The President was in town; being a historian I've long had a desire to at least see every president I possibly can. Thus far, Gerald Ford and George W. Bush are the only two I've seen...and that was my impetus for getting tickets to see President Donald Trump.
Politics. Ohhhhhhh how I love politics. I'm an unabashed Rush baby who admittedly leans very Libertarian. Fiscally I'm conservative, when it comes to judges I favor strict constitutionalist like Antonin Scalia (who is one of the men I've admired most during my life.) I've always voted for the candidate I believed represented my views best; that said, my very first vote was cast for Democrat Jim Berryman for mayor of Adrian when I was 18.
Those who know me know I believe the best of people and bestow love easily; I care not what you believe in (politically or personally) or whether it conflicts with my beliefs. I love learning about people in general; I enjoy listening to all sides with the intent of educating myself. As an American we have the privilege of dissent; our Founding Fathers themselves were often only united in their desire to be free from England, and rarely in how this new nation was to be formed. Yes, the two party system and having opposite beliefs is (if you will) an American tradition.
Until the last 17 or so years.
W's election divided the country with hanging chads and the birth of the Internet...suddenly political opponents had a soapbox and a captive audience (whether they were worthy of one or not.) The rise of social media fueled this growing divide between the right and the left; with the election of Obama and more fervent mainstream media bias it became clear things had changed like never before. As a news junkie I saw the shift from carefully unbiased reporting to reporting with an agenda; journalists used to take pains to keep their opinion out of the facts. Personally, I came to read my US news only from UK sources; while still biased, it was easier to see and clear a British perspective than a right or left leaning one.
So as I matured and my political beliefs molded into something uniquely mine, I found myself adrift from both major political parties the last three presidential elections. I am staunchly pro-life as well as fiscally conservative, so more often than not due to those two points alone, I vote Republican. However, I truly do not believe the government should dictate our personal lives and habits, which is strongly Libertarian (although many may confuse that with being a Democrat.) I hate bureaucracy, find regulations often unnecessarily restrictive, and think the arts and humanities should receive public funding as well as scientific research....within reason, of course. Whose reasoning? Well, that's the million dollar question, isn't it? Who decides? Ultimately the final decision on such matters comes down to our Supreme Court. Having heard Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy speak once I was extremely impressed by both men, but moreso by Scalia. My love for our constitution is unabashed; in my youth I often fiddled with the idea of becoming a constitutional lawyer.
And ultimately, that's why I vote. I love our American system, and have to do my part.
This last presidential election I was in a quandary. My man, Ben Carson, was out in an early round. I could not vote for a party establishment candidate like Rubio or Cruz, having watched them put constituents feelings aside and voting strictly on good ol' boy political lines. Hillary was out of the question; when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke I remember clearly hearing Rush state she was offered a deal: stay and support Bill and the senatorship of New York would be hers, and then the presidency in 2008. I never forgot that, and watched in horror as that's exactly what took place (with the minor hiccup of an Obama presidency and a stint as Secretary of State while she waited her turn.)
My smile says I think we'll get in. His face clearly says let's ditch the line and go eat wings:)
So Trump? Absolutely not.
My association with the man goes back to 1981, when Prince Charles married Diana. Every People magazine she appeared on the cover since had been in my hands...and often also in those pages? Donald Trump.
Quite honestly, I thought he did Ivana dirty, having an affair with Marla Mapes. Marla's wedding with a tiara was a bit too preposterous; I wasn't sad to see that marriage end (although I did feel bad for Tiffany.) I only occasionally watched The Apprentice, and found my distaste for him solidified with his multiple bankruptcy's and third marriage to a woman 20-some years his junior. Naming his youngest Barron? Pretentious.
And suddenly he was the Republican candidate for president.
I didn't like what I heard he said, and how easily it was misconstrued. I certainly didn't like him as a man; I had a thirty year history of not caring for him and knew way too much about him. I also truly believed him to be a Democrat in sheeps clothing; he not only had financially supported Hillary in her senatorial runs, he was a close enough friend to invite Bill and Hillary to his wedding to Melania. He also flip-flopped on abortion.
