Josh is a “creative” at Google, a specialist whose job is to detect innovations in popular culture and “transpose” them into marketing strategies. The two recently relocated to Michigan from the Bay area. Both confess to being passionate about their work. I am speaking to them because of the Hillary bumper sticker I noticed on their silver Audi when they were parking. They were enthusiastic about having coffee with me and sharing their thoughts on current events and the upcoming election.

“So I’m not happy with either candidate,” Amber begins. “I mean, Hillary certainly has her faults, she isn’t perfect, and I know that. But look at Trump.” Josh nods in agreement. I ask Amber to explain what she means about Clinton’s faults.

“So there’s a sense in which I think she may be too close to Wall Street. I mean, I get that.” Asked if she has in mind Clinton’s campaign contributions from major investment banks, Amber responds, “So, I haven’t dissected—I mean, clearly campaign financing is an issue. But that’s just politics. The reality is that you have to raise large sums of money to run a campaign.”

“That’s exactly right,” Josh says. “And look at Trump. All he has to do is open his mouth, and he gets all the publicity he wants.”

“But isn’t it negative publicity?” I ask.

“Not to his followers.”

“The deplorables,” Amber laughs. “I mean they’re all white males, right?”

Amber and Josh tell me they are expecting a baby in seven months but that they worry about bringing a child into this world. They share the baby’s name with me. “Drain if it’s a boy, and Van Buren if it’s a girl,” they say with pride. “But the future does look very problematic,” Amber says quietly. I ask what troubles her most about our prospects.

“Well, the economy is obviously a problem. We were big Bernie supporters until he dropped out.”

“He had a good, comprehensive program,” Josh asserts. “Free college tuition would have helped me, but kids now have to go hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt just to get a bachelor’s.”

“I worry about my students,” Amber agrees. “And I think breaking up the banks would have helped.” I ask whether “breaking up the banks” would have changed the role of finance in the American economy.

“I think so,” Amber says.

“Oh, definitely,” Josh concurs.

I ask what else concerns them about the future.

“So climate change is important to us,” Amber tells me. “The projections for rising seal levels are frightening. And major growing areas are already experiencing drought.”

“Greenland is melting fast,” Josh adds. What can be done to address climate change, I ask.

“It will take a major effort. I think the whole society will have to buy in,” says Amber. Does Hillary Clinton, or for that matter Donald Trump, have a plan for climate change?

“Trump just denies climate change,” Josh says.

“So, she says she is going to address it. She wants every home in America to be powered by renewable energy in ten years,” Amber says. I ask whether that sounds realistic.

“It’s a goal,” Amber says. “You have to have goals. It may sound drastic, but drastic action is called for.” What about the millions of dollars in support Clinton has received from the fossil fuel industry, I ask. Will she turn her back on the oil companies?

“I’m not aware of that. I’ll have to look into that,” says Amber, somewhat defeated.

“Again, it’s politics,” Josh assures me. “There will have to be compromises.”

At this point, Amber asks whether I am a Trump supporter. I tell her I am not. To persuade her, I express concern that Trump will involve the U.S. in a war with China, a nuclear power.

“That’s another reason Trump is…insane,” Josh says.

“And it’s another cause to worry about the future,” Amber adds. At this point, and at the risk of reanimating the couple’s suspicions that I have a “Make America Great Again” cap in my car, I ask whether they are aware of Clinton’s statements concerning American military dominance, her belligerence in relation to Russia, and her endorsement by the most right-wing elements in the military establishment. And I ask whether they knew that Bernie Sanders was a full supporter of America’s wars. Amber looks to the clock on the wall. They seem to be losing interest in the conversation.

“So I think it’s important to have a woman president,” Amber says. In spite of her policies, I ask.

“She will do some good,” Amber assures me. “And the alternative is a fascist.”

I ask them whether Trump is really the only alternative. “You mean Jill Stein?” Laughs Josh. I laugh with him. No, I do not mean Jill Stein. They look at me with puzzlement for a moment. I can see I have time for one last question, so I ask about Bernie Sanders’s claim to be a socialist and his talk of political revolution.

“So the word ‘socialism’ doesn’t bother us,” Amber says. “We’re outside the mainstream. And I think voting for Hillary will be a revolutionary act.”


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