I’m a Hoosier.
A proud one at that.
But not tonight. Tonight I’m ashamed of my state.
I’m ashamed that when I got inside the Westfield Grand Park Events Center the first thing I heard was a couple of guys agreeing that this previous week’s tragedy in Dallas that left five officers dead and another eleven injured was obviously a conspiracy perpetrated by billionaire George Soros to spark a race war to seed a New World Order.
I’m ashamed that another group nearby talked about the massacre like it was some video game or action movie and one of them bemoaned that he wished he’d been the one who’d gotten to kill the suspect.
But mostly I’m ashamed at the overwhelming displays of misogyny, including an attendee who referred to Secretary Hillary Clinton as an “f’ing cunt” just moments after somebody else had, as has become the custom, called for her to hang for her E-mail indiscretions.
I don’t know exactly what I expected.
A part of me hoped my home state would surprise me. That all of the ugliness I’ve seen at other rallies might be miraculously absent from tonight’s affair. This morning, while driving through a punishing rainstorm on Kentucky’s Pennyrile Expressway, I remember wrestling with the implication that the Trump sickness could’ve spread to Indiana, a possibility that held too many implications to really take seriously.
If it was there, I thought, then no doubt it was everywhere.
The first indication that that was the case was a button affixed to the lapel of a man’s blazer. It was maroon with white writing: LIFE’S A BITCH SO DON’T ELECT ONE. Not a minute later I saw my first TRUMP THAT BITCH shirt and then my second. The owners were comparing threads, laughing.
A bit later I saw another button, only this one I couldn’t quite place. At this point I’ve seen every type of Trump button imaginable. I’ve seen Clinton behind bars. I’ve seen Trump shooting a Democratic donkey. But this one was odd.
KFC HILLARY SPECIAL.
With a quick glance I caught the top text, but the wearer moved before I could read the whole thing. I followed him into the crowd and when he turned to chat with a buddy I saw the rest: 2 FAT THIGHS, 2 SMALL BREASTS…LEFT WING.
Even though I have to keep a low profile at these things, I lingered a bit too long. The prose didn’t compute. The despicability was too apparent. The gist too disgusting.
It was during Donald Trump’s most recent prosecution of Secretary Clinton that somebody said “f’ing cunt,” a comment that prompted laughs and a game of vulgar telephone. There were children nearby. A father holding his daughter and hopefully not having to explain what all the fun was about.
They came, I think, to see their Governor Mike Pence announced as Trump’s running mate. Aside from Illuminati plots and murderous fantasies, most of the talk revolved around this scenario, a possibility that kept everyone speculating wildly that the offer had already been made and only the photo-op remained.
“I hear they’re ironing out the details,” weighed in a man wearing an Indianapolis Colts hat. “It’s a done deal.”
The governor here is a conundrum. To the far right he’s wildly popular, and to the left and the middle he’s a pariah. Most will freely admit the best chance the Republicans have of maintaining the governorship is if Pence accepts Trump’s offer and bows out of the gubernatorial race, a glimmer of hope the crowd was frothing over as Lieutenant Governor Eric Holcomb arrived and pressed the flesh.
Further throwing gas on the fire was Trump’s tardiness. By a quarter after eight, a full forty-five minutes past the scheduled start time, the presumed nominee was nowhere to be found, an absence that led many in attendance to wonder if he was busy informing the other vice-presidential hopefuls he’d found his man. So it was with great disappointment they learned, from the candidate’s own mouth, what’d led to the nearly hour-long postponement: he’d just finished an interview with FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly that they could watch in the late-night replay.
Before Trump launched into his attack of Clinton, he paid quick lip service to the controversial governor and praised the turnout: ”Wow! That’s a lot of people!”
There were a lot of people, only there were less people than had been there an hour before. Dozens, if not hundreds, had already given up on seeing their candidate and made for the exits. It wasn’t a half hour later that hundreds more gave up on Trump’s rambling speech and sought greener pastures. His endless self-promotion and chest thumping had succeeded in thinning the room out considerably. Among those leaving: men and women who’d brought their kids, who’d carried their sons and daughters on their shoulders.
Framed by dusk, they strolled down the sidewalks as vendors hawked the now infamous T-shirts: “Hillary sucks, but not like Monica! Two for one! Two for one!” As they passed the parents seemed possessed of something.
Something like horror.
Something like shame.