An American Nightmare

16

MOUNT PLEASANT, SOUTH CAROLINA – The joke’s over.

It’s time for the late-night monologues to end, for the Saturday Night Live bookings to stop, for the anchors on CNN to quit wisecracking their way through the evening rundown.

It’s not funny and it’s never been funny.

Tonight, the Donald Trump campaign jumped into the territory of full-throated fascism with two feet. Tonight, Donald Trump transformed from novelty footnote to one of the most dangerous men in American history.

If his campaign ends without a body count, we should all consider ourselves unbelievably lucky.

*

Line for Trump rallyThe line into Trump’s speech aboard the USS Yorktown, harbored in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, right outside of Charleston, is abuzz with white people buying the campaign’s signature hat, a cheap red number reading MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN that was first adopted when Trump needed something to keep his eccentric head of hair from fluttering out of place in front of the camera. Between purchases, they talk about “ethnic people,” “blacks,” and other groups they find both unseemly and ungrateful.

As expected, conversation eventually switches to San Bernardino and the recent attacks by an apparently radicalized couple with arguable ties to ISIS. Some argue we should bomb them and others advocate reducing the Middle East to a glass parking lot.

“I just like that he’s not going to bullshit you,” the owner of the glass parking lot solution says. “If you ask me, it’s this political correct bullshit that’s got us in all this trouble.”

Within seconds he tells his new friend in line, along with anybody else within an earshot, how Reagan was such a badass that when he was elected in 1981 the Iranians automatically released their American hostages out of fear. What he neglects to mention is that the Reagan campaign negotiated with the Iranians before the election to ensure the Iranians wouldn’t release their prisoners beforehand and help incumbent Jimmy Carter.

I know this, and would usually speak up, but the scene is so fraught with tension and anger that any attempt would’ve been an invitation for trouble. The rhetoric only grows uglier as the sun sets over the ship.

“I like that he’s doing this on an aircraft carrier,” says a woman who just moments earlier took great joy in baiting a desperate vendor into thinking she was going to buy a T-shirt before sending him on his way. “It seems right because he’s so…strong.”

*

Everyone has it backward and they’ve had it backward all along. The pundits have wrung their hands over the poll numbers, wondering what it’s going to take for Trump to finally lose his momentum. What was going to be the thing that made him unpalatable and what was going to be the final straw that broke the campaign’s back?

After all, how was it that he was capable of dragging so many people to his extreme point of view?

The truth of it is that Trump hasn’t drug anybody anywhere. And he doesn’t have impressive poll numbers because he’s somehow or another convinced anybody of anything.

Trump is, as of this moment, the heartbeat of an America with which you and I are not a part of but very much accustomed. His is not a proactive candidacy but a pure, unadulterated, reaction to what a slice of the American public wants. This is a group that lives their lives steeped in unbelievable anger. They are either poor or less rich than they think they should be, they are middle-class or upper middle-class, and they are, almost to a person, white. They are angry and all they want in the fucking world is to blame somebody.

Trump isn’t the cause, he’s the disease personified.

He is repeating to this group of people, in a voice they’ve been dying for, the very thing they’ve always known but they’ve wanted to hear. And it doesn’t matter what gets in their way, whether it’s the Constitution they claim to love so much or groups of people they wish to deny basic decency and basic rights.

He has found the pulse of these ignorant, livid people and is playing it like a virtuoso strumming an instrument.

*

“We put out a statement today,” Trump says, shuffling through his papers. “It’s impossible to watch this gross incompetence that I watched last night. And we put out a statement a little while ago and these people (the media) went crazy… Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on!”

The crowd around me explodes. They’ve been cheering every custom-made applause line all night. They’ve called President Obama a coward, a criminal, and, this is the dirtiest of words tonight, a Muslim. Anything that the outside world could see as racist or vile they’ve eaten up and shouted back “Amen!” and “Preach!” When protestors interrupt the speech, and at least five of them do, a crowd of men surrounds them, shoves their fingers in their faces, and cries “Trump! Trump! Trump!” until security carries them away. The look in their eyes tells me we’re only days away from one of these scenes getting out of hand.

“We have no choice. We have no choice. We have no choice.”

