On May 5th, I went to the Trump rally in Spokane, Washington.
My goal was to try and understand Trump’s crazed success. I planned on listening, observing, taking pictures and hopefully interview a few supporters and protesters.
As I reached the rally a car drove by and a man screamed out the window “fuck Muslims”. While crossing the street to the convention center, a man yelled “go back to Mexico!” at some protesters (who responded, “we’re Americans!”). I hadn’t yet considered all the anger, hate, and violence I’d seen on TV could actually manifest in downtown Spokane–but here it was with the arrival of Trump.
Then the Trump supporters started to pour out of the rally. I stood back and studied their faces. My God, I thought–this must be the same look you would have seen on Hitler’s early supporters as they marched out of a rally. The look of white mobs during lynchings in the south. The look of ignorance with prejudice taking over. The look when the human consciousness deliberately shuts out truth, compassion and reason. It’s a sort of an impossibly closed, cold and smug stare which reeks of self-pride. Pretty terrifying when you see it on hundreds and hundreds of faces.
Shockingly, the Trump crowd started intensely chanting “build a wall” at the peaceful protesters: I was witnessing intolerance and hate in my own backyard. What the fuck is going on in America, I asked myself??
I decided to find out what other people thought. I asked two shocked looking college age kids if they went to the rally. “Yes we did” said Kaily. “What did you think”, I asked. “It was scary” she said. “Why did you go, if you don’t support Trump”?
“To see humanity going down the drain” she answered.
It only seemed right to also talk to a Trump supporter. I spotted a mother-daughter in matching Trump shirts. I swallowed my judgment and walked over. I introduced myself as an independent journalist but they were cautious to talk. I asked if they enjoyed the rally. The mom said “ya it was fun!”. I asked her daughter what she thought about all the protestors and she said “the protesters don’t bother me at all”.
Here were two opposite realities of the exact same experience. People listening to the same words with different ears; seeing the same actions with different eyes. I am not sure I have any answer how this happens, as it seemed to me the college students were shocked while the mother/daughter were complacently along for the ride. Totally oblivious to the social turmoil all around them.
We need to ask what is it about Trump’s ego maniac personality (Let’s be real here hes all ego) that pulls people in? What has Trump tapped into that none of the other 16 Republican candidates could? Trump isn’t just attracting the Obama-is-a-Muslim far right anymore. The people I saw coming out of this rally looked like our neighbors, local business owners, students and teachers.
We’ve all heard the rhetoric why they say they support him–Trump’s a businessman. He’s made a lot of money, is a hard negotiator that doesn’t take shit and is “really really really smart” (as Trump puts it). All this when the facts don’t tell the same story. Trump is actually a trust fund baby who filed for bankruptcy multiple times. A flip-flopper on almost every policy position like we’ve never seen before in modern politics. And an ass hole who’s made fun of handicapped people, called women dogs and Mexicans rapists.
The truth is Trump is a Demagogue plain and simple.
Demagogue: a person, especially an orator or political leader, who gains power by arousing people’s emotions and prejudices.
I think it’s that simple: Trump is an opportunist who figured out the power of feeding into people’s deep racial and cultural hatred. The Republicans previously unrevealed weak spot: Many modern republicans don’t care about actual policy or governance. They care about stopping the social and cultural transformations sweeping our nation. It really is a movement of authoritarianism: The deep desire for a strong leader to stop these unwelcome changes at all costs. A desire for a hammer and fist approach regardless of consequence. In other words deliberately choosing ignorance and hate over truth and justice in order to stop change.
Recently, President Obama said “In politics and life, Ignorance is not a virtue”. Obama is obviously calling Trump and his supporters out. Obama is trying to encourage people to question a movement built on fear, hate, simple-mindedness, false pride, a sense of entitlement, and obviously racism.
So how did such prejudices become so prevalent in America in 2016? It’s a little easier to understand than you might think.
