*This is the article I wrote after Donald Trump visited the city of Minneapolis in October 10th, 2019. It was published, in its original version in Spanish, in the Chilean magazine The Clinic and in Revista Temporales, the online magazine of the MFA Creative Writing Program in Spanish of the New York University.
Why do dogs lick themselves?
Because they can.
Slavoj Zizek, “The Courage of Hopelessness”
Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek used the phrase above after the Panama Papers scandal came to light back in 2016. He used it to explain why the capitalist economic system is corrupt, broken, and why certain people take advantage of it. Why politicians and billionaires do that? Zizek says it is simply because when they realize they can and the laws favor them, they just do it.
Why does Donald Trump come to the heart of Minneapolis, one of the most liberal cities in the United States, to make a political rally? Because he can. Because despite the fact that the mayor of the city is against it, and despite the hundreds of protesters who have been screaming for hours with their peace and love banners outside the Target Center, Trump is the president of the country and he doesn’t care about anything else but himself, his money and his ideas.
He is a provocateur. And the people who come, follow him and vote for him, loves him in a religious way. You can see them on the train, on the bus, in their cars. They have come from the small cities of the state, most ultraconservative, oblivious to the life of the big city. For them, today is their opportunity to show their true colors, to get out the MAGA red cap from the closet, the shirt that says “Make Liberals Cry Again”, “I don’t care about your feelings”, and wear them with pride. Like the guy who sits on the train in front of me, who looks with defiant eyes at everyone and raises his chin with arrogance. He is going to see his president. He gets mixed with others who go with banners and the phrase “Keep America Great,” the slogan of the 2020 campaign. As if in three years Trump had had transformed the country, and now it had to be defended from the socialists hosts that wants to destroy the American family, the American values, the American Dream, the American way of life.
They are thousands, dressed all red or blue and white. In the enclosure there are 20,000 people, and although some reporters will say that there were empty seats, in the end it will be full. All white folks: blacks and Latinos can be counted with the fingers of one hand. One of the few people of color is Michael Yareta. He came from Maryland, on the east coast, where he is running for congressman . He jumps, smiles, talk to people, and raises his red Trump banner. “He is not racist,” Yareta says, and swears that if the United States has intervened in other countries it is solely because of the Democrats, “Republicans never” he exclaims. or Yareta, the Democrats are “the worst, false.”
“All the problems of the health system are the fault of the Democrats, of Obama. No one has to pay monthly for health insurance, because being healthy depends on oneself. If you have a healthy life, if you play sports, if you take care of yourself, if you eat well, health insurance is not necessary. That is the trap of the Democrats,” he explains.
“Four more years. Four more years,” people shout. Songs of the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Tom Petty, Neil Young are played. Also “Purple Rain” by Prince, one of the local musical heroes echoes through the arena, even though Trump’s lawyers swore a year ago that they would stop playing it after Prince’s family lawyers ask them to. Why did he do it anyway? Because he can and doesn’t care.
There is a group of young women, twenty-somethings, all platinum-blonde, makeup like in the bad American movies about colleges and stuff, with their red t-shirts and their striped flags. They are dancing. What confidence to dance, to contour, to laugh. They are sure that they will always win. “Never get tired of winning,” says Erik Trump, one of the president’s sons, who is now on the stage. And those young women feel it, they live it, they think it, although in reality they are losing. Like almost everyone.
Away from the general public, there are two guys dressed with black t-shirts, tight jeans and boots. Both are blond and their ways of looking, their haircuts and beards remind those who play the characters of the series “Vikings”. A journalist next shows me his phone and says: “Do you see the tattoo that has that on the arm? It’s this symbol. This is the symbol of the Aryan Nation. White Supremacists.”
“I’m super excited,” says Julie. She is a volunteer, and I have seen her several times because she has helped me get my credentials. She is a kind, smiling woman, around her 50s. “For me it’s like getting out of the closet, although I still came hidden from my family, I don’t want them to know. Most are liberals and when they talk, I don’t say anything. Here I feel free. Look at all this! Are you enjoying it?”
