Men on the Corner

The image of construction workers hooting and wolf-whistling at women is an old stereotype, but I grew up around men who worked construction and it doesn’t fit my experience. My father and my uncles and my cousins were ironworkers and welders and electricians. They didn’t make crass comments about women. Daddy was outraged when men called women names or referred to them as sex objects. He was quick to compliment a pretty girl, but he was quicker to praise a woman’s good humor and intelligence. He was furious when George H.W. Bush condescended to Geraldine Ferraro throughout the 1984 Vice Presidential debates. And he’d have been appalled to hear Trump’s remarks to Billy Bush from 10 years ago.

Any idiot can wear a hard hat. It takes a real man to actually build something of value.
Any idiot can wear a hard hat. It takes a real man to actually build something of value.

(Side note: What is it about Billy Bush that seems to bring out the worst in people? Neither Ryan Lochte nor Donald Trump seemed able to behave themselves when faced with a microphone and a smarmy Bush boy. Maybe we should press B-Bush into service as some sort of litmus test for assholes. Just a thought.)

Daddy would have been disgusted by Trump’s remarks, but he would not have been surprised. I wasn’t surprised. In college, I knew boys who believed they could do whatever they wanted without asking permission or seeking consent. They were the boys from wealthy families, the ones who never got their hands dirty, the ones who called home for money rather than working a part time job, the ones destined for a corner office. They were the sort of boys who yelled a lot and hovered menacingly. They ran in packs with like-minded loudmouths who had little to say. You know the type.

After college I took a job at a small newspaper in the Mississippi Delta. The publisher was a much older man who called me into his office to tell me about his open marriage. Like Trump, he was a kisser and you had to be quick to make sure your cheek was the target. More than once he told me I should remember who signed my paycheck. So, in my experience, it was not the man at the corner construction site who posed a threat. I feared the man in the corner office.

A few months ago, Daddy said to me he was worried “people like him” would hand the presidency to Trump. He meant blue collar workers without a college education, but no man like my father could ever hand the presidency to Trump. Daddy read more books than anyone I’ve ever known. He valued intelligence and self-sufficiency and hard work. He believed building things was more important than tearing things down. He didn’t yell or bluster or shake his fists to make a point. He spoke softly, but with conviction. He thought the women in his life — his wife of fifty years and his two daughters — were the best thing that ever happened to him. He believed we were smart and talented and could do anything we wanted to do. He was so proud of us. It’s one of the last things he told me before he died.

So Daddy needn’t have worried about men like him handing the presidency to Trump. No man with as much good sense or integrity as my father could ever vote for a small man like Trump. And I know there are plenty of men and women on construction sites or in factories or in any number of blue collar jobs who have too much self-respect and dignity to cast a vote for a silly, self-absorbed man-child like Trump. They may not have the loudest voices, but we will hear them come election day.

And if there is an afterlife, I hope Daddy is sitting somewhere surrounded by good books, working a crossword puzzle, answering all the Jeopardy questions, drinking a Yuengling beer, eating a very good steak, and laughing as the asshole from the corner office self destructs.

Tiffany Quay Tyson
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Tiffany Quay Tyson