CULTURE & ARTS

Woman Reading A Book At A Trump Rally Should Inspire A Movement

Book-reading is a perfect tool for silent protest.

On Monday, presidential candidate Donald Trump gave a speech to a raucous crowd in Springfield, Illinois. As he ad-libbed his way through the kind of weirdly unfocused diatribe you might expect from your tipsy, politically minded uncle at Thanksgiving -- while a suspiciously racially diverse selection of attendees sat behind him -- something unusual happened in the upper right quadrant of his human backdrop: A young woman whipped out a book. 

And she kept on reading throughout much of Trump's speech. In fact, one of the Trump supporters sitting near the reading woman apparently grew so incensed that he tapped her on the shoulder to remonstrate with her, but after a spirited exchange, she returned to reading. 

Not just any book, either, but it seems to be Claudia Rankine's searing poetry collection Citizen, which delves into America's history of ongoing racial injustice. The distinctive cover couldn't be more visible to those watching Trump on video -- including Buzzfeed's Saeed Jones:

Jones tweeted out a Vine by Vic Berger IV that condensed the exchange into a snappy back-and-forth, but the full argument, as well as the woman's quietly disruptive behavior throughout the speech, is worth checking out. When she's not reading, she often simply holds the book up, so the cover remains visible. Without a rude sign or a single shout, she's made her message clear.

Let's go one step further, though: We all should be this woman refusing to put her book down at a Trump rally. Openly reading a book at an event is a highly underutilized form of protest. It can't be construed as actively disruptive, like a large sign or loud chanting, but it conveys disdain and lack of interest much more effectively than checking Twitter on your phone. This woman, for example, spent other parts of the rally staring at her phone and adjusting her hat, but it was when she opened a book that her lack of interest became obvious.

Smartphones are widely known to be distracting. The constant stream of social media notifications and cat videos that smartphones facilitate has been known to dilute people's attention even while they're watching a good movie or talking with a loved one; checking your phone can be an almost unconscious reflex.

Books, on the other hand, generally aren't. We don't hear about friends stacking their paperbacks on the dinner table so they'll actually talk to each other for a couple hours. We don't have trend pieces about relationships suffering because one partner compulsively has their nose in a book, even at parties and on date nights.

Reading a book is deliberate. Reading a book at a performance or speech implies that you already expected to be bored when you left the house. It's a very conscious choice to devote your attention to something other than the events around you. 

It's a great bonus that reading a print book allows you to promote great writers, as well as send a pointed message, as this woman did by holding up Citizen -- at a rally for a candidate who's made a torrent of comments deemed, at best, racially insensitive. 

This woman refusing to put down her book at a Trump rally has set an example we should all follow: Political protest through pointed book-reading. Let's make this happen.

 

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