Stripping away all the hype in the media, and my own reservations about his past I knew too well, I delved into the candidate on paper. I looked at the Supreme Court. I looked at Don, Jr., Ivanka, Eric and now-grown Tiffany. I studied Melania, who I knew little about.
What I found was three highly successful children, with good marriages who were raising young families. Tiffany seemed pretty well adjusted (I admit I liked her choice of a B1G school.) Yes, they were like their dad, Democrat-hybrid-Republicans, but "good people" if you will. Melania highly impressed me once I got past her former career; her marriage and motherhood seemed to have brought huge stability to a powerful man used to getting his own way. Being a good dad and having a seemingly successful third marriage was not enough for me to vote for him, but at least he no longer was the lost cause as the media reported.
Politically I found him to be very libertarian in ways I did identify with; his business deregulations I liked a lot. Americans needed jobs, and his plan provided for them. It still wasn't enough for me to vote for him, and I ended up deep in prayer as to how my vote should be cast. In the end, I voted for him for one reason: the Supreme Court.
The death of my beloved Antonin Scalia left a huge hole in the court; I longed for his replacement to be a constitutional justice, as he had been. Throughout our decades as a country, the one guide that keeps us as a nation is our Constitution. Trump promised just that: a constitutional justice like Scalia. The court is where everything I hold dear is upheld or defended; with the knowledge up to five justices could be appointed in the next eight years, I voted for Trump.
Not because I'm a racist, bigoted ideologue. Not because I like him, or things he says. But because I believed he'd replace Scalia with a man like him.
And he did.
I might have a schoolgirl crush Neil Gorsuch; his nomination and approval confirmed in my heart that I had voted for the right person for president. As a political junkie it's been almost impossible to wash the putrid bias against the president off the actual news; I've taken to reading transcripts to find out what he actually says.
And I'm finding I agree with it.
"Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America. Two days ago, a young American woman, Heather Heyer, was tragically killed. Her death fills us with grief and we send her family our thoughts, our prayers and our love.
We also mourn the two Virginia state troopers who died in service to their community, their commonwealth and their country. Troopers Jay Cullen and Berke Bates exemplify the very best of America and our hearts go out to their families, their friends and every member of American law enforcement.
These three fallen Americans embody the goodness and decency of our nation. In times such as these, America has always shown its true character. Responding to hate with love, division with unity and violence with an unwavering resolve for justice.
As a candidate I promised to restore law and order to our country and our federal law enforcement agencies are following through on that pledge. We will spare no resource in fighting so that every American child can grow up free from violence and fear.
We will defend and protect the sacred rights of all Americans, and we will work together so that every citizen in this blessed land is free to follow their dreams, in their hearts, and to express the love and joy in their souls.
Thank you. God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you very much."
If Obama had spoken these words, would they not have been called unifying? Or had Hillary issued this statement? Yet these came from President Trump, of whom I had voted for while plugging my nose. I agree with them, and find them to be eloquent and nonprovocative. More and more, as I read official transcripts and not the opinions of journalists, I see myself agreeing with the president...which is quite the surprise for me.
Not so for the Buckeye, who listened to his actual words all along; or for the millions of Americans who put him into office.
We waited a total of two hours in a line over 6 blocks long in triple digit heat with over 20,000 people. No one complained, no one tried to cut the line. Everyone was pleasant, despite the temperature.
We got in line yesterday at 5pm, and quickly struck up instant friendships with those around us. A millennial took note of the Buckeye's Desert Storm hat, and thanked him for his service. Their resulting half-hour discussion about that war was animated; with a few around us chiming in on the political side. Our group of about a dozen or so included every age (the youngest was 12, a boy and his dad) and at least four different races. All around us we saw people from every walk of life; the common talk was how we wanted to be Americans, united again. Those around us in line didn't care about your race or lifestyle. All they cared about was the ability to work, provide a living for themselves and their families, and have the right to belief what they wished without impunity. How do I know this? Because for two hours, we all talked. Shared. And had our souls restored. What we saw on television was true; hate had showed up in Charlottesville. Were we, those who supported our president, racist and bigoted?
