“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.” ~Harry S. Truman
Ron and I attended the Trump Rally yesterday. We went with an open mind, excited to be a part of history because the last president to have a rally in Johnson City, TN was Gerald Ford in 1976. Friends warned us to be vigilant and very careful because we would be surrounded by very dangerous people in a rabid crowd.
Now, I can understand the fear if we were planning on diving with sharks or jumping into a lion’s cage…but we are talking about fellow citizens…human beings who share the same wants and needs. Surely, we can find common ground. We weren’t going as protesters, only as silent observers of human nature. As recent evacuees from Nicaragua, we were curious to see how democracy worked…or didn’t work in the states.
One of my biggest dilemmas was what to wear. I couldn’t don a MAGA ensemble…that seemed hypocritical. I was the opposition. I wanted to go incognito…diversified in my thoughts. So, I dressed as a New Zealand Kiwi. It seemed fitting because we were in New Zealand during the 2016 election.
We weren’t sure what time to arrive. The doors opened at 4pm, but in talking with some of my friends who planned to attend, they recommended lining up early in the morning. We showed up at 10 am and estimated that there were about 500 people lined up ahead of us. I knew there would be a huge turnout because we live in a very red state. Better to be prepared with water, lunch, and a blanket to survive the brutally hot day.
My plans were to write hourly updates on Facebook with our impressions throughout the day. My first update taught me a lesson. If I am to be a casual open-mined observer, I cannot be offensive. Everyone knows how I feel, but if I resort to name calling then I am as bad as others. I apologized to my friends whom I offended, restricted them on Facebook until my updates were over ( if I had a lapse of civility again! ) and moved on. Believe me, it wasn’t easy but, from now on, I will refer to him as POTUS.
We talked and joked with our line neighbors. Surface conversations, as I call them. They never expressed their political opinions to us, nor did we divulge that we weren’t Republicans. My biggest concern at the time was the lack of portapotties! Our line neighbors to the left of us sympathized with me, although they were all men. They even offered to have a friend drive by and take me to a gas station so we wouldn’t lose our parking space when I had the urge to go.
It was a carnival-like atmosphere. The line moved sporadically and slowly throughout the day and inched closer to Freedom Hall. Just when we were settled into a routine of playing cards, watching games of corn-hole, or taking turns seeking shade under a tree, the line would move again disrupting our entertainment.
No one suspected that we were the opposition. A guy walked passed us with a Democrat sniffing dog, or so he said. To be on the safe side and not expose our cover, I was ready to distract the dog with my ham sandwich.
Another guy selling bibles lamented that he couldn’t sell any bibles because all the Trump supporters had them. One curious thing we noticed was that the street vendors touting their wares up and down the lines were people of color…the only people of color that I could see at the rally. It was not a diversified crowd.
It was difficult to be nonjudgmental. I suspect it is human nature to judge, however, I was determined not to generalize or offend anyone in any way. I had my lapses…don’t we all? This one in particular. This is a horrible generalization I made. There are so many things wrong with my statement. Once again, I apologized for my indiscretion. Unfortunately, it was too late because I didn’t put all my Trump supporting friends on my restricted list on Facebook and I lost several after this statement.
The point I am trying to make in Part One of my post is that I am human. I have lapses in judgment, I say offensive things occasionally, and I regret my inability to hold my tongue, instead lashing out in anger, while mocking those who have different opinions and a different viewpoint in life. There is a fine line of balance I tread in these times of political division…words do matter! Don’t misunderstand me…I am not saying to be silent. Instead choose words carefully…think before reacting…understand the fears we all experience at times in our lives…and be respectful regardless of different political viewpoints. It is hard! I know! But, if we are to begin to understand others, we must take an introspective and realistic look within ourselves first.
Generally speaking, the people around us in line all day were helpful, friendly, and respectful. One man offered me his umbrella when the sun overwhelmed me. A woman had pizza delivered and offered everyone in line near her some pizza. We didn’t discuss politics, but I wonder what they would have said if I offered my opinions respectfully.
If there is one thing I have learned about today, it is that without political division instigated by the media and POTUS working people into a hateful frenzy, I believe we would be kinder and gentler with one another.
Those were my thoughts and feelings throughout the day…until we entered Freedom Hall. Then, I felt like I entered the twilight zone of a mob raging with anger and hatred. What happened to these kind and helpful people? Had I become the enemy?
…my thoughts in Part Two