Yesterday started with donuts, ended with tacos and had white supremacy in the middle. America.
On our way to pick up dinner last night, we found ourselves in the middle of a Trump rally spanning throughout Ann Morrison Park, down Americana Boulevard, and around downtown Boise, with so many cars we couldn’t tell where it ended or began. Some were honking, and there were excited children with American flags in the back of pickup trucks. Tons of Trump 2020 flags, “Keep America Great,” and that kind of thing.
“Fuck Your Feelings / Trump 2020,” one flag said.
And there were Confederate flags. Tinging the whole thing with the blood of enslaved people and the blood of generations of descendants and the violence through which many of those people were conceived. That’s what I see anyway, not willing to compartmentalize. I don’t care if not everyone had Confederate flags. You’re involved in a thing with Confederate flags, that’s the flavor. That’s a flavor that takes over everything by the nature of what it represents. You can’t have it both ways. And here in Idaho, you can’t argue “heritage” when talking about that sign of hate (not that anyone should). It’s just a straight-up symbol of both hate and the delusion of white supremacy.
I felt sick to my stomach.
“Please don’t get in a fight when you go get our tacos,” I told Brent. “PLEASE.”
While I was waiting for him, two young women were walking down the sidewalk with signs against Trump. I popped my head out the window.
“I’m with you!” I said. “I just want you to know that!” My heart was racing as I watched Trumped-out truck after truck drive by.
“Thank you!” one of them said. “I love your hair.”
“Thank you. I love your everything. You’re very brave to be down here in the middle of this,” I said. “I didn’t know this was going on – I’m sick to my stomach.”
“Well, at a rally, a woman without a mask got in my face and pushed me down,” one said. “And she said, 'I hope you die of COVID.’”
“I am so sorry,” I said. "That's horrible.” And I wasn't surprised because a friend of mine was similarly assaulted at a rally, too. White supremacists punched her in the face and dragged her to the ground, ripped her phone from her hand (yes, ripped — she had a wristlet attached to it). The guys who assaulted her had Nazi SS patches on their clothes and Nazi tattoos. They called her a “disgrace to [her] race.”
“That’s why we’re here,” she said. “I don’t care what your politics are. Just don’t be racist, don’t be homophobic, don’t be violent—”
“My wife,” the other young woman said. I could see the pride on her face, even under her mask.
“Well, thank you for being down here,” I said. “And stay safe.”
I keep thinking of my Uncle Mac who fought the Nazis during World War II. His plane was shot down over France and he was rescued by a young woman. He lived in her friends' attic until the war was over and had to pretend he couldn't hear or speak when German soldiers came through. He also worked for the USPS and was very exacting about how the American flag flew on the post office. I wonder what he would have thought about all this.
I saw Brent coming back to the car. Someone stopped him on the sidewalk, and my heart skipped a beat. And then I recognized it was our friend who works at the Record Exchange. They pretended to hug from six feet away. My breath settled.
“You’re not going to like this, but I almost got in a fight,” he said when he got back in the car. Of course, this made my heart race again because we have laws here in Idaho that allow you to carry guns pretty much everywhere.
“I told a guy he was a Nazi and a piece of shit, and he came back at me with, ‘Biden is a child molester,’” he said. "And that I'm lucky I'm not getting beat up."
“I’m not mad at you, and I agree with you, but it scares me,” I said. “Any one of them could have a gun and just shoot you. I can’t, like, trust that they aren’t going to get violent considering how little they seem to value life.” At the very least they are in some deep denial, which isn't surprising when you're part of a society built on white supremacy.
“We have that sign in the house that says, ‘Silence during injustice is complicity,’” he said. “Honestly, I was thinking of that. And that I’m not going to just stand there and not say anything and let them think I’m OK with it all.”
We texted a few friends on the way home, and one of them wisely said:
“Fascism necessitates rampant nationalism.”
I thought of something else he recently said about how so many people in the US have a certain strain of Stockholm syndrome, always saying how “great” the US is, not realizing how un-free it actually is. I’ll leave that right here.
I don't have some message of hope with which to tie this up. I mean, seeing that couple was a glimmer of it in the midst of that. I got choked up seeing those two physically small people holding up their signs walking into the red sun of the burning West.
Sisters of Mercy's “Lucretia My Reflection” came on the radio, which was an apt soundtrack to drive home to. It has been one of my favorite songs since I was a teenager, newly-tinted as my adrenaline simmered in my fingertips, driving by the energetic juggernaut of nationalism still lining Americana Boulevard on the way home:
“I hear the roar of a big machine
Two worlds and in between
Hot metal and methedrine
I hear empire down
I hear empire down
I hear the roar of a big machine
Two worlds and in between
Love lost, fire at will
Dum-dum bullets and shoot to kill, I hear
Dive, bombers, and
In the rear window of the car in front of us was a "Black Lives Matter" print – one I recognized as having been printed by my friend Brittany, because I have one, too. It helped to see that. But how chilling that that message is still one of protest in this country. Let’s do better.
It's me, Jennifer Bernice (rhymes with "Furnace": it was my Granny's name) Sutkowski
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