“This is a royal example of the shit that is driving me wild, of the horrible predatory rot that pervades the whole system. Once you become conscious of it, actually formulate it in your mind, then all manner of once-innocent and natural-seeming things begin falling into a pattern of imperialist savagery.” – Hunter S. Thompson
My plan was not a dry retelling of the rally but one of substance, so I was content with leaving the other newsies to rot in their bubble of safety. I had questions that needed answers. Who were these people? Why had they come here?
The MC took the stage and a hush fell across the crowd like a silent command. All attention was riveted forward and I could ask no questions.
“It is an honor to be among so many deplorables this evening!” The crowd roars. “Who thinks Trump won that debate last night?” Even louder cheers now, as if the decibel level could get raised high enough to retroactively change the past. The first speaker appears to be a Black preacher, someone that’s been paid to stand up and soothe the racial worries of a crowd so out of touch with Black folks they believe him to represent the majority.
His sermon is a weird one, an inane screed on the dangers of Hillary trying to divide the nation with her racially motivated campaign, assuring the assembled they were not deplorable for thinking Eric Garner deserved to die. He shrilly cries that “nobody is irredeemable,” that the overwhelmingly white audience is under attack, and how vile it was someone would write off an entire section of the population. This is applauded by the same people who support the death penalty for minors and would have shot Trayvon Martin for being out past sun-down.
The hypocrisy was so foul and thick I had trouble breathing clean air. He mentions how God, the supposed creator of the planets and multiple dimensions, has personally ordained Donald Trump to be president. He closes with a literal prayer for the continued existence of the free market system and I pause to make sure I’m still on planet Earth.
Next Commissioner Wayne Justice gets up on stage and has everybody recite the pledge of allegiance to a flag that looks like it came from Walmart. He’s followed by the local sheriff’s daughter coming up to sing the national anthem. I take a knee to jot down notes, unintentionally drawing attention.
“Kick racists out of racism?” I look up to see a visibly angry, bespectacled and goofy-looking man speaking to me with shaking fists. He’s referring to an AntiFa sticker I have on my notebook. “Who are you with?” he demands to know, as if my presence has violated some sacred ground. His hair seems to be standing on its ends.
“Disinfo. Well, technically Fifth Column and Gods & Radicals as well.”
“Yeah? Who are they?”
“Yeah? Never heard of ’em.” He says this like it’s supposed to hurt me. Far be it from me to get into an intellectual jousting match with an unarmed man, but I was now annoyed.
“That so? And who are you with buddy?”
“Excuse me?” His face flashes red with rage. “Oh so you’re the Trump-hating press aren’t you?”
“Why do you say that?”
“Oh, I can tell.” A sticker calling out racists has decreed me in this man’s mind as an enemy of his tribe.
Think deeply on that.
Free from the little goofball I can focus on the speaker, but it’s not really anything impressive. A woman follows, talks about how “every person has the god given right to protect themselves from harm” yet never mentions Philando Castile, a Black man with a concealed carry license gunned down by police officers at a traffic stop.
When she talks about how the police “put on that uniform to protect us” you begin to wonder just who they think they’re being protected from. The next speaker, a former NYPD cop decries a “small group of racists” that “believes it’s okay to threaten law enforcement officers,” a statement so out of touch with the rest of the world it might as well have been written in hieroglyphics.
But these people eat it up with a goddamn spoon. They cheer here, maddeningly so, as if they’ve won the lottery. Below the roar I’m amazed that these people actually believe this shit, that with hours of footage they really do find it easier to believe a small conspiracy of Black people are out to “threaten” cops by demanding they stop killing them than an actual problem with police violence existing. These creatures exist in a dimension next to ours, but certainly no form of reality the average American knows.
From the talks of standing to the pledge (via Colin Kaepernick), to the shirts lampooning Black Lives Matter, to continued appeals for police strength against an unmentioned enemy by almost an entirely white crowd the subject of race–though not mentioned directly–seemed to soak the entire event.