*

TrumpSome would argue that capitalism is a system of competition while others maintain it’s less a matter of innovation and one-upmanship and more about latent opportunism. Trump’s success as a businessman and mogul are debatable, but what isn’t is his uncanny ability to seize an opportunity. The man has a talent at serving his greed and lust for influence by leveraging circumstances to his whim.

It’s crass, but true, that Trump saw the tragedy in San Bernardino, and Paris before it, as a chance to further his brand. Did he enter the race to further an anti-Islamic agenda? No, it began as a call to arms against illegal immigration, but the focus of the time has changed and with it the zeitgeist of the White and the Angry. Now it’s time to remind the Right Wing women of the country that they too could be raped, that the Right-Wing men could be killed or replaced, much as they already have been, in their own minds, by the forces of Political Correctness.

It is political theater and to see it up close and personal is staggering. I’ve seen some incredible scenes in my history of politics, but none has matched the vitriol and hatred I saw tonight. Those around me were burning with a rage I’ve never witnessed before. They were ready to fight, to destroy, to dismember if only Trump gave me them the permission.

“Treat her gently,” he says as a Black Lives Matter protestor is being led out. He jokes that they always criticize him when he takes pity on the protestors. That it makes him look “weak.”

He says, “Treat her gently,” and you have to wonder what happens if and when he ever decides to take the gloves off.

*

Trump protestThe protestors are on one side of the street, the Trump supporters on the other. Between them the Mount Pleasant police department, looking like they’d rather be anywhere else in the world. While the college-aged protestors call Trump a racist, the assembled wave their yard signs and call them “faggots,” “queers,” and implore them to kill themselves. As the showdown escalates, one of the supporters steps toward the group and challenges them to a fight. “I’ll whip all your asses,” he screams to the delight of the crowd.

For a response, the protestors chant “Black lives matter! Black lives matters!” The Trump crowd responds: “All lives matter!” The instigator finds the five or so people not chanting and gets in their face. Inches away from my face, he yells, “Do you hear what they’re saying, man? Black lives matter? Are you gonna let them get away with that?”

I walk away to get a different angle and another thirty-something man comes with me a few steps before pointing at a commemorative turret gun near the protest. “I sure wish that thing was working right about now.”

There are groups itching to cross the street. Five college kids wanting to “crack some fucking skulls.” I hear a couple more talk about going back to their cars to get their guns.

When the police finally call the protest off, they march the kids down the road and away from the property. On either side, numbering in the dozens, are hordes of Trump supporters waiting on something to make a move or for the police to give up their escort, whichever comes first. Down the ways, somebody rolls down their window and throws trash at them. Ten minutes later and they are gone, the cars are gone, and the only thing left is the lingering fear that this thing, this vile, wretched thing, is only just beginning.

 

Cover photo: Donald Trump Caricature by DonkeyHotey
Photos and video by author




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About Author

A born and bred Hoosier, Jared Yates Sexton is the author of An End to All Things (2012, Atticus Books), The Hook and the Haymaker (2015, Split Lip Press), and Bring Me the Head of Yorkie Goodman (2015, New Pulp Press). He currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Georgia Southern University.

16 Comments

  1. “abuzz with white people”
    “and they are, almost to a person, white”

    So let me get this straight…you are saying how ignorant it is to group all muslims together, and then you group all white people together and call them ignorant and racist? This is why Trump is so popular. People are exhausted of the ridiculous double-standards of the left. It’s no longer the democrat party, it’s just the anti-straight white male party. So if you want to act like republicans are anti-white, the democrats are just the polar opposite…still hateful just anti-white.

      • The crowd was what it was. He is simply reporting. It’s amazing what can be noticed when one stops talking and simply watches and listens. Humans tend to convict themselves with their own actions.

    • The mention that they are almost all white is relevant when the rhetoric being used is filled with racist dogwhistles and anti-Muslim rhetoric. This isn’t difficult to understand if you remove your own defensiveness.

      I’m white, and yet I understand that Trump is appealing to a section of white America that feels like people of color fighting for their rights means that white people will lose theirs. He is appealing to the fear that so many white people have of “the other.” That’s why the racial makeup of these crowds is relevant here. He knows his audience and he is appealing to VERY specific fears.

