The worse the country gets, the better I dress.
I grew up in a series of working-class communities from Massachusetts to Missouri, places not carefully chosen by my parents, who moved wherever and whenever my father's job required. The towns were pretty much all the same, although the availability of fresh fish varied greatly from place to place.
The style was pretty much the same, too. Men wore work clothes — jeans, flannel shirts and company provided jackets with the name of the beer they were delivering printed on the back. If you wore a tie to work, you were a boss or some kind of middle level manager who made less money than the guys in the auto plant made. Cops and gas station attendants wore uniforms. There was no such thing as "hunting clothes." You hunted in the same jeans and flannel shirt you wore to rake leaves
It was comfortable, and it was comforting. We were the muscles of America, the backbone of our unions and our churches. We were as defiantly plain as the Amish. Men, we knew, didn't like to "dress up."
This morning, I went to work in highly polished wingtips, purple and blue argyle socks, gray flannel trousers, a blue shirt with white collar and cuffs, a lavender tie with subtle, dark purple polka dots, a gray herringbone tweed jacket and, worst of all, round gold cuff links with a dark blue stone set in the middle.
In short, I did not look like I was about to push the old 18-wheeler across Nebraska with a load of calves. I also didn't look like I was going to replace a transmission, or spend my day pouring concrete.
But those are my people, and I am still more comfortable in a bar full of those folks than I am in a conference space with a bunch of college graduates who won't stop saying "optimize" and "at the end of the day."
I'm not any kind of boss, either. I'm a newspaper reporter and columnist, making less money than the least skilled of plumbers. Not one person in the building where I work has to take orders from me, though at last count, there were six people who could tell me what to do.
To tell you the truth, I think I'm unconsciously creating distance between myself and at least some of my own people. There was a time when an old white man like myself, dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt, gave off a thick aroma of solidity, sometimes mingled with the smells of diesel fuel, cigarettes and the lunchtime bologna sandwich. If you wanted to know how the whole factory ran, you asked that guy.
Now if you ask that guy, you get a 20-minute screed about how Democrats and Jews shipped all the jobs overseas, and there's a transgender guy over in shipping and receiving, and the morning paper is lying, and black people all get $75,000 a year in welfare, and Michelle Obama is really a man and there's a secret plan to burn all the churches and take all your guns.
That guy thinks he's been betrayed — and he has been, all his life — so he went out and joined the side of the rich people who have betrayed him all his life. He can't reach his real enemies, so he punches the guy standing next to him.
I don't dress like the bosses on my job. I dress better than the bosses do. I'm not on their side. And I don't dress like the people among whom I was raised, because a lot of them aren't my people anymore.
I'm alone, dressing for the disaster.
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, go to www.creators.com. Dion's latest book, "The Land of Trumpin'" is a collection of his Pulitzer Prize-nominated columns from before, during and after the latest presidential election. It is available in paperback from Amazon.com and for Kindle, Nook and GooglePLay.