There were three spots in which the line snaked directly in front of protestors. When we stood at this corner, the Buckeye was hit several times by a protestor holding a large pink sign. A man in our group asked them to stop. The protestor continued, and two more joined in, accusing the defending man of being a sell out. Another woman and I linked arms, and placed ourselves between the protestors and the men, our backs to the protestors. It was effective, and the shouts silenced for that moment as we waited for the light to change. Arm-in-arm, we chuckled as we crossed the street; how times had changed that two women could defend two men!
Do I need to describe the races of the man and the woman in my story above? How about the identities of the protestors and what they looked like? Shall I recount the racial slurs being slung by the protestors, and the accusations they hurled? Or the fact we, as a group, decided to sing "God Bless America" the next time we had to walk by protestors as our own form of protest?
Our two hour wait was actually fun for the most part; both the Buckeye and I enjoyed getting to know people. It was refreshing to meet so many different people from all walks of life who thought as we did: that we did want America to be great again.
Let me put that in plain-speak, not spun by protestor speak: we want ALL Americans to have jobs, and to live life to the best of their ability.
That's what we all had in common.
That old American dream: to live as we want to live. To have the opportunity to succeed, no matter what our race, religion, sexuality or beliefs.
Many say the president is opposed to all that. The media and the protestors want you to believe that.
If you read what he's actually said as president?
400 feet from the door, we had to turn one last corner. The protestors were thickest there, and we saw many ditch signs and join our line. The mood turned dark quickly, as I heard things uttered as threats, not protests. For the first time, my concern became one of safety. I noted an increased alertness in the Buckeye, and we pointed out to each other behavior we felt threatening. As it became clear we'd have to directly skirt the protest line, and a true bottleneck was forming, we decided to leave. Five seconds later we heard from a police officer that the doors had been shut; we kept our mouths closed as we weaved quickly back through the crowd. I've never felt such a feeling... The hate from the protestors earlier was nothing compared to this.
This was no longer a protest. This was darkness intent on destruction.
Politics weren't the motive. Destruction was.
Within a block we were free from the worst of it; the Buckeye steered me to a light rail station two blocks further away. As we waited for the "crush-loaded" cars to arrive, I heard a pop that made me jump. It was the first tear gas canisters being released.
We had escaped the melee by but five minutes.
Members of our informal group arrived at the train platform; our hasty departure had caught their notice and they had followed. We all smiled and waved in recognition, not yet knowing what we had narrowly avoided. As the packed train headed north, the Buckeye and I agreed the night had been worth our time, even though we had missed seeing the president.
We had instead seen that many Americans simply love America. That they'll support a president they might not entirely agree with, but support because he's president (much as the left supported Obama and ignored things they wished he did differently.) Mostly we had seen what the media is NOT showing you--that "Trump supporters" are of all walks of life, and comprised of all races and backgrounds . The ones we met were like us-they wanted a good life for themselves, but not at the expense of others. How we all get there? I don't know. I do know that what I saw in protest was NOT the answer. There was no inclusivity or reasoning with that crowd. As we drove home from the train station we learned of the scuffle and tear gas usage; realizing our timing was humbling. We had been within minutes of its deployment at the very location it had been set off...and I support the fact it was used. What we felt there was not protest, not hatred. It was the intent to commit violence, to punish those who dared disagree. The fact no one was seriously injured or killed was because this measure was taken. The mood on that corner was not one to be taken lightly; I'm thankful swift action to stop it was brought about.
This morning I've had some honest discussions with liberal and conservative friends about politics; it prompted me to break my rule of "no politics" on Facebook by writing this blog. My friends, we must start to act, and not in protest! We can no longer look to the news or social media for what to believe-we need to look to each other. Start talking. Start sharing our beliefs, and why we believe them. Our Founding Fathers had many, many polar opposite beliefs and still found consensus to write our constitution. They fought over individual words and what they meant. Their first attempt at governance actually failed (the Articles of Confederation came BEFORE the Constitution) but PUTTING ASIDE DIFFERENCES they focused on what they all believed in: a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
We all believe in this: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, basically the desire to live freely as we chose. What those choices are we differ in widely, but the commonality is the same. We need to get back to the basics of talking to each other and listening to understanding opposing beliefs. For it is then we see how much we have in common, and can find ways to work together.
May God bless America, and may we find peace once again.