I wasn’t aware that Donald Trump was deciding to come to Indiana until the night before the rally. I had some free time before work and it sounded attractive in the same way an out of control dumpster fire in Terre Haute captivated me for an hour last spring. But really, it wasn’t the fire itself. It was the grotesque carnival that sprang up around it.
Terre Haute’s finest crawled out of their wigwams and dung heaps to find a different parking lot to have a fistfight in that evening. Scores of families scrambling for spots by churches and the bars that neighbored them. Swathes of angry people, with a spectacle that just seemed to make them angrier. This was my territory and the temptation to see a Trump speech in real time was overpowering. This was the same room where I watched livestock castrations just a couple years ago!
The hangover when I woke up was of average strength for a Wednesday morning. After a few bouts with the snooze button, I forced myself up, for liberty, for a free press, for mild observation! I was only running on eight hours of sleep and I quickly guzzled down an eighth of a cup of coffee that I forgot to pour out from a third shift over the weekend. I could feel bad crazy tailing me closer than a fart. I decided to hoof it.
The fairgrounds, where the rally was being held, was a short walk from my house via the lovely Monon Trail. On top of that, I figured there would be a bunch of budding entrepreneurs trying to fleece god-fearing taxpayers out of five dollars just because they had access to a slab of granite and some traffic cones. The car would not be part of the occasion today. The plus side was that my odds of a clean getaway were increased if I ended up on the wrong side of a mob of blue hairs with swinging purses. Armed with only a steady supply of stride music (“Young Fats at the Organ”), I made the short hike into the heart of our red state.
It was the largest collection of characters and lunatics I’d seen in one place since the last time I went to the fairgrounds. Objectivity was out the window. A giant red pickup with two massive American flags mounted on the tailgate patrolled the lot. This must be the place. Men, three times my age carried dollar store signs strategically placed to hide their throbbing erections, brought on by the thought of unrestrained capitalism. Their wives carried signs for the exact same reason. A small contingent of labor agitators with a bullhorn put up the good fight for women, homosexuals, Muslims, what have you, though I spied a big box of Chick-Fil-A food they were presumably sharing. Who can say no to good nuggets?
There were no idiots in Guy Fawkes masks so I almost thought the event was canceled. I crossed my fingers for some agitation once the event got going, hoping our underwhelming left could be bothered to show up to this one. Angular people yakked loudly about the same religious horse shit they always do while otherwise reasonable people nodded their heads. Yes, we do need to rid the United States of literal demons. Yes, homosexuality definitely affects our daily lives. Yes, we deserve hell (I agreed with this one).
There were more Pentecostal women here than at, I don’t know, Pentecost. The effects of the coffee began to wear off, burned straight through my temples which were now throbbing rhythmically in the otherwise agreeable indoors. I felt a slight tiredness but I planned to power through it. I would barely have time to stay for the rally itself. I had to work that afternoon and couldn’t afford to fuck off the entire day to watch all the sour pensioners circling each other and chanting things. But I had sworn to my overworked editor that I was going to case the crowd and report my findings, and only God himself could stop me.
There was enough raw culture on display in the place that I didn’t feel much need to listen to Trump’s particular hoo-rah today. I certainly didn’t have the stomach to watch a video of Mike Pence wet his whistle to tongue punch some prime GOP fart box. The press box was strategically placed behind a riser for TV cameras, presumably, so Trump wouldn’t have to look at them. I tried to interview a few onlookers. A few avoided me on principle, catching a glimpse of my disgusting facial hair and knowing I was a sub-beatnik pervert who had only bad intentions. A few asked who I was with and I said the Omnibus Journal. When they asked what kind of publication it was, I told them it was a far left journal about homosexuality and video games. No one wanted to talk to me, so I softened the blow by saying it was basically Breitbart and got a few bites, but nothing you haven’t heard before.
Attempts to chat up good-looking Trump hotties went similarly south, though I did hear half of The Rolling Stones’ discography through the loudspeakers and that was agreeable. Steely-eyed men kept a close eye on the restrooms, hoping to dissuade imposter trans-women from climbing up through the toilets and swallowing our nation’s children whole. As far as things I saw today; glitter hats, booty shorts, American flag pants, Securitas, a small silent woman waving a Trump sign aggressively at no one in particular, a metric ton of sweater vests, a woman who looked like Stevie Nicks with all the water removed from her body, an old man selling buttons, a homemade shirt with Obama dressed as Urkel, and so on and so forth.
One way the left loses standing is by turning their nose up at these people and the way they look, but I find it energizing in its own way. This is America at its least watered down, old and weird and honest. Lots of clapping, lots of call and response, spelling “Trump” over and over. The sort of elementary school exercises that politicians love to lead crowds in. A man with a hard expression walked by in a Flogging Molly shirt, not remotely concerned by the situational irony. John Mellencamp over the speakers a few times. If John finds out, he’s going to have another heart attack and this may be the one that does him in. More glitter. Glitter on everything. The experience was not unlike attending a jingoistic outsider art expo.
A tiny, pudgy mother tried awkwardly and sweetly to connect to a group behind her and I felt a pang of empathy as she leaned on her son to adjust her Skechers (you know they were Skechers). It was that odd feeling when you know you are completely opposed to everything a person stands for but you still like them. I felt it a lot today. A couple hours in, I was bored and tired and ready to leave. The crowd began chanting “USA” because I guess the older attendees forgot where they were for a second. An announcer explained that protestors were not to be harmed (the crowd was audibly disappointed) and proper protocol was to scream “Trump” over and over again until they were removed (you can’t make this shit up).