    • Joe, I’d ask you to consider this, just for a second. There are black, white, and brown Muslims (in fact there 12 million living peacefully in the U.S.). There are black, white, and brown Christians. There are black, white, and brown participants in #BlackLivesMatter. However, virtually all of those supporting Trump or swearing allegiance to #AllLivesMatter are white. Isn’t that a little strange?

      Obviously, that doesn’t mean that all whites are crazy, just as not all whites are like Dylann Roof. I’m not like that, and I assume you aren’t, either. However, when a big, famous political movement with lots of publicity manages to appeal to just one relatively narrow demographic, it means either 1) there’s something with everyone outside the group, or 2) there’s something wrong with group itself.

      Usually, the simplest explanation turns out to be true.

      • And since “black, white and brown” are involved in radical islam, much more then trumps supporters number doesn’t that make your logic a bit flawed?

    • Not all white people–Trump supporters. I do have a Puerto Rican cousin who wants to vote for Trump. Lo no entiendo.

  2. Hey Joe,

    Thanks for the comment, but I’m not saying all white people are ignorant or racist, if you read the line I was saying that Trump supporters are predominantly white. Just a demographical fact.

  3. I am confused. Perhaps I am just not reading it correctly because I am tired. It is acceptable for Black Panthers and Muslim Brotherhood to shout such rhetoric as “kill the m—– f—–r’s”, “kill all those white babies”, “kill all whites”, and it is fine for protestors at a Trump event to shout “Black Lives Matter”, but it isn’t ok for Trump supporters to shout “All lives matter”? I totally agree that it is not okay to incite death to all Muslims….but it should be not okay to incite death to ANYONE, Christians and whites, included. Just like black lives don’t matter more than any other lives…they are all equal. And is it acceptable for the President of the United States of America to stand in front of a podium and, by the careful use of tone, gesture, and facial expressions, show obvious support for thugs and less support for law enforcement officers doing their jobs, but Trump and his supporters are said to be THE narrow-minded racists and bigots? How are folks supporting Trump, someone you believe is not qualified to hold the position of POTUS, any different from the folks who voted for Obama, not once but twice—a man who clearly was not qualified and is in way over his head. There were so many people who voted for him who said the only reason they voted for him was because he was black. Many didn’t know what his qualifications or experience were, had no clue as to his proposed policies. They just knew he was giving away free stuff, and he was black, and that was all that mattered. How is that different?
    I applaud your call for less violent rhetoric and more understanding. But if you are going to use just one side as an example, you might find your article more effective in fighting discrimination if it was not obviously written from a left-leaning Democrat point of view, excluding other obvious and well-documented offenders than just Trump and his supporters.
    By the way, I would not vote for Trump if he was the only one running, but I just hate to see one side or one group being bashed when both sides and all groups are doing the same thing. (Except I haven’t seen any Baptists using the Bible as an excuse for cutting the heads off of co-workers and gunning them down with automatic weapons, leaving pressure cooker bombs at sporting events, attacking schools and cafes and concerts, or cutting off the heads of Muslims simply because they are Muslims.)

    • It’s definitely not okay to shout “kill all whites” or anything like that, and it should go without saying that radical Islamic terrorists are the enemy. The “Black Lives Matter” movement is simply about drawing attention to a well-documented patterns of racism. The rebuttal, “All Lives Matter,” was supposedly about erasing racial divides and respecting the sanctity of ALL life–and maybe for some, that’s what it actually means. But it seems that the majority of the time, it’s being used by hypocrites who shout “all lives matter!” in the same breath as shouting “n—-r” or using “Muslim” as an insult.

      Again, radical Islamic terrorists are our enemies, but they’re not our only enemies. We also have plenty of fundamentalist Christians like Dylann Roof who commit acts of bloodshed and terror. Virtually all mass killings in the U.S. have been perpetrated by white males. Obviously, as a white male myself, I know that all white males aren’t mass killers. Well, by the same token, there are 12 million Muslims in the U.S., 99.99% of which are nothing like the radical Islamic terrorists we’re fighting.

      The problem with Trump and his supporters is that they don’t get that.