When not rattling on in crypto-racist lingo, the speakers talk about strength and greatness, even referring to Trump’s “incredible will and power.” The atmosphere around us appears to grow dense and heavy. I get a very weird sensation on my left side, an atavistic energy turning up in the room and into the people. Suddenly a pudgy middle-aged Dad type has approaches King Don about his sign. He’s talking but I can’t hear him over the words coming out of the speakers.
“Mr. Trump doesn’t get bogged down in red tape. He produces results. A builder and a problem solver. Trump is a reuniter, he will restore faith in the American spirit!”
The speech has to stop because a medic is needed. By this time the official count is up to 3 old people who have either withered away due to heat exhaustion or had become possessed by the American spirit past their limits. This man next to Don has me worried, his jawline appearing extremely tense. Finally I can make out what the man is saying.
“What’s that sign mean? Tell me.”
Don doesn’t skip a beat. “Love trumps hate, dude. I’m for everybody.”
“Yeah, well I think you’re full of shit. Get the fuck out of here.”
I move to take a picture of the would-be brown shirt to at least capture the weird way he’s grinding his teeth, but he spots me and shrinks. He looks afraid, naked, his bravado and attitude clearly something he’d never dare attempt at home or at work. He hides behind his sign as another medic is called to rescue yet another overheated old person.
Don shrugs his shoulders. “Why’s everybody got to agree with everybody else?”
We move to a new location and I continue taking notes. A weird rabid energy seems to have taken hold, chants of “LOCK HER UP” filling the space with what I can only describe as red hate. Of course there was a lot to hate, a lot to despise, and lord knows I’d vehemently done it myself. But here in so many voices dripping with malevolence it became supremely unsettling.
The Goofball and Angry Dad have been talking to one another. They are now trying to block my cell phone with Trump signs so I can’t take pictures, but I am hilariously taller than them. Every time I focus right on them they try to hide.
It’s weird, really weird. I can feel them drilling holes into my back with their eyes and long tentacles of hatred weaving their way in. I find myself wanting to bash their faces in and festoon the entire hanger with their guts as chants of “USA! USA! USA!” echo off walls and make my ears want to bleed.
Massive storm clouds begin to roll in as Trump’s plane pulls into view in a weird homage to my last article. The sky grows dark and as the plane docks lightning flashes across the sky.
Weird music is being pumped from the speakers now. Long gone are the folksy Americana and the songs of the 1960’s these people remember from childhood. The whole thing feels like a Universal Studios ride or football game. The frothing crowd appears now to be reduced to humble children tittering with anticipation, cell phones jutting into the air in desperate attempts to capture an image of the Great White Messiah to worship at home.
In a moment the plane door cracks open and a small orange figure in a business suit emerges to the song “And I’m Proud to be An American” while the crowd goes wild; tribal hoots and yells of victory seem to drop from the heavens as if Trump’s presence in Melbourne had somehow already won the election. The group-think is incredible now, a hivemind reaction so palpable you can feel it putting pressure on your brain.
Oaths of allegiance are thrown into the air as tears of joy drop from bearded faces. I can’t help but feel some deep dark wiring inside humanity has been activated, the crowd being at such a fever pitch Trump could ask them to cut off their fingers and a few might give him the whole hand.
King Don has no fear. Hadn’t these people heard he had claimed the United States? At the height of the madness he holds up his sign alerting Trump that such an assault on his property would not be taken lightly.
Suddenly the Goofball appears becoming a pointing, shouting, human siren.
“TRUMP HATER! TRUMP HATER! THIS MAN IS A TRUMP HATER! GET HIM OUT OF HERE!”
We both move quickly, as some of the larger and angrier-looking rednecks practically begin sniffing the air to find us. We move from one place only to be followed to another, a desperate weaving to escape. I see the Secret Service remove a woman and I cannot afford to join her.
Meanwhile the Messiah speaks, talking about how proud he is of his performance at the debates. He calls the media a pack of liars and an entire crowd of thousands turns to the press box and boos.
King Don and I are alone in the lion cage, the only members of press not protected by killer cops or rows of fencing. Some more of the Trump faithful must have spotted us, because we are beginning to be surrounded by assortment of faces attached to red hats reeking of violent intentions. They half-pretend to look forward, but I can see them glance from one to the other. Like baboons or wild dogs they communicate silently, making sure the pack is ready to kill.
