Liberty & Justice For “All”
Experiencing the Trump Train
Tuesday, September 20th began as a cloudy, gray day. High Point University hosted Republican Presidential Nominee Donald J. Trump on campus for a rally. With my jaw clenched and muscles tightened, I attended. Oh by the way, I wore a rainbow Bernie shirt.
I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but clearly I am not a trumpeter. Already some of you are confused as to why I wore a Bernie Sanders shirt to a Donald Trump rally or even attended at all. The answer is simple. It was my way of silently protesting the candidate. Beginning as something of a social experiment, the shirt became a symbol of power.
As I arrived at the event doors, a private security officer approached my friend and I, asking us to be respectful, as they were “not looking to start anything today.” Alright. That’s cool. This officer made the assumption that I had the desire to make a disruption and insinuated that I would become aggressive. Whatever. It was just one guy. Truthfully, I wanted to attend the event to stand in silence and listen to what Mr. Trump had to say. Being able to listen would only build my personal repertoire of reasoning to not back the man.
Stepping into the rally felt like something out of a movie. It’s one thing to see political activism on the screen, but another to be physically surrounded by it. Before beginning the event, an announcement was made explaining that protestors would be removed and that Trump supporters should hold a sign over their heads and chant “Trump” three times so that security could escort them out. I understand removing disruptive and disrespectful protestors, but doing so in such a manner sounds inhumane.
Many of the talking points from speakers preceding Trump included, “all lives matter,” discredit of Hillary Clinton, and voter ID laws. I stood in silence as the crowd cheered and applauded. It amazed me how a political figure can be outraged at having to show their ID to enter an elevator, but then turn around and require them to enter the bathroom.
Scheduled to arrive on stage at 12 P.M., Trump entered the room shortly after 1 P.M. Having stood for almost 4.5 hours listening to The Rolling Stones single “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, I felt drained when the room erupted with apprasial. There were collective chants of “USA” and “Build That Wall.” Trump couldn’t have been smiling wider. I however, was straight-faced and still.
During Trump’s speech, it was brought to my attention that private security was slowly crowding around myself and others. Overall, we were being viewed as a threat for wearing shirts that said “Bernie.” It’s ironic because I felt threatened simply being there.
A Trump supporter approached my group of friends and began questioning us. It was shortly after this that we decided to leave. Tensions were raising and we did not feel comfortable nor safe. The place I have called home for the past 3 years had instantly turned cold and distant.
Leaving the event, about 3 Trump security officials praised us for being “respectful.” My question is, why would I be disrespectful? Simply wearing a shirt with a political candidate other than Trump means that I want to start and uprising and encourage violence? No. We all know that saying of what happens when you assume, “you make an ass out of you and me.”
Attending this event was an opportunity for me to experience the democratic process and engage firsthand with a political candidate, even if his views are not in alignment with mine. I was able to silently and peacefully make a statement by wearing a shirt. The shirt spoke out, instilling fear in others when I was the one afraid. The shirt spoke to the rhetoric of Trump and his supporters. A rhetoric of xenophobia in the context of being something foreign from their views.
No matter the political party, I stand firm in my belief that no candidate should be allowed to hold a rally at an educational institution, be it public or private. As an institution for higher learning, I beleive it to be immature to host a candidate for self promotion. How is it that students are unable to discuss politics with professors, yet these same students are able to attend a political rally on campus? There was a large discussion over Trump’s presence at High Point being that of an educational opportunity, enriching students with a diverse range of viewpoints and perspectives. That statement sounds extraordinary on paper, but what happens when we aren’t able to engage with and dissect the event in the safe environement of the classroom because it can be construed as a professor’s advocacy for a specific platform? The discussion is limited.
The event happened and we must continue with our daily lives. I just hope I can find comfort in my University again, amidst the polarized student body.