For the sake of democracy
Letter to the Editor | Monday, April 4, 2016
When I decided to go to the Donald J. Trump Rally at the University of Central Florida on March 5, it wasn’t to learn about his policies. If you’ve been keeping up to date with the news, seen a debate on CNN, opened up a paper and saw the front page or have ears and are breathing, you have probably heard in great deal of what Trump’s supposed positions are on a number of issues. And, to be frank, as we have seen throughout his campaign so far, he is one to say many things and flip-flop time and time again, intensifying his positions and then seeming more amenable to change when it’s politically expedient.
I went to the rally that Saturday to understand his supporters. I wanted to know why these people believed he should be the president of this country. I wanted to wade through the hype and thought the only way I could get an honest answer to these questions was to go meet these people face-to-face.
What I found was a complexity, intricacy and a cross-section of discouragement, discontent, anxiety, fear and fomentation.
Inside the arena, you hear of a long winter of discontent. They are discouraged — upset they are losing the culture war. Disappointed that promises of repealing Obamacare, preventing gay marriage and stopping President Obama from, in their minds, ruining the nation, are broken time and time again.
And they are tired.
Tired of their jobs being taken by “Indians,” “Asians” and foreigners, as pre-Trump speakers regale the crowd with stories of good, hardworking Americas having their careers taken from them by outsiders. Tired that holding the values of their fathers now constitutes being called bigots and that they are now classified as prejudiced just because they believe in traditional marriage. To them, this nation is under siege, their very way of life is being threatened by foreign and domestic elements, and they are desperate for someone who has the backbone, power and freedom to secure their safety and way of life. Someone who is not an insider. Someone who will not let them down.
As time goes on, though, the heated rhetoric has a frenetic effect on the crowd.
I watch as a local organization supporting Trump reveals their own version of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, called the “Stolen Lives Quilt,” a quilted banner of those innocent victims who have been killed by illegal immigrants. When a mother takes a moment to regain composure during her speech where she discusses the gruesome murder of her son, the room explodes in uproarious anger, as the arena is slowly engulfed in chants of, “Build the wall! Build the wall! Build the wall!” It is deafening. It leaves you in awe.
And while he does not say, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” Donald Trump’s words hit at the heart of the prejudicial tendencies of his supporters. He’ll call Mexicans “rapists,” but he’ll argue that he means illegal aliens. Supporters will say that you are twisting his words and that he is talking about the criminals coming to this country illegally. Not Hispanics or Latinos as a whole race or ethnicity. But the message can be interpreted in a multitude of ways by any number of individuals.
It is the same “wink and nod” mentality that allows circumstances in which Trump can offer to pay the legal fees of his supporters while also saying “Don’t touch them!” as supporters push, shove, throw down and outright attack protestors as police rush to escort them out the venue in a timely manner.
As we witnessed the violence used against protesters, we viscerally gave an audible “Oh my God!” and booed to make known our discontent to this action. We were pointed out from the ground, briefly “Trump’d” and were escorted out of the event. I recorded my point of view as we were kicked out. It was a frightening sight to look back upon. Trump signs ripped from our hands by the crowd, expletives hurled our way and middle fingers lunged into our faces. In that moment, I was both thankful that I had that camera in my hands and the police escorting us from what could only be described as the rabidness of animals, ready to pounce.
If you are supporting Donald Trump, know that you are explicitly supporting someone who plays towards the base fears that plague our nation, and implicitly, you are supporting the strengthening, resurgence and acceptability of hate back into the public forum. This nation is at a critical point in our history. This election will define who we are and how far we have come since 1964. Donald J. Trump’s campaign is no longer a joke. Whether he holds his rhetoric as gospel or uses it to ensure votes, the distinction no longer matters. His words are poison regardless.
We are better than this. We are better than a demagogue that feeds on our fears and prejudices. And we must be active and fight back it. Not just for the sake of one election, but for the sake of a dozen elections to come. Not just for the sake of four years, but for the sake of 40 years more into the future. Not just for the sake of decency, but for the sake of democracy as we know it.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.