    • I am neither Democrat or Republican. I have voted for both in the past. I think the two parties seem more extreme lately. I would not vote for Trump either. Still, I didn’t’ t think his idea of banning all Muslim immigrants temporarily meant he hated all Muslims. It wasn’t the best way of putting it, but what would be fair is to ban all immigrants temporarily. I know a man in Italy who would love to move here, and has many relatives here, and a trade. It seems he will never be given permanent residence. He lived here for once, but didn’t want to overstay his visa, or marry an American just to stay. He still talks of wanting to move here. And why is it so important for Syrians to immigrate, and so terrible if they can not, when people in Africa have been suffering in war torn countries for years. Villages are burned, women, and girls raped,and kidnapped, and we didn’t rally to have thousands, or millions move here. Don’t get me wrong, I feel for the Syrian people, and the Africans, I am only saying that there are inconsistencies. It seems we are either very bad, or correct depending on our opinions about this, yet when it is applied to Africa it does not add up. There is poverty beyond belief in India, and for those who blame brown skin on why anyone doesn’t want to open up our doors, who could have been any whiter than the people in Eastern Europe immediately after the Soviet Union was dismantled? All those years of saying communism is bad, and our system is good, the desperate people were told to get it together themselves. I don’t remember any big rally to bring everyone here. I just don’t understand why it is not really a discussion. It’s “that side is bad” “that side is clueless”. I know few republicans that want to read, or listen tothe other side’s opinion, and vice versa. I am not referring to scholars, just the regular people. And why is assimilation demonized in the schools. People should never be ashamed of their heritage, but assimilating is not bad, and it is natural. In a very diverse school where I worked, everyone liked wearing the popular designer clothes, even before they mastered the English language. Why discourage assimilation.

  4. Jay T.H. Slewmen on

    I can’t fathom the self-loathing that this “man” has for himself, his ancestors, and his race. A political gathering of white people throws him into such a hysterical melt down that he immediately turns to the hackneyed “fascist” claim that is applied to all those to the political right of themselves.

    Which obliges me to point out the hypocrisy of this rather trivial, yet extremely hyperbolic accusation of fascism by Mr. Yates. Mr. Donald J. Trump has suggested nothing extraordinary to American Politics during times of war. From the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, to Roosevelt suspending naturalization of Italians, Japanese, and Germans the day after Pearl Harbor, to Jimmy Carter invalidating Iranian Visas in 1979.

    More recently though, Mr. President Barack Obama barred the processing of Iraqi refugees in 2011 after it was found that jihadist’s infiltrated United States territory through the refugee system. This will never be quoted today because it does not fit into the politically correct, “diversity is strength” narrative that is being jammed down our throats every day.

    It is painfully obvious that Mr. Donald J. Trump has greatly disturbed the political-media-banking complex that has dominated American society since post-World War II, yet supposed “independent” journalists still fall for the big, scary buzzwords hook line and sinker. Rather than get actual quotes from actual people, Mr. Yates delves into the all to common conservative stereotypes used by fear mongering “liberals.”

    Other than the obvious bias, your video and pictures were shit quality, the writing was remarkably uninspiring, and my tuition money pays your salary to boot. But is life in PC America.

  5. “A journalistic experience.. Mr. Sexton is a force to be reckoned with” – University of Missouri

    “With bravery and bravado, this up-and-comer exposes the conservative while male for what he truly is: an angry finger-pointer fueled by racism and bigotry. It’s a miracle that he survived to tell the tale” – Salon

    “A modern day Hunter Thompson.. Yielding the lethal combination of a keen investigative eye, a logical mind, and a warm heart.. but don’t let that fool you. This guy is not afraid to get his hands dirty. I can see it now.. ‘We were somewhere around Mount Pleasant on the edge of Trump City when I spotted the first Make America Great Again hat.. I remember thinking that I felt a bit lightheaded, and maybe I should have pulled over. Suddenly there was this terrible roar all around us and I saw Them piling around.. There were so many of them. Perhaps even a dozen.. Shouting their opinions and embracing one another with open arms, almost like it was some kind of political rally’… Truly remarkable”- Buzzfeed

  6. Powerful & needed article. Thank you for your witness. A tiny editorial note–I think in the last line you meant to say “wretched”. (Feel free to delete my comment! I hate to detract from the dialogue with my nit picking!)

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