I grew up in a single parent democratic household with many democratic family friends. I heard a lot about how Republicans were nothing but “warmongers” who would not help the poor. I was told that they wanted to spend all of our tax money on bombs not food for the poor. They sounded like horrible people to young Lisa, but I didn’t pay much attention to politics until Ronald Reagan was elected.
Reagan was elected when I was in 4th grade when I was a poor kid on reduced price lunch. I was upset that he beat Carter because I LOVED Carter. Our teacher made us watch the inauguration speech in class. One of my classmates, Kenny, yelled, “Tell ‘em Reagan!” I told him to be quiet and my teacher got mad at me. Later, when Reagan wanted to make ketchup count as a vegetable in the school lunch, I hated him more. That is one of the first times I felt like the lone liberal. The lone liberal actually sounds like a superhero who wears a mask and rides a horse, but it’s really not that exciting.
Last week, we found out that President Trump would be coming to our local high school. My liberal friends were posting about it on Facebook, saying that it would be a “circus” and they would stay away from it. I agreed. I had no desire to go. So, when my husband registered for tickets and said he wanted to go “see a sitting president” I was scared. At first, I really did not want to go. I got really anxious about it.
What we imagine is always worse than reality. I imagined being physically thrown out of the rally. I imagined being burned at the stake. I imagined being arrested. I imagined a lot of horrible things, and then I remembered that I don’t have Democrat tattooed on my forehead, or anywhere.
When the time came to drive over to the school, I was super stressed. So, the husband and I had a drink. I was not drunk, but my stomach stopped cramping and I felt like maybe I would not be lynched.
We had to park like a mile from the school. The speech was supposed to start at 6:30 and doors opened at 3:30. We got there at around 6:00 and heard that people had been in line since 8:00am. Why? Do they not have Twitter? You can “hear” him speak at any time.
So, we were at the end of a very long line. It was super-hot and I had worn jeans. I thought we would be in an overly airconditioned auditorium. I was wrong. We didn’t even make it in the building. We were put in an overflow area, a small grassy spot between the parking lot and the school, where a screen was set up. When my son and his girlfriend went to see President Obama a couple of years ago, they ended up in an overflow room with ac and seats. Not here. Even the overflow rooms were filled. We were standing outside and SWEATING.
As we were standing there, I noticed a lot of really smart people. They were the people who were selling things to a captive audience. There were hats, t-shirts, and even socks for sale. There were people selling water, lemonade, and iced tea. There was even someone selling beer across the street from the school. We bought a couple of bottled waters.
Honestly, everything was cool and almost normal, except for everyone being white. It was nothing like I expected. And then the president took the stage and the crowd became a little more energetic. Everyone applauded loudly. I used both hands to hold my bottled water to get out of clapping. There were chants of “build the wall” and “CNN sucks.” I kept quiet.
President Trump began his speech by talking about “the elite” who snub his followers. He said, “they are more elite than me? I have everything better than they have. And I became president. And it is driving them crazy.” The crowd cheered. I clung to my water.
Next President Trump, began talking about Senator Jim Jordan, the former OSU assistant wrestling coach who is a candidate for speaker of the house while being accused of covering up sexual abuse at OSU while he worked there. The president introduced him, “Jim Jordan—how great is he? Come up here, Jim.” There were chants of “speaker of the house.” Trump joked with him and asked him if he had wrestled at the high school where the speech was being held.
Jordan stepped up to the microphone and spoke to the crowd. The biggest cheers for Jordan came when he said: “embassy is going to Jerusalem.”
After Jordan stepped away from the microphone, President Trump took over again. He mentioned that “Maxine Waters is a seriously low IQ person.” Then, he started talking about our local Democratic candidate for Congress, Danny O’Connor. “A vote for Danny boy and the Democrats is a vote to let drugs and criminals into the country.” He followed up with, “they don’t care about the crime, they don’t care about the military, and they don’t care about your vets.”
I stood there and thought about how wrong he was. I have a lot of liberal friends. We care about our military and our vets. We frequently donate to veteran causes and send care packages to the military. I wish the president wouldn’t add to this already divisive political culture. I also wish he would get his facts straight and look at actual crime statistics.
But there was no such luck, Trump went on to say, “we want our country to be a sanctuary for law-abiding citizens, not illegal aliens.” The crowd chanted “build that wall.” I clung to my water bottle.
A woman who was standing next to me leaned over and said, “he really is a great speaker.” I had talked to her earlier before the speech started. She is a teacher with a husband and at least one teen son, who was there with a red Make America Great Again hat. I had also chatted with her husband about jury duty. Like me, he was horrified by the brutal crimes that occurred in our sleepy little county.
By this point, my husband and I were super sweaty and just wanted to go get ice cream. So, we left early. As we were walking to the school’s exit, a man and his tween son started walking with us. The man told us they had gotten there early and made it into the school, but that is was very hot inside, too. For some reason, we got on the subject of animals. This man and his family had rescued a few dogs from shelters. My husband talked to him about our rescues and we all really bonded over our love of animals. I also chatted a bit with his son about how much I loved American Chinese food. He said, “You mean the kind with peas and carrots in the fried rice.” I said, “Exactly! Totally not authentic.” We laughed.
As we got near the exit, we noticed an old couple leaning against a cement pole together. The man we were walking with asked them, “Are you OK? I can go get my van and take you to your car.” They thanked him but said someone was coming to get them. He made sure they were ok and then we kept walking together until we had to go our separate ways to our parking spots.
As we walked back to our car, which as I mentioned was a mile away or so, I was lost in my thoughts. I had gone there expecting to be frightened by Trump followers. I had actually worn closed shoes instead of flip-flops in case I needed to make a run for it. I didn’t like what the president had to say, and I never do, but I was pleasantly surprised by his followers. They don’t have horns. They aren’t stupid. They are animal lovers, teachers, and parents. They really are a lot more like us than they are different. Maybe we should go to each other’s rallies more often, not to protest, but just to listen.
I’m still a Democrat. I still want to help immigrants and poor people. I think of America as a melting pot, or a colorful tossed salad of cultures, not a walled compound. Really, we are all immigrants. Let’s be nice to each other and actually talk to each other as people. Most of us don’t have horns.