Marching in Trump Country is a Much Different Experience
In New York, L.A., Seattle, Austin, D.C., London, Sydney, Berlin, London and even Nairobi – Saturday, January 21st was, indeed, a proud day for all of us. Global protests in major cities throughout the world proceeded peacefully and with very little opposition.
However, when you leave those large urban areas and venture out into the rural areas which actually put Donald Trump into office ― and you unfurl a banner of protest in the midst of his core constituents ― a far different experience awaits.
I participated in two silent marches last week. The first one was in an idyllic small town in Eastern Pennsylvania, brimming with quaint shops, antique stores, boutiques and many traditional touches of classic Americana. The second was right over the beautiful Delaware River in New York. It was a rather downtrodden-looking working class community where most of the homes were in need of repair and most of the men were in need of a shave.
Both lie squarely in the heart of Trump country.
The marches were silent because we expected hostility from the locals who were fanatically puffed up with feverish, gloating pride and the thrill of their victory. They now belong, they believe, to something great and grand and glorious. Their voices have finally been heard. A savior has at last been rendered unto them. The world is about to be set right. So, basically, a protest march against their hero, Donald Trump, is the last thing they wanted to see in their very own backyard.
Friday’s protest was a decent turnout for such a small town. There were probably about 100 of us slowly snaking our way through the two main streets of the community, silently carrying our polite signs with words like “Respect, Tolerance, Equality and Justice” written on them. There were no signs against Trump, himself.
I could feel the hot, glowering stares of the Trumpsters as soon as we hit the streets. They have been enjoying free, bullying reign in this community, for the most part, and they were not accustomed to seeing a visible Democratic presence in their testosterone-driven stronghold of hatred and bigotry.
Some crossed the street to confront us, to mock, to jeer, and to belittle our silent group of marchers. I heard the words, “libtards,” “dirty liberals,” and “idiots” being hurled in our direction from passing pick-up trucks in deep, angry, gutteral-sounding voices. One old man with a red baseball cap (why are they always wearing red baseball caps?) stood on the street conducting a shrieking political lecture, telling us that the best thing Obama ever did was to allow Trump to become president. His distorted political views may have been debatable. When he aimed his venom at a woman marching in front of me and called her a “nigger-loving, cock-sucking bitch,” however, there was no room for doubt.
We knew we were in hostile territory.
As we continued on silently through the heart of town, more angry voices emerged from the passing pickup trucks (why are they always pick-up trucks?) that drove along the main street.
The most common jeer, by far, were simply the words “TRUMP, TRUMP, TRUMP,” accompanied by sturdy fists punctuating each syllable, angrily and incessantly pumped into the air.
At this point, I must hasten to add that there were also many passing cars and passengers who supported us, who gave us the thumbs up or peace sign as we passed, who beeped their car horns at us in a friendly way. Some shopkeepers came out into their doorways to thank us and wish us well. I got the sense that they were relieved to see us, having suffered silently under the taunting yoke of their neighbors’ arrogance for so long. Unfortunately, it is the swaggering jeers and nauseating, belligerent hoots and hollers from the crowd that have been seared into my brain.
On the day of the Women’s March in D.C., I found myself in a community that was somewhat larger than the one I participated in on Friday. There were probably about 500 of us stretching about a half mile down the main streets of the town. I estimate we took up about 15 city blocks.
It was, for all intents and purposes, a play-by-play repeat of the previous day. Yes, there were many who were very happy to see us and who lent us their support, but unfortunately, it was also an upfront close encounter with angry old men, ferocious teens and, even jeering school-aged children.
A man in front of me who had draped himself in a rainbow flag to indicate solidarity with all his fellow marchers was verbally shouted at from a passing truck. I will never forget the angry contempt and utter disgust in their voices as they jeered and him and loudly called out “FAGGOT!!!!” as they drove by. He turned to me, shaken, his face absolutely white. “That’s the first time in my life I’ve ever been called that before,” he said to me. He didn’t happen to be a gay man, but a loathsome insult to him was an insult to all of us.
They told us that we were idiots and why couldn’t we behave like “real” Americans.
The ever-popular “lib-tard” was, once again, flung at us.
Teenage girls hung themselves outside their pickup truck windows and shrilly heckled us: “LOOK AT THE CRY BABIES!! WAAAA, WAAA, WE WON, YOU LOST, YOU LITTLE BABIES!”
School-aged children, no more than 8 or 9 years old, perched atop some town monuments playfully jeered at us while their parents looked on proudly: “VOTE FOR TRUMP, VOTE FOR TRUMP!!” they screamed at us. (Somebody needs to tell them that the election is over.)
Furious old men stood on the opposite sidewalks with smoldering red faces, shooting unmistakable glaring looks, like hate-filled daggers of rage at us.
Drivers deliberately pounded down hard on the pedals of their pickups, revving them up at full steam so that billowing black smoke from their engines covered the marchers.
And, always, always, the chant, the invective, the accursed cries of “DON - ALD TRUMP, DON - ALD TRUMP, DON - ALD TRUMP, DON -ALD TRUMP!!!!” over and over and over, screeched out at us in deep, gutteral, blood-curdling whoops and howls. How can one word, one name, sound so menacing?
A very large police presence lined the route, protecting us from their unmistakable hatred.
These are the small, rural counties and communities throughout America which handed Trump the presidency. You can talk about the thrill and the exhilarating experience of marching among hundreds of thousands of like-minded people and I’m right there with you, elated to see that happening.
But, we don’t know what we are up against until we leave those grand urban enclaves and venture out into the back highways, the out of the way streets and wide open spaces of the thousands of small towns and villages that make up America.
Here is where the problems we now encounter were conceived and gestated. Here is where the Trump presidency was born. Here is where our presence is also urgently needed.
I now strongly believe that we must continue to make ourselves highly visible in these outlying areas, perhaps even more urgently than in the big cities.
We must come face to face with those who have been living unfettered in their stewing cauldrons of insolence, swagger, and contempt.
We must come out of hiding from their blood-curdling bluster and bullying. We must show ourselves to them and let them know that we are not cowed by their loud, yet vapid, boasts and swaggering.
So, thank you, Chicago. Thank you, Paris. Thank you, Portland. Thank you, Houston. I love you all and I stand with you in complete solidarity.
But, it is time to face the angry taunts and master race jeers of the mobs who have taken over this country and to take this fight into the heartland of America where the problem lies and foments and reproduces, hardly ever confronted, going largely unchallenged.
A populist grassroots movement must be resisted where the populace actually lives and where the roots have taken hold and are flourishing like noxious weeds. I say we take our numbers straight into the backstreets where this lunacy and fanaticism has found its welcoming home.
My marching muscles have been warmed up. I am livid with rage and raring to get out there again and face those bellicose bullies with more strength of numbers than ever before.
I hope to see you all next time in Podunk, U.S.A.!