My phone lost its network connection while everyone around me tweeted, undaunted. Maybe there was wifi but only Republicans got the password. The crowd began shouting at a bird or something. I think it shit on someone. I think it’s a metaphor. Probably not.
After a parade of public speakers who lacked the ability to speak directly into a microphone, The Donald came out to monstrous applause, every orange inch of him right there in the flesh. Louder than the last six speakers was his entrance music (the Space Jam theme, which was actually amazing). Protesters within seconds. The Donald said some things and you don’t need to read them because you know what he says. China, Ted Cruz, American enemies draining us from every angle, New Hampshire’s cocaine problem, China. The usual. He had the suit but not the hat, a look everyone else emulated for him, one straight out of the Mike Love style guide. What an experience. The speech was gradually overtaken and derailed by protests. My favorite moment came when Trump asked the crowd if they wanted protestors to be injured and a room full of Christians began booing in unison. The mercy and love in the room were smothering and as he spoke, there wasn’t a dry seat in the house. I listened to as much as I could squeeze in before dipping out. There was a large and vocal protest outside along with the usual street preachers and circus oddities. I left with my head held high. Now I can tell my grandkids about seeing President Trump speak before the coming year’s nuclear winter and global famine killed everyone over 5’9″ off. You can’t put a price on a memory like that.
Though it’s always interesting seeing a political event, it wasn’t the dumpster fire I came for but the crowd surrounding it. My findings only confirmed what I already knew: American politics makes us all stupid and cut throat. It lowers us collectively. Politicians are degenerate scumbags who would slit their mother’s throat if it meant they could swindle one last vote out of a precinct. They exploit the people in this country with actual jobs who make actual sacrifices and pimp them as if they themselves were the ones doing the work. Think of all the wood we could use if every American politician would come down off of their cross. We allow it to happen because we prefer catchphrases and offensive hairstyles to harsh truth and complicated solutions. If it can’t be tweeted, it’s already in one ear and out the other. Same shit, different cycle. And it only gets more polarized and more extreme, without fail.
And I have no solution. I see no way out, save total collapse or retaliation from a country big enough to tell us “no!”, once and for all. In other countries, they protest by storming buildings and demanding change. A mob in Brazil just impeached the president. Compare that to our country. We don’t know what we want and we wouldn’t know how to get it either. I began having bad flashbacks to earlier embarrassments. To the time, I saw a reporter hand his mic to an Occupy Protester, our great white hope against conservative regression. And the Occupier fumbled the ball so hard, my asshole clenched and gobbled up the computer chair I was sitting in. He didn’t know why he was there.
I remembered the time I attended a counter-protest of the Westboro Baptist Church. It degenerated into two groups of people on two opposing sidewalks having a karaoke contest. Every time the left in this country has the opportunity to make an impact or have their say, they fuck it up so badly it’s painful to behold. Slogans, as far as the eye could see, but no plans, no numbers, no actions. No viable left. The left has been on the run for decades now. The right lays claim to patriotism and everyman values and the best, all the left can muster in response are Bernie puns. It’s those god damned slogans again. Is that all there is, my friend?
Scooting out to head to work was when I had my realization. When the phrase “the silent majority” came up, I scoffed at it, but walking around with these constituents and watching them express themselves and be included and catered to for perhaps the first time by a mainstream political contender. Too often we enter our left-leaning echo chambers and forget that there are a lot of people out there who feel this way. They are angry and they exist. And understandably.
Indiana is a heavy manufacturing state and if you haven’t been directly affected by layoffs and outsourcing, consider yourself lucky. There was something intoxicating about a mogul speaking forcefully about issues that are real and painful for thousands of us. There was a part of me that was almost taken in by the whole thing, swept up in the moment and euphoria and anger. The key word being almost. That these many people would be willing to devote these many hours and thus, much manpower to show love and support to a candidate so reckless, so arrogant and embarrassing and so willing to turn back the clock of progress, it makes a person sick. Social issues are exploited collateral, used as fodder to get people onboard with the larger machinations, the money and policy issues, and Trump has found the perfect constituency to draw into his ruse.
I tried having a civil conversation with a man watching the protesters outside that degenerated into him yelling that I didn’t actually need my psychiatric medicine because he sacrificed everything for his small business. This is the same silent majority that we had to drag, kicking and screaming into the present with us. The kind of people who wake up screaming in the middle of the night knowing that two men can get married and there’s nothing they can do about it. They live to argue, and they know what’s best for you, and you won’t get a word in edgewise because their knees jerk so hard the second it’s time to spit out the talking points.
The conversation ended after the fifth time the man loudly told me my opinions. Only problem was, they weren’t my opinions. They were his caricature of what I’m supposed to believe, which medicines I’m allowed to have, which struggles are valid. He didn’t want to listen and I didn’t want to talk. Not that political rallies are ever a good exchange of ideas, but he was the one who started the conversation. After he began calling Bernie supporters unemployed, I excused myself to go to work. I’m working fifty-five hours this week after working seventy the last. If China and Russia don’t form a joint coalition to annex Trump’s America and we are still around for the next election cycle, I hope this crybaby coalition butts out because a good chunk of them have absolutely no idea what’s going on but sure as hell act like they do. They were silent for so long and for a damn good reason. Otherwise, you end up with bullshit like Donald Trump.
I hate Hillary Clinton just as much for similar reasons but until she shows her mug in “Indianoplace“, I won’t have an appropriate peg to hang my vitriol on. Stay tuned and don’t write a bunch of emails telling me what my opinions are and then refuting them.
Pictures taken by me.