“This is a royal example of the shit that is driving me wild, of the horrible predatory rot that pervades the whole system. Once you become conscious of it, actually formulate it in your mind, then all manner of once-innocent and natural-seeming things begin falling into a pattern of imperialist savagery.” – Hunter S. Thompson
My plan was not a dry retelling of the rally but one of substance, so I was content with leaving the other newsies to rot in their bubble of safety. I had questions that needed answers. Who were these people? Why had they come here? The MC took the stage and a hush fell across the crowd like a silent command. All attention was riveted forward and I could ask no questions.
“It is an honor to be among so many deplorables this evening!” The crowd roars. “Who thinks Trump won that debate last night?” Even louder cheers now, as if the decibel level could get raised high enough to retroactively change the past. The first speaker appears to be a black preacher, someone that’s been paid to stand up and soothe the racial worries of a crowd so out of touch with black folks they believe him to represent the majority.
His sermon is a weird one, an inane screed on the dangers of Hillary trying to divide the nation with her racially motivated campaign, assuring the assembled they were not deplorable for thinking Eric Garner deserved to die. He shrilly cries that “nobody is irredeemable,” that the overwhelmingly white audience is under attack, and how vile it was someone would write off an entire section of the population. This is applauded by the same people who support the death penalty for minors and would have shot Trayvon Martin for being out past sun-down. The hypocrisy was so foul and thick I had trouble breathing clean air. He mentions how God, the supposed creator of the planets and multiple dimensions has personally ordained Donald Trump to be president. He closes with a literal prayer for the continued existence of the free market system and I pause to make sure I’m still on planet Earth.
Next Commissioner Wayne Justice gets up on stage and has everybody recite the pledge of allegiance to a flag that looks like it came from Walmart. He’s followed by the local sheriff’s daughter coming up to sing the national anthem. I take a knee to jot down notes, unintentionally drawing attention.
“Kick racists out of racism?” I look up to see a visibly angry, bespectacled and goofy-looking man speaking to me with shaking fists. He’s referring to an AntiFa sticker I have on my notebook. “Who are you with?” he demands to know, as if my presence has violated some sacred ground. His hair seems to be standing on its ends.
“Disinfo. Well, technically Fifth Column and Gods & Radicals as well.”
“Yeah? Who are they?”
“Yeah? Never heard of ’em.” He says this like it’s supposed to hurt me. Far be it from me to get into an intellectual jousting match with an unarmed man but I was now annoyed.
“That so? And who are you with buddy?”
“Excuse me?” His face flashes red with rage. “Oh so you’re the Trump-hating press aren’t you?”
“Why do you say that?”
“Oh, I can tell.” A sticker calling out racists has decreed me in this man’s mind as an enemy of his tribe. Think deeply on that.
Free from the little goofball I can focus on the speaker, but it’s not really anything impressive. A woman follows, talks about how “every person has the god given right to protect themselves from harm” yet never mentions Philando Castile, a black man with a concealed carry licence gunned down by police officers at a traffic stop.
When she talks about how the police “put on that uniform to protect us” you begin to wonder just who they think they’re being protected from. The next speaker, a former NYPD cop decries a “small group of racists” that “believes it’s okay to threaten law enforcement officers” a statement so out of touch with the rest of the world it might as well have been written in hieroglyphics.
But these people eat it up with a goddamn spoon.
They cheer here, maddeningly so, as if they’ve won the lottery. Below the roar I’m amazed that these people actually believe this shit, that with hours of footage they really do find it easier to believe a small conspiracy of black people are out to “threaten” cops by demanding they stop killing them than an actual problem with police violence existing. These creatures exist in a dimension next to ours but certainly no form of reality the average American knows.
From the talks of standing to the pledge (via Colin Kaepernick), to the shirts lampooning Black Lives Matter, to continued appeals for police strength against an unmentioned enemy by almost an entirely white crowd the subject of race, though not mentioned directly, seemed to soak the entire event.
When not rattling on in crypto-racist lingo the speakers talking about strength, greatness, even referring to Trump’s “incredible will and power.” The atmosphere around us appears to grow dense and heavy. I get a very weird sensation on my left side, an atavistic energy turning up in the room and into the people. Suddenly a pudgy middle-aged Dad type approaches King Don about his sign. He’s talking but I can’t hear him over the words coming out of the speakers. “Mr. Trump doesn’t get bogged down in red tape. He produces results. A builder and a problem solver. Trump is a re-uniter, he will restore faith in the American spirit!”
The speech has to stop because a medic is needed. By this time the official count is up to three old people who have either withered away due to heat exhaustion or had become possessed by the American spirit past their limits. This man next to Don has me worried, his jawline appearing extremely tense. Finally I can make out what the man is saying.
“What’s that sign mean? Tell me.”
Don doesn’t skip a beat. “Love trumps hate, dude. I’m for everybody.”
“Yeah, well I think you’re full of shit. Get the fuck out of here.”
I move to take a picture of the would-be brown shirt to at least capture the weird way he’s grinding his teeth but he spots me and shrinks. He looks afraid, naked, his bravado and attitude clearly something he’d never dare attempt at home or at work. He hides behind his sign as another medic is called to rescue yet another overheated old person.
Don shrugs his shoulders. “Why’s everybody got to agree with everybody else?”
We move to a new location and I continue taking notes. A weird rabid energy seems to have taken hold, chants of “LOCK HER UP” filling the space with what I can only describe as red hate. Of course there was a lot to hate, a lot to despise, and lord knows I’d vehemently done it myself. But here in so many voices dripping with malevolence it became supremely unsettling.
The Goofball and Angry Dad have been talking to one another. They are now trying to block my cell phone with Trump signs so I can’t take pictures but I am hilariously taller than them. Every time I focus right on them they try to hide. It’s weird, really weird. I can feel them drilling holes into my back with their eyes and long tentacles of hatred weaving their way in. I find myself wanting to bash their faces in and festoon the entire hanger with their guts as chants of “USA! USA! USA!” echo off walls and make my ears want to bleed.