I’m not a political writer and this is far from being a political blog. I’m not even a political person. For example, in 2004 I voted for John Kerry not because I particularly liked his policies (whatever those were) so much as because he was a carbon-based life form who wasn’t named "Bush."
However, this past Wednesday I protested at a Trump rally in Berlin, MD.
When I told people I was planning on attending, I generally got two reactions:
- "That's really awesome!"
- "Don't you know that every human being who has ever protested at Trump rally has gotten punched in the face?"
Okay, granted, no one actually said #2 but it was implied.
I get why people don’t want to protest these events and don’t like to see their loved ones go. When one thinks of Trump rallies one generally envisions protestors being attacked, harassed and taken away in ambulances.
So pretty much exactly what Donald Trump wants you to picture.
When I learned via Facebook that Trump was going to be giving a speech at Stephen Decatur High School in Berlin, MD, I immediately knew that I had no choice but to go. Of course it wasn’t the most convenient of moves.
- The rally was apparently announced last minute (probably to discourage protestors).
- I had to take a whole afternoon off work with only 1 day of advanced notice.
- According to Google, Berlin MD is two and a half hours away (3 ¼ hours in reality).
But I had just as many reasons to go.
- Berlin, MD is considerably more rural than most places where I could protest. If something bad did go down there would be less of a chance that we would be trapped by buildings.
- One of my college friends was planning on going (because like hell was I going by myself).
- Next time I got an opportunity like this something else might be going on that week that would make it entirely impossible to attend.
Most important of all: Trump is the first presidential candidate in my lifetime (that I know of) who has been promoting himself using open racism. Of course we’ve got plenty of politicians with policies that tend to benefit white people, but Trump is a guy who has openly attacked God knows how many groups and people. And there is no way you can get around that. There is no way one can listen to his speeches and argue that he is not promoting hatred in our country.
And the really scary thing is that people are greedily lapping it up. My understanding is that over 18,000 tickets were sold for this event (but only 2,000 people were allowed in) leaving thousands of angry Trump supporters standing around on the sidewalks, VASTLY outnumbering protestors.
If Trump was only getting a tiny percentage of the votes that would be saying something very good about America. However, he is winning, showing that there are tons of people out there who are attracted to what he has to say.
Actively journeying to Berlin, MD and making a stand in person was well worth the .01% chance that I might get punched in the face.
(I should also point out that news stories will only talk about the handful of people who get beat up because that’s what’s interesting. They won’t report on the thousands who protest, have a grand ol’ time, drive home safely and spend the evening watching Once Upon a Time.)
Now I don't want to sound full of myself. I know that my attendance didn’t set the world on fire.
Me standing in a crowd of about 300 people holding my “Geeks for Peace” sign didn’t change any minds. Many of the supporters were just laughing at us and taking our picture like they were attending a freak show.
However, my attendance made the protest one person stronger and on an selfish note, it made me feel like I was actively fighting against something truly terrible that is happening in our country. Physically going to a place and protesting has an entirely different feel to it than sitting at home and posting pictures proving that Donald Trump is probably my cat's spirit animal.
Although he so totally is:
I should also point out that there was no point when I actually felt like I was in danger. There was plenty of shouting back and forth between sides, and I later heard that there were two arrests (although I don’t know if those were protestors or supporters) but actually being at the protest didn’t feel like I was taking that much of a risk. No one that I saw lost control. When the riot police shouted at us to step back we as a whole stepped back. When my friend and I were ready to leave, we rolled up our signs, left the protestors, walked back to my car, drove away and that was that.
But for better or worse this is our country and something really bad is happening to it and even if you don’t want to take the risk of attending a protest, I would try to find some way to express your feelings that this guy is a really bad choice for America.
And if you're on the fence and the only thing holding you back is the fear that you might be attacked at a rally (a fear Trump wants you to have) think of all the risks you're taking when you get into a car, eat fast food, or just go to a crowded concert.
Even if you’re just another body in a crowd, and you don’t change anyone’s mind, years from now you can still look people in the eye and say, “There was this greedy maniac who was pushing our country in the wrong direction, and I stepped up and helped push back."