I once found myself in Paris, Texas, possibly the most curious juxtaposition of place names in America.
There was no public hospital in Paris. The local authorities would begrudgingly dispense a bus ticket to Dallas, two hours away, to anyone who couldn't afford private treatment. (Mentally ill people were just given a ticket to the next town; there wasn't even any pretence of caring whether they were treated).
I met an elderly woman who couldn't afford to heat her home on winter nights, which of course exacerbated her various ailments, all of which were going untreated because she lived in Paris.
She was quite open about her issues, as Americans tend to be, and at one point, I remarked that where I came from, she would at the very least be provided with basic medical care.
Well, she said, she'd heard about Canada. And that sort of system, she informed me, is socialism.
Taking government help
And there it was. The strange and uniquely American cognitive dissonance. I don't know if that old woman is still alive, but if she is, I expect she voted for Donald Trump.
Socialized medicine, with all its flaws, was designed precisely for people like that old woman; every other developed country in the world has such an arrangement.
But America's conservative establishment, particularly in rural and poor states, has done a superb job of convincing the people who most need government's help that asking for it is shameful — it's socialism and it's evil — and that they should effectively vote against their own economic self-interest.
People are told in their churches to vote Republican. I've heard pastors say it from the evangelical pulpit. Congregants are actually told that lower taxes and less government is the Christian way.
Americans are raised to believe that anything is possible in America if you are pure of heart and willing to work hard, which is nonsense, and that anyone can become president, which is even more foolish, and that free markets always make the right decision, which is nuts.
They are told that rugged individualism is the American way, which it isn't, and that government is never the solution, which it sometimes most definitely is.
Eventually, these national myths cross over into outright delusion; large segments of the populace, people who are dependent on all manner of government programs, come to believe they are not, and freely vote for wealthy politicians who make no secret of their intention to defund or dismantle those programs in the name of Americanism, and Jesus Christ our Lord (see: Planned Parenthood).
Anyone who's ever attended a Tea Party rally has seen that phenomenon in operation. People on Medicaid-supplied wheelchairs, living on social security disability or supplementing their income with food stamps, demanding radical cuts to government.
A woman at one such rally informed me that I might not realize it, but Social Security is not a government program.
Which brings us to Donald Trump. In states such as Oklahoma and Arkansas and Louisiana, where working-class people overwhelmingly bought the idea that a Manhattan billionaire would champion them, those people are now slowly, groggily realizing that he surrounded himself with other billionaires, and is intent on cutting all sorts of government programs they like to pretend they don't depend on, but do.
The big shock must have been Trump's willingness to throw 24 million people off Medicaid, and drastically reduce coverage for millions of others, breaking his promise to do neither of those things, in order to win passage of a bill to replace Obamacare.
Not that Trump voters want to keep Obamacare. They don't. They hate Obamacare. But many of them have come to depend on the Affordable Care Act, and would rather it not be changed (The ACA is Obamacare, of course, but in the cognitive dissonance of Trump Nation, that's beside the point).
Luckily for them, Trump's replacement bill was shut down by hardline conservative Republicans, who didn't think it went far enough in cutting benefits to the poor. But that doesn't mean their champion won't keep looking for ways to cut social spending so he can Make America Great Again.
This past week, the Washington Post went to Oklahoma, which overwhelmingly supported Trump, to chronicle the list of programs Trump would cut in the rural city of Durant: the Boys and Girls Club, the county seniors centre, the Farm Service Centre, programs that coordinate volunteers to do things like drive veterans to VA hospitals, etc.
Are people concerned? Well, yes. At least those of them who actually understand those programs are government-funded. But for now at least, Trump remains their champion.
As 79-year-old Clyde Glenn told the Post, the money is needed for a strong military: "If North Korea shoots a missile and it hits the United States and knocks out our power grid, then you'll be saying: 'How come nothing works no more?' "
The New York Times, meanwhile, headed to Trumbull County, Ohio, to examine what Trump's proposed cuts will mean there.
Trump wants to cut the Housing and Urban Development budget, along with programs like the Appalachian Regional Commission, AmeriCorps, the Legal Services Corporation and the Interagency Council on Homelessness, all of which benefit lower income Ohioans.
Duty to country
The newspaper visited Tammy and Joseph Pavlic, who live on a shoestring, and relied on government money to mend their crumbling home.
Both still support Trump, though. As Joseph Pavlic bravely put it, if the money is needed for the military, so be it:
"Keeping the country safe compared to keeping my bathroom safe isn't even a comparison."
That, of course, is fine to say in the abstract, while Trump's proposed cuts are still being negotiated with Congress, and haven't yet begun to bite.
But they will, presumably. And the desire of working class conservative Americans to teach the damned liberals a lesson will collide with their grocery list and ability to pay the mortgage or rent, while Trump's planned tax cuts make America's affluent even more affluent.
It'll be interesting to watch how Republicans sell it all. As proud citizens doing their part for America, most likely. And for Jesus.