By James Hanafee
When I first decided to attend a rally for President Donald J. Trump in Colorado Springs, I hardly aspired to attend with the purpose of being forcibly ejected. Indeed, my primary motivation — or so I was telling myself — was to initiate conversation with Trump’s supporters and breach the ideological bubble that isolates Colorado College students from the opinions of millions of Americans. Even as I walked into the arena on that fateful evening, my mind was more preoccupied with the best method of engaging with Trump supporters rather than enraging them. Yet, at approximately 6:15 p.m. on the night of Feb. 19, I found myself and six other students being escorted out of the Broadmoor World Arena after chanting “Lock him up” at the president of the United States.
For someone who originally hoped to initiate constructive dialogue with Trump supporters, hindsight reveals the detriment of publicly professing one’s desire to see the sitting president thrown in jail. Yet hindsight also reveals the yawning and nearly incalculable gap between President Trump (and his followers) and those who oppose him. It can be cliché for those in liberal circles to say that Trump supporters have no basis in reality; this characterization (among others) was one I wished to disprove at the rally. For the most part, however, I was left disappointed. Outside the rally, we had noticed hundreds of people attempting to engage in line-jumping — some successfully, some not so — without a shred of recognition that their illicit actions were much the same (on a smaller scale) as the illegal immigrants they so readily decried. At a Trump rally, borders and rules are only legitimate when they apply to the “other” — for us, the “rules” need not apply if our interest is at stake. Inside, it wasn’t much better: as Trump repeatedly bent the truth beyond recognition, any possible space for independent thought was squelched by the singular consciousness of adoration. The crowd booed obediently at Trump’s mention of CNBC — the epitome of “Fake News!” — before being left dumbfounded by Trump’s assertion that CNBC was actually “All right!” Thus was our collective incredulity with all aspects of Trumpism.
And so, it came to be that my fellow would-be protestors and myself made the spur-of-the-moment decision to play into Trump’s hands and engage in the very acts of provocation we knew were ineffectual at moving our country forward. And yet, as we stood united, seven individuals facing down a hostile crowd of thousands, we felt liberated. After being escorted out of the arena by security guards, we erupted into adrenaline-fueled giddiness at the sheer magnitude of what we had just accomplished. Many protests are pre-planned and premeditated; we had seven people who decided on a whim to initiate a chant and managed to shut down the rally for the better part of a minute. However, to what extent were our acts intended truly for the betterment of America or for our own self-satisfaction? Chanting “Lock him up” to the sitting president of the U.S., though certainly immediately gratifying, was nonetheless an act of provocation intended to elicit collective hatred. What separates this action from those on the other side of the aisle whose support for Trump is contingent on his ability to “own the libs”? Perhaps not as much as we would hope.