The Donald in Erie

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, October 17th, 2018 at 6:18 PM
The Donald in Erie by Livia Homerski

As we all know, President Trump visited Erie last Wednesday for a rally. My father texted me the week before and asked if I wanted to go. I thought it over for a bit before I replied, “sure.”

 I am a political person, but I remain in the center. I do not hate Trump, nor do I find myself attracted to supporting much of his platform. I do not buy into the mainstream media’s fearful rhetoric against him and choose to hear him speak for myself before I determine anything. I’m not usually impressed, but I was hoping that this would be my chance to observe everything straight from the horse’s mouth. I’m also a person who is interested in spectacles, and this sort of thing is right up the contentious president’s alley. 

The traffic from Edinboro to Erie was intense, and as we waited in the lanes, we would pass or be passed by someone wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat, or a Trump 2020 sticker. It took us a little less than an hour to get into downtown Erie and find a parking spot. We arrived just before 6 p.m., but the stadium had already filled up. According to GoErie.com, “Erie Bureau of Fire Chief Guy Santone said about 9,000 people were inside the arena for Trump’s rally; at least another 3,000 who could not get in were outside.” 

So we were a few of 3,000 on the lawn, watching the big screen on Erie Insurance Arena with a huge crowd of Trump supporters. It looked like a concert, minus the booze for sale or anyone who resembled anything close to a hippy. This was the working class. There were veterans and business owners, workers, politicians, people from all walks of life. Some younger people also attended; I noted a teenager wearing a cape that said “Juul Hits for Trump” and some college-aged individuals cracking Bud Lights. It wasn’t very diverse, but I saw more kinds of people than I expected to. 

When Trump finally came on the big screen, the crowd applauded and cheered after most things he said, and that was the way of the night. 

Trump glossed over several topics, such as how well the economy is doing, Brett Kavanaugh’s recent Supreme Court confirmation, better care for veterans, and more sand for Presque Isle, which may have been Trump’s best speaking point of the night. I cheered for that one. 

At one point during the rally, people shot T-shirts out of handheld cannons at the crowd and someone apparently proposed. I guess this was a spectacle ­­— but it felt more like a sporting event than a political convention. It is strange how burdened politics have become, yet when we face the lion in its den, a strange realization dawns: it’s all an act. 

While we sat on the lawn in a sea of red hats and shirts, a few blocks up, another crowd had gathered to protest the rally and also urged for people to vote in the primaries, but this time in blue. Now this is where things go sour. Despite the protesters being ordered to stand two streets away, some of your least favorite right-wing provocateurs such as Infowars and Kaitlin Bennett, “The Kent State Gun Girl,” decided they were going to “talk” to the protesters. I don’t have information on what Infowars was up to, but I saw a video of Bennett essentially insulting the crowd of protesters, and then told them that she was “carrying, just so you know.” 

If she wants to keep her guns and right to carry so bad, wouldn’t you think it’d be smarter to not threaten people with that weapon? And then what, are you going to shoot them? That’s exactly why people want to take away the right to carry: because some of the people who are advocating for guns start acting like maniacs. She was standing on a street holding a mic next to people holding cardboard signs. Her life and safety was not being threatened. Bennett provokes people, but to what means? Her approach and attitude fosters no genuine conversation between sides, it only polarizes. 

And that false justification of provocation is at the crux of what goes wrong at these rallies. There are people who want to disrupt, and people who want to be a part of something they believe in. They fall on both sides, as we’ve seen extremist right-wing support such as the Ku Klux Klan showing support for Trump, and left wing support from Antifa, an often violent and ironically fascist-like group. These people simply ruin it for everyone. 

Our democratic republic allows us to elect officials that are supposed to support and represent the American people, but that has become an illusion. I feel as though for my whole life, I’ve only seen people in power who implemented policies that allow them to profit. There is so much wrong with our nation, and I know that at the end of most days, there’s little I can do to stop it all except respect others and stick it to the man when I can. 

Mainstream media, however, begs to differ. In fact, it wants you to be heavily aware of your political environment. This is a hot take: politics are not just a spectacle, but a raging dumpster fire of controlled information and agendas that ravages every digital screen in this era. It felt so strange to see a political event in the flesh and have it be so incredibly anti-climatic. To be just outside of the infamous lion’s den, observing his toupee’d mane, and hearing him ask, “But where’s the sand?” (on Presque Isle) brought politics back down to the grass I stood on with over 3,000 other people. 

I support and encourage rights to free speech, to protest, to attend and to be apathetic. Just don’t let your world be consumed by hate. Rallies can be a place for this kind of hate to grow and churn on both sides, but they certainly don’t need to be. Stand by your beliefs or don’t, just don’t be an idiot to others. Because people are going to believe what they want to believe and keep peoplin’.

Livia Homerski can be reached at ae.spectator@gmail.com.

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