Sneering at the yokels in the age of Trump

Maybe even more dramatically, there is the wonderful episode of “Parts Unknown” where the late, lamented Anthony Bourdain decided to leave the comfort of his upper-class New York domicile to visit the heart of Trump country. It’s a remarkable piece of television, in part because Bourdain had a remarkable gift for entering the world of the places he visited—with food being the focal point. Mainly, Bourdain understood that people love their places, caring both for them and for the people who live there. As with a spouse: you don’t love it because it’s perfect, you love it because it’s yours.

Unlike Stein and Tanenhaus who have contempt for places that don’t keep up with the times, Bourdain understands that “the times” have not been friendly to some people. As one interviewee in the show says: “The traditions in this place, the things that we value—whether that be family, interpersonal communication, not having cellphone technology to distract us—those type of things sort of butt up against America’s idea of progress, and it’s why we’ve always been looked at as being backwards.”

Bourdain allowed his hatred of Trump to be an invitation for his understanding rather than his scorn, which he accomplished by taking on the virtues of a guest. “Here, in the heart of every belief system I’ve mocked or fought against, I was welcomed with open arms by everybody,” he said. He came to understand those who have suffered the costs of exploitation while people on the coasts enjoy the benefits. Instead of offering advice, he listened and broke bread with the locals, admiring and perhaps even envying their sincere prayers to the God he doesn’t believe in.

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