I want to preface this post by explaining that Outdated Democracy: A 21st Century Civics Lesson is not about individual candidates. The documentary will examine the system in which these politicians operate. To learn more about how Americans are feeling about our democracy, I have been attending various events and shooting interviews with those attending. That was my intention for this rally. I did interview several people but most refused – not because they didn’t want to talk with me but because they said “nothing is wrong with the system.” This position was, for the most part, based on the notion that “Donald Trump is going to win.” With this as the prevailing sentiment, there was nothing to discuss. After some thought, I decided to do my best to explain perhaps why this was the prevailing sentiment. And that’s what this post is about…
I’d been standing in line for two hours, and as is usually the case, my queue mates and I had reached that level of self-revealing chatter that should be reserved for friends. Having heard that one must declare support for El Donald before entering the rally, I presented myself as an Independent with Libertarian leanings. A staunch pre-bridgegate Christie supporter, I was now torn between Paul and Trump. I tried to ask more than answer because it was clear that my cover still wasn’t red enough for this room.
The line was finally moving. I used the security check point as an opportunity to separate myself from the folks I’d inadvertently bonded with.
Now through the metal detector, I headed straight to the back of the room where I could take a deep breath and get my bearings. I watched as the front of the room filled. Attendance was close to 1400. I heard that no one was turned away.
The warm-up act began. The emcee was a guy named Wayne Allyn Root, a conservative talk radio personality with a long history in the Libertarian Party. In fact, after a failed bid to be the 2008 presidential nominee, he settled for the VP spot on the ticket.
The initial vibe was lack luster and a bit on the boring side. As I moved around the room, I realized that the lack of luster was likely attributable to two things: First, a majority of those in attendance were over 60 years old. I’d say a good 25 percent were over 70 years old. It was a very geriatric crowd. Secondly, many were likely just plain ol’ worn out from standing in line for over two hours.
Several speakers came and went followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. I participated in both as I always do, and I felt a surge of camaraderie with my fellow Americans. After all, I thought, we can disagree, even sharply, but we are all Americans. We rise and fall together, and surely no one wants to plummet.
Root returned to the mic. I was over this pre-show stuff, so I scanned the room for a good vantage point from which to capture the main event. Then I heard Root call for WAR! – not on ISIS, “Islamist Terrorists” or North Korea. No, the war Root was calling for was on me, and all those like me – liberals, progressives, the pro-choice and the anti-war, the gun safety advocates and the climate change activists, the ones who believe that all Americans deserve a living wage, and those who understand that Mexican immigrants aren’t the problem.
Yep, I was the enemy.
My stomach sank, did I hear him right? Well, I had the recording. I’d listen later. I stopped and focused. For the next few minutes, Root ranted and the rhetoric was fierce as he quoted Churchill’s We Shall Never Surrender speech. He then informed the crowd, “That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how you fight to win, with every fiber in your body, with every ounce of courage, with heart and spirit and will.” With increasing fervor came the call to action, “We must fight with the power of relentless, we must never, ever, ever give up or give in, we must fight to the end to save this country…”
Root continued, listing grievance after grievance, and the crowd went nuts, cheering and fist-pumping the air. I was now unnerved.
I looked around at my fellow Americans and wondered why they might see war as preferable to cooperation. As I tried to process, the time had come. The big cheese was about to take center stage. The lights dimmed, and a video introduction appeared on the screens. I was glad that it was dark. I needed those few moments to compose myself.
To Be Continued…