I got wind of a pro-Trump rally happening in front of Trump Tower on Sunday afternoon. I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Coming from central Pennsylvania and working years in retail, I know pro-Trump types very well and am not afraid of them. Years ago, I infiltrated a Sarah Palin rally by going undercover as a superfan, and wondered if the ruse would work a second time. I decided to speak in a North London dialect and see if the “clueless tourist on holiday” gambit would work. It did! Everyone was very sweet to me and explained their views in great detail so I would “get it” – which is what I wanted.
The biggest difference I noticed at this rally was the absence of a police presence. Granted, the gathering was only 150 people tops, but even small rallies I’ve attended in the past have been policed by guys in riot gear ready to pounce. This one was policed by mostly white cops, and one or two Secret Service agents.
Aside from a couple of belligerent loudmouths, most of the people I encountered were very kind, grandparent-y, salt-of-the-earth types. The sort of people I grew up around. As I wound my way around, dressed kind of like Henry Fonda from On Golden Pond and nattering away about “being on holiday” and working as a nanny, I learned a great deal.
I mostly asked why attendees were supporting Trump. I was expecting a lot of hateful rhetoric, and got it in spades, but most of it was veiled with euphemism and came vomiting out of the mouths of sweet old ladies.
For instance, I asked one man about immigration, telling him: “Immigration is something I’m interested in, because I’d love to live in America!”
He replied, “It’s okay for English people like you to move here, you don’t try to kill us, you’re not terrorists.”
I joked and said “I dunno! The Irish might have a different answer to that one!” Another lady said “I don’t mind if YOU stay here illegally! You’re not a terrorist.” I just made cat claws and chuckled, “you never know!”
So just to let you know, it’s okay for white English ladies to emigrate here.
Another thing I found fascinating was the diversity of nationalities represented. There were many Asians present; mostly immigrants from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. One lady yelled at me for innocently asking if she was from China, when she was in fact from Hong Kong. She then went on an impassioned rant about how people were flooding over here and expecting free rides instead of working hard and doing things the right way. There were maybe five African-Americans, some immigrants of African descent who I didn’t get to talk to, about three Pakistanis, and some Hispanics. The white Trump supporters were very quick to seize on them as evidence that they weren’t racist.
I learned a lot about terrorist bogeymen. One man, decked out in a denim vest covered in patches, told me in all seriousness that all Iranians were evil people who “just want to rape women and chop off the hands of their enemies,” etc.
(Considering how many friends from the Middle East I have, I’m surprised I’m still intact. Hell, one of my male Iranian friends crashed at my house for a week when he was learning how to make ice cream!) I just listened to this angry man with doe-eyed wonder, and politely thanked him for his military service.
One man wore a pin that puzzled me: it said “I Got Your 6.” I was afraid it was a KKK code thing like ‘FOURTEEN!” but he explained that it meant “I got your back.” It was the language of Police Lives Matter. I listened to him talk for a long time and he gave me a pin for being so polite. I don’t know what to do with it. Maybe I’ll wear it if I infiltrate another rally.
There were a lot of “Jews for Trump” signs, and people harping on about Trump’s ‘pro-Israel’ stance (which I found hilarious). One had an Obama mask covered in garbage and wore a sandwich board covered with Star Wars references.
The rally was mostly peaceful, but at one point a ruckus flared up. Some older lady was calling for a cop because someone was at the speech wearing a bandanna over his face and she was worried that “some liberal had infiltrated the speech and was gonna cause trouble.” I said to the lady “don’t worry, he’s not causing trouble, I just talked to him!” She was upset and said “You don’t know that. You just don’t know. He could start trouble with us. OFFICER!”
A police officer came over and yanked the man’s bandanna off his face and said “you can’t wear that mask to a protest. You can’t cover your face.” Meanwhile someone breakdanced past in a balaclava, clutching a sign that read “JESUS IS THE SOLUTION.” All of this taking place in front of an Armani store. I shit you not. God, New York is a weird place.
As much as it pained me to listen to this rhetoric, I am glad I took the time to talk with people and relate to them on a level most people aren’t willing to do anymore. I understand patience is in short supply on both sides. My feelings are the same as that of the lady I met in the rally – I don’t want to hurt anyone, I don’t want to call people names. I’m uncomfortable with people poking fun of Trump’s small hands – because I have small hands myself. Those are things he can’t help. However, he is a madman, and he’s dangerous, and these people are blind to that. They want a leader to “get things done.” What frightens me is that they’re willing to have that done at all costs, including at the cost of their constitutional rights, because it’s “other people” who are causing the trouble.
These are very frightened, sad, angry people who swallow the news without question, or question to the point of paranoia. They’ve been seduced by that darkness, because it gives them a sense of importance. The energy surrounding this crowd felt eerily familiar, very similar to that of the secluded, isolated part of central PA where I grew up. Suspicion, paranoia, fear, the need for a “leader with balls” instead of one with emotions and empathy. A Daddy. A Big Brother, who makes us safe from the bad men who want to steal America’s freedoms by shaking his dick and pounding his chest.
I was truly amazed by one woman who showed up in a hijab and hoodie that read: “IT’S SO HARD TO SAY GOODBYE” with Obama’s face emblazoned on it, selling a cart full of Obama and Trump merch. She took everyone’s goddamn money, not giving two fucks where it came from. She symbolized the strangeness of the situation for me; this self-made, selfish, Ayn Rand heroine. A capitalist, an opportunist – out to get everyone’s money. The New York Hustle triumphing over all, just outside Armani and Louis Vuitton and Bergdorf Goodman.
“$5, get your Make America Great Again hats right here. Or an Obama family bag. Whatever.’