The circle suddenly tightens. Don breaks right, I move left, and our captors struggle for a minute to decide who to chase first: the man who dares challenge Trump’s Kingship of the Universe, or a sorcerer with press contacts.
Weaving between people, snatches of Trump’s speech ring across the air. “This deal with Mexico is terrible. We get the drugs, they get the money.” I can’t even begin to try to understand what that means, because Goofball and two troglodytes in human-suits are hot on my trail. I look for Don but can’t find him. Dear Christ, have they flayed him alive? Will some nutjob take the stage and offer the New Orange God his still-beating heart?
Front to back, I’m moving as best I can but I can’t see Don anywhere. Everything starts to feel like a bad acid trip, scores of human bodies surrounding me but not a friendly soul inside any of them. Leers and jeers seem to be rising from everybody.. I’m being inspected visually by every pair of eyes that lay across me, analyzed and categorized to determine if I’m friend or foe.
I attempt to steal a Brazilian photographer’s press pass to seek refuge amongst my salaried kin, but am turned in before I can book it. I smile, returning it to its owner, inadvertently giving enough time for the Goonie rejects to be upon me. Gasps of surprise are drowned out by evocations from the herd.
“Who’s going to build that wall?”
“Hey! Mr. Media!” Goofball has found me, along with Angry Dad and two others. The newly formed pack seems emboldened, radiating a furious kinetic energy that matches the thunder-storm outside. His chest is heaving and his eyes are filled with pure malice. Like a dog that’s slipped off his chain, he knows that this might be his only moment to confront the Big Bad Media and the “Anti-Trump crowd” in his entire miserable life. You can tell he thinks he’s a fucking hero and at that point something clicked in my head.
Back when I was a dumpster diver, I had been followed one night by someone trying to rob me. Rather than keep running I turned around. I went above his level of aggression, shouting and waving as I screamed that I wanted to know if he was following me. This threw my pursuer for a loop and caused him to stutter and make up a bullshit story about being lost. Both he and these jackals ahead of me had been told they were strong. Both of them expected to find easy prey.
Dr. Bones did not intend to be punked by a group of emboldened middle managers.
“You want a picture Mr. Media?” His goons laugh.
“Yeah. You want your fucking picture taken?” I point my phone at them and start a large stride in their direction. “Is this what you want? Here. You got your fucking picture taken you idiot!”
The two goons turn away to hide behind signs and Angry Dad has lost his nerve. He stumbles tripping over himself and tries to find his wife. I move in closer. “No! Hey! Where are you going? I want your picture! I want people to see your fucking faces!”
The prospect of being held accountable for their beliefs, of being exposed as noxious nobodies who pretended to be tough fill them with dread. The spell seemed to be broken. The outside world had reached back to drop reality on those in attendance. They move far, far away, practically reeking of fear and piss while I smile and pretend to take pictures.
As if on cue Don finds me. I ask him if he’s managed to catch any of the speech.
He shrugs his shoulders. “Yeah dude, it’s just the same shit he said last night. Same stuff he did at the debate. The only difference is he’s saying worse shit about Hillary. This ain’t even a Trump rally, dude. This is a Hillary bashing.”
He was right. Now free from the threat of violence Trump’s speech was…actually pretty boring. We couldn’t tell if he was using a teleprompter because, though there was one up there, he kept repeating the same thing three or four times. The momentum was gone, the drunk feeling of belonging appearing to be fizzled out. The buildup of red energy, of psychical hatred and strength seemed to be gone, the hangar feeling much emptier than it had been before.
There was no charisma, no brash attitude. Nothing new was said at all.
After an hour people began leaving in droves with Trump still speaking. We were among them. Faces seemed post-orgasm, some subconscious climax being achieved. Trump had come, they’d seen him. Show over.
Was it Trump himself that was the appeal? Was it his vision? His political theory is no groundbreaking development, a platform Mussolini could have written and Madison Avenue could have sold. The fact they were leaving halfway through the main event hinted at a deeper truth.
They’d got what they wanted, a psychic snort of pure white patriotism. Most had little interest in anything beyond that. So just what was the high they were after?
