Last time I was at a Trump rally for a protest, I was on vacation in Orlando. This time, however, I went to protest because Donald Trump came to Tallahassee, leaving hate and anger in his wake. I didn’t know what to expect from Tallahassee, but I knew that it would be nothing like my previous protest in Kissimmee. Tallahassee has all kinds of people – everything from hyper-liberal college students to conservative country boys – and all kinds of political views to match. Tonight, those political views were on display in ways I’ve never seen.
The Great Divide
Traffic was a mess, but I was still lucky enough to find a parking space that was relatively close to the Antique Car Museum where the rally was taking place. Grabbing our signs, my mom and I worked our way into the stream of people flowing towards the gates, doing our best to avoid the gazes of those wearing the telltale red baseball caps. Even so, it wasn’t long before someone decided to say something.
“You know you’re supporting a criminal, right?”
I looked over my shoulder to see who the man was talking to, and I was angered to see that he was walking right alongside my mother. I stepped between the two of them, ensuring that there was plenty of space between him and my mother. When he saw me, he shifted his argument.
“Do you know your mother is raising you to support a criminal? Hillary has done awful things you know. Your mother’s teaching you the wrong stuff.” He was uncomfortably close to me.
Well, my mother has taught me all kinds of things – some that I agree with, and some that I don’t – but two of the most important things she has taught me are to stand up for what I believe in and to respect others so long as they are respectful to you. I suppose his mother skipped over those lessons. My mom did nothing to that man or his friend who echoed his remarks, but they chose to confront her anyways, not by bringing up valid points or even genuine political issues, but instead by questioning her ability as a mother, as if that had anything to do with the presidential election. They were partially right about Hillary; she has done plenty of questionable things, and I certainly don’t approve of all of her actions, but they completely destroyed the legitimacy of their argument by resorting to personal attacks on my mother’s character. I would just like to say one thing to that man-child: my mother is great, and she knows how to make a point without sounding like a jerk.
What those men did reflects the major problem with the Trump campaign: the legitimacy of his political argument is completely negated by the fact that he is unable to express his opinions without resorting to child-like attacks on his opponents. I would talk more on this issue, but I don’t want to stray from my story for too much longer. There is far too much to discuss.
Making America Greater
After tonight, I’m not sure what to think. I still vehemently oppose Trump and his supporters, but I would be lying if I said that my fellow protesters did nothing wrong. There were plenty of “F**k you”s and “Go to hell”s coming from both sides, and the level of hatred and animosity in the air was toxic to everyone. I’m too young to have witnessed most of American history, but I doubt that the American people have been this divided since the Civil War. It really is getting bad out there.
Since I mentioned the Civil War, I might as well elaborate. Why was the war fought? Who won and who lost? Why does it matter today? Most people would answer that the war was fought over slavery, that the North won and the South lost, and that it matters today because, well, slavery again. Those answers aren’t wrong, but in order to learn more from the Civil War, we have to look at it from a different angle.
No one side was entirely “right” in the Civil War. The North championed human rights by abolishing slavery, but it also had a long history of taking advantage of Southern states and suppressing southern influence in national politics. The South, conversely, was wrong to protect the inhumane practice of slavery, but was just in its desire to be heard in Washington and to preserve the states’ rights to govern themselves. No one side was completely “right” in its beliefs, regardless of what they claimed, and at the end of the war, it was America that had lost. By dividing ourselves and fighting against one another, we wounded the country that we were trying to help. Now, more than 150 years later, history seems to be repeating itself.
A few hundred Trump supporters stood on one side of the road, criticizing Hillary supporters for backing someone whom they believed to be a liar and a traitor to the American people. On the other side of the road, I stood among a few hundred protesters who condemned the Trump supporters for backing a man whom they believed to be a racist, sexist, fascist, and many other undesirable titles. Was either side completely right? Of course not, and neither side was completely wrong either. Everyone had their own reasons for believing as they did, and it’s not easy to change our political beliefs. Our values come from the very core of who we are as people, and few things are more sacred to us than our principles. I doubt a single voter on either side of that street tonight decided to change their candidate, but I hope that everyone there, regardless of political affiliation, walked away with a desire for a change of heart.
We cannot continue to be so hateful towards one another. We fear enemies such as Russia, North Korea, and ISIS, but we are doing their work for them when we divide ourselves like this. Regardless of who ends up winning this election, the next president is not going to be able to change who we are as Americans; that burden rests on our shoulders. Hillary supporters are right; we are stronger together. Donald Trump supporters are right; we need to make America great again. Overall, we need to come together in order to make America greater than it is right now; we need to wash away the hatred and rivalry that divides us and join forces to make this country a better place. The president is merely a figurehead, it is up to us as citizens of the United States to make the changes we want to see in our world. To all the Trump supporters out there, I may disagree with your political beliefs, but we share a desire for a greater, stronger America, and I am still willing to work alongside you to make that dream a reality.