The anti-Trump demonstration was a dud, But I did (try to) chat with a militia guy about fascism, the Constitution, the 2nd Amendment and Antifa, and with two homeless guys about racial disparity and how Nigerians should just shut up.
(11-04-2017, updated 07-11-2018) I went to the Impeach Trump and Pence Demonstration at Republic Square Park today. Turned out later that it was somewhere else. They must have changed the location but forgotten to change the location on all the web sites.
So I get to the park half an hour before the demonstration is supposed to start, but it doesn’t look good. One guy with a sign with something about fascism, and at any given time at the most fifteen other people, who look like they could be there just to enjoy the park. At some point five 2nd Amendment guys, armed to the teeth, with bullet-proof vests and helmets and whatnot show up. Two police officers, who are hanging around, also for the demonstration, I suppose, speak briefly with the alpha male, respectfully shake his hand and wander off. (But not before I manage to get a picture that I later use as the perfect header for this blog about American fascism!)
I approach the militia men and ask why they’re there.
To practice our 2nd Amendment Rights, ma’am, and to help the police if we need to.
Help them do what?
Keep the peace.
But it’s already peaceful here. You’re the ones showing up with guns. You’re here to intimidate.
No ma’am, we’re not intimidating, we’re just well-prepared.
Prepared for what?
For Antifa. They attack us, it’s well-documented, and we’re here to protect ourselves and everyone if they show up. It’s our constitutional right to protect ourselves from enemies foreign and domestic.
So you’re big believers in the Constitution, huh?
Do you understand that Antifa stands for anti fascism and that there’s going to be an anti-Trump demonstration here because the president does not uphold the Constitution? Because he does not respect the separation of powers?
From that moment on the guy just starts talking over me about Trump getting the economy going again, creating jobs, and that Antifa is the enemy, not they, and that it’s their 2nd amendment right, etc. I try a few more times to keep the focus on the Constitution and how Trump is trampling on it, but they just talk over it with nonsense. So in the end I lose it and call them fucking fascist idiots and walk off, steaming. They wonder off, looking ridiculous with nobody to attack or defend themselves from.
I sit down on a big rock and a black homeless man joins me. He stands up for the militia men, because they were just practicing their 2nd Amendment rights.
We talk for quite a while about Trump, the economy, healthcare, socialism, and racial disparity. But again, it’s hard to talk because he, too, has a hard time taking turns talking and listening. He has all these conspiracy theories about the globalists and the Democrats who messed up black communities with welfare. He doesn’t think this country is really all that racist. When a cop stops him on the street in a white neighborhood he understands — he’s just really polite and then they don’t hurt him. We disagree on every single thing, but we’re still having a friendly conversation, even though I have to work hard to get a word in.
Then another black homeless man approaches us, at first to ask for money, which neither of us have (I only have my credit card on me) and he joins the conversation. He is the total opposite of Opie (we introduced ourselves at some point before the other guy joined us). He feels that being black per definition gives every black person a disadvantage and white people owe the black community because of history and he is homeless because he refuses to have a job–he equates that with slavery.
So the two of them get into it, New Guy pretty much saying that Opie is an Uncle Tom (and I can’t disagree completely) and Opie saying that nobody owes him anything and nobody owes the black community anything, that everyone is responsible for themselves. When I have a chance, I argue that my white kids, with their private school educations and after-school acting and film classes, definitely have a huge head start compared to poor black kids in the Bronx. That even if they feel responsible for themselves, they’re always going to start at the back of the line. New Guy agrees and adds that even in the black community, people are racist, based on how light or dark-skinned they are, instead of all being brothers. (He’s very dark-skinned.)
Then Opie says his parents were wealthy folks in Nigeria and that some of his brothers who had everything handed to them ended up being bums, and that sometimes having a hard start makes you tough. Upon hearing that, New Guy, missing the point or not caring about it, rips into Opie for being Nigerian (he protests that isn’t–he was born here) and coming to this country and thinking he knows everything even though his people didn’t have The Struggle.
In reality they’re both talking and eventually shouting at the same time, not letting the other finish making his point, and meanwhile my head’s just spinning from the fact that these two black homeless men are both in the same situation and yet so diametrically opposed, and from the fact that New Guy just complained a few sentences ago that black people discriminate among themselves instead of having a sense of solidarity, and then turns right around and disses Opie for his Nigerian background. New Guy walks off, disgusted, and Opie goes off in the opposite direction, for some reason suddenly angry at me too, now. I call after him that I enjoyed our conversation anyway, and then head back to the parking garage.
And that was my contribution to the anti-Trump demonstration.
On the way home I just wanted to cry. I learned a new word related to all this yesterday: epistemology ,the branch of philosophy that deals with what we know or what we think we know and how we can tell what’s true and false. Nobody listens to one another. People throw about these conspiracy theories and lies, some because it suits their purposes, others even though it hurts them. We’re all living in different universes, sometimes colliding clumsily and then bouncing away again, each of us staying in our own bubbles. I really don’t know how you would fix this, apart from demanding that something has to actually be a fact if you present it as such in the public sphere, and that otherwise you have to publicly correct it, just like in Every. Reasonable. Country!
Now I just want to scream, and since that’s not an option (the kids are home), I think I’ll try some meditation and then a few hours of mindless Netflix-watching.
(This post was first published on the blog Resident Alien: Being Dutch in America, under the title: “The November 4 Demonstration”, 11-04-2017)
Header image: mine, taken at the anti-Trump demonstration. The militia guy talking to the cops is the one I tried talking with, who said they were there to protect themselves from Antifa.