The majority were a certain breed alright, mild-mannered people who never really say what they mean because they know most of what they believe isn’t well-liked in regular society. They were techs, engineers, old couples from Massachusetts and country folks fresh from the forests of Holopaw who all seemed anxious, worried, or tired of the future. Almost everyone was over 29 and the few young people who were there either got dragged in by their parents or came because Trump was the equivalent of a high school bully that was such a dick he was cool.
That’s not to say Trump doesn’t represent some batshit, violent people. He does. But the majority of the people behind his campaign like his bully attitude, not because they too are bullies but because they wish they were. They would love to be violent but they ain’t got the guts. The world they knew is in decay and they can’t do a damn thing to stop it.
They were dinosaurs watching the rise of the mammals and becoming increasingly aware they will be eaten.
That’s the appeal of Trump, of these rallies. It’s a place where the baby-boomers and fascist-friendly can go and feel like they aren’t alone. For a minute they are transported back in time to a mythical age where everyone thought like they did, when America threatened the world, Black people knew their place, and every cop hailed from Mayberry. These things are festivals to the dying faith of Americanism in an age where we have lost Syria and China can lay claim to an entire sea. These were the people who were uncomfortable with their daughters dating Black men but terrified to say anything about it in public because they knew their opinion was the wrong one.
Trump is a symbol to these people, a get-rich quick story that tells them they aren’t wrong, aren’t stupid, and that if a man can be successful holding the same ideas they do, surely they have some truth to them. The world is changing and suddenly everything they were sure of has been revealed to be a lie.
They can’t understand it, flat-out refuse to, because to do so would rip away the underpinning of their entire identity. They are proud assholes only recently aware that nobody else thought that they were cool. This is the crisis underpinning race relations in this country: a fear to admit that what’s been good for you has been absolutely horrible for others and that you too are guilty.
So rather than confront reality they deny everything, deny there is a problem at all, and rush to the aid of the same people that beat Black women and kill small children. They refuse to believe that the American economy has been slighted from the beginning against Black folks in this country and they religiously believe ghettos exist because Black people are “lazy” rather than being victims systematically targeted by their own government. They are the children of those people who spat on Rosa Parks and set dogs on peaceful marchers, the same ones that bash gays and talk about “the Jew problem” online when no one’s looking.
They do all these things because they are losing. They get even more radical, even more bitter because the world is leaving them behind. They are the squares, rejects, and hilariously out of touch for a whole new generation.
They come here to feel strong because they aren’t, to feel power because they have none, and feel wanted because they’ve been chased from water coolers and relatives’ living rooms for their noxious beliefs.
I watched awkward Harris engineers rub shoulders with Neo-Confederates attempting to swap Pepe memes with Black jokes, not out of a sense of camaraderie but out of an animal need to belong to a tribe. They were alone in the world and would take whatever body heat they could find.
It wasn’t a rally. It was a festival, a cosplay event for patriot nerds to come together in a world that had outgrown them; a live action roleplay where they too were maverick badasses ready to fuck up the world with eagles screaming overhead. Perhaps they thought it better to go down in a hail of political bullets railing against the modern world rather than to pass quietly in a nursing home but in the end it just made them look like the American version of Russians holding up photos of Stalin and wishing for the return of an age so dead it’s practically fossilized.
You almost felt bad for them.
We watched as these “deplorables” obeyed every traffic law, patiently waited in line, and drove off in cars whose payments were always sent on time; drones returning home after the two-minute hate was over to lives of halfhearted racism and desk jobs with benefits.
Stuck in time, frozen in life, they were human coelacanths we drove at full-speed just to get away from, the King of the Universe and a magic-wielding journalist laughing the whole way home at a people held captive by a dream everybody else had woken up from.
Dr. Bones is a conjurer, card-reader and egoist-communist who believes “true individuality can only flourish when the means of existence are shared by all.” A Florida native and Hoodoo practitioner, he summons pure vitriol, straight narrative, and sorcerous wisdom into a potent blend of poltergasmic politics and gonzo journalism. He lives with his loving wife, a herd of cats, and a house full of spirits.