The truth is the conservative movement has long been consciously manipulating emotionally-charged topics to keep its voters engaged. The Guns, God, welfare, and abortion–the republican national anthem. These emotionally charged issues intentionally drive focus away from the real problems like our income inequality, health care, education and creating real jobs while in turn riling up the voters and grabbing headlines. Let’s face it: conservative politics has lost relevance in the age of information. And in turn they became the mules of “The 1%”; easily being bought into servitude for blocking any progress that hurts the interests of the wealthy and powerful. The side effect though was the creation of an orange-haired monster who is manipulating these uninformed Americans in unprecedented ways.
This is what Trump obviously realized. He figured out he just needed to use buzzwords like “build a wall” and “band Muslims” to tap into republicans fears and prejudices. Gaining support while presenting almost zero policy positions. Totally taking advantage of the lack of policy education and critical thinking inside the republican party’s base. The chickens finally coming home to roost for taking the easy road of using fear and emotion as a political tool instead of truth, science, and facts. A sad, but overdue, wake-up call for the grand old party (which is now actually dead).
WHAT CAN WE DO TO STOP THE TRUMP?
First off, we have to be honest about WHY Trump is reaping such success? It seems to me Trump initially snagged the interest of the disillusioned right because he is not remotely part of the political system. Then once Trump caught interest he built his power by exploiting prejudice and fear.
Prejudices are powerful beliefs based on fear and misconception and never truth inspired. Once a belief is embedded, it is difficult to change. Few of us have an open enough mind to change through only study and deep contemplation. In order to let go of prejudices, we must be introduced to new experiences. Those of us who see Trump for what he is, we have an obligation to reach out to his supporters—to CHANGE their experiences and consequently alter their prejudices, fears, and frustrations.
What should we do? I think first we need to realize healthy thinking is built on a consciousness of our common struggle. True, we naturally break into different social groups based on race, geography, religion and economics. These differences diminish’ though when compared to the greater gorgeousness of humanity. The conscious among us know there is a spiritual fabric that entwines us all: A purpose to life whether we have yet discovered our or not. We feel the truth in our heart –a compassion for all people. This is what we must bring to the fight.
Once we can recognize our common humanity we can start to rebuild our nation by rebuilding our communities. We must engage our neighbors, use ourselves for service, and work together to inform and educate all people. The good news is I see this happening all over the place already! More needs to be done. I know I can do more.
It can be so simple. Invite your neighbor over for dinner. And yes I mean the one you would normally never want to because * fill in the blank _______________ . Can we start to make an effort to reach out of our social comfort zone? I truly believe a simple dinner can foster tremendous tolerance and growth. When face to face we must practice patience, kindness, being open-minded and service. We give space to another person’s experiences. When we begin to recognize our neighbor’s struggle as our own our prejudices fall away. And when OUR prejudice falls away our neighbor’s prejudice begins to lessen as well. Rich or poor, black or white, educated and uneducated all we want is to be heard. To be respected.
At the Trump rally in Spokane, one side was holding signs proclaiming “peace” while the other side was yelling “WAR”. As long as we stay divided, seeing people with different beliefs as the ‘others”, the Trumps of the world will always have a space to flourish. In these situations, one side is acting on fear, prejudice, and emotion while the other with ideals, truth, and frustration. Both sides feel unable to relate to the other. That is why the side more centered in truth must look for the higher road. The road of forgiveness and understanding. You can not fight fire with fire. You can not change ignorance with judgment.
Going forward, the way to heal our nation is to create a culture bound together by millions of loving relationships. I know many of you share this ideal but have you really considered what it actually looks like in practice? It requires realizing you can not love yourself more than you love your neighbor. One is a measure of the other. Sometimes I fear our generation will be accused of knowing so much and doing so little.
I now realize I should have asked the college kids and the mom and daughter to have a coffee. Or an ice cream. Just to have the 5 of us sit around a table and talk and try and listen. Those of us forward thinkers must bring people together, I believe this is where we start.
A world free of prejudice and fear is possible. It is within our grasp! How it becomes reality will be determined every day by how we reach out to our neighbors and lonely in our society. WE must act if we want change. Or we leave it for the next generation with the hope they are braver they us.