Now the volunteers tell the press that have to get into the designated area, behind bars. It is a cage. I want to go out, I want to be able to see the president more closely, maybe ask him a question. I ask to return my credentials. Nobody knows what to tell me until Erin Perrine, deputy director of Communications for the Trump campaign arrives. She stands in front of me, looks at me challenging, serious. “What’s up?” she says. I tell her that I want to go out, that I want to be with the public. She says, in a dry tone: “No, you can’t.” I go back to the cage with my tail between my legs.
Going to a Trump rally is like going to see a stand up comedy show. He is more fun than Dave Chappelle, the trendy black conservative comedian. Because despite the things he says, I surprise myself laughing, enjoying and having fun. Shouldn’t I be scared or frightened by what he says, by the way of his mocking Nancy Pelosi, by what he is saying about Ilhan Omar, the Somali descent Minnesota representative? Shouldn’t I be ashamed of myself? Maybe, but the truth is that I am not. Why is he making fun of people like that, with complete confidence? Because he can. Is that the way to exercise free speech?
There is a boy, no more than 3 years old, who runs and plays with his parents. The dad, with a tight look, shouts slogans as soon as he has the chance; the mother, blonde and short, claps without stopping. At one point, the dad takes the boy in his arms and, while Trump calls the press “dishonest. The worst thing that can happen to this country,” the father teaches the child to make the gesture of disapproval with the thumb down. The child continues to do it upwards, but the father bends the child’s hand tightly. He can laugh and play because he is not here. For now.
Did Hitler cause the same reactions in people? It’s like in the movie “He’s Back”, in which Hitler comes back to life in today’s Berlin and uses the media to spread his hate message. Nobody really believes him, people think he is a comedian, his followers love him, laugh, shout, make fun, share his videos in social media. Despite having three types of gestures with his arms, sideways, up, or down, Trump knows what he is doing. He has done it for years, entertaining the masses. He feeds of the likeness for reality shows like “The Apprentice.” What he says, whether true or not, excites. It shakes you, throws you, lifts you, makes you laugh and then hits you, and you surprise yourself wanting more. It’s like being on top of a roller coaster, you squeeze your wadding just thinking about the next descent, but you enjoy it and you don’t want it to ever end. You want to continue feeling that you are at the top, that you are winning, although when everything is over you will be back to your house in the poor suburb to drink cheap light beer and watch TV. But don’t worry, you are correct, everything is liberals’ fault and their political correctness. You can think like that, do it, and they have to respect you. (In a way that is correct, but that is another story).
After two hours in which he spoke ill of all, he boasted of his power and his negotiating skills, told anecdotes of his meetings with the presidents of North Korea and Europe and ensuring that the United States is “better than ever”, Trump ends by saying that he needs the people, the American people, to continue “winning, winning and winning. We have already defeated fascism, we have already defeated communism. No one can defeat us.” Everyone raves, Trump extends his hands sideways, like a hugging father, and then leaves. It’s over.
We leave the place and enter the corridors that will take us to the street, where thousands of people continue protesting. We can see them through the windows. They are the Others, the depraved socialists, the enemies of America’s values. Here are the other “Others”, those who live, believe, pray and breathe as truly Americans. What do the millionaires of Eden Praire and Edina have in common with the poor white trash who lives in the deepest part of the state of Minnesota and any other states in the country? That both believe in the same. Moreover, the existence of one justifies the belief of the other. It is not difficult to imagine: “That’s how I want to be, like the millionaire who worked hard and achieved what he has, and nobody gave it to him. Working hard is the key of success.” “If I could, let no one tell you that you can’t.” And here they are both, boss and employee, favored and disadvantaged, rich and poor walking side by side because in the United States there are no social classes and therefore there is no class struggle, shouting “four more years” of Republican mandate. “Keep America Working,” say some posters. Because work makes us worthy, it makes us free, right? Where have I read that before, in German, set in black metal on a gate? Oh yes, I already remember.
I listen to the comments. “They are crazy”. “They don’t know anything, they don’t even know what an impeachment is, neither about international politics, nor about economics. You talk to them and they have no arguments.” People applaud the riot police, dressed for war, who are entering the building. “Thanks for your service”. Others make fun of the protesters by showing them posters of Trump 2020. In a few more hours I will talk to a liberal friend who is there at the protest, on the other side, and will tell me “how good it felt to have been alone with people who think like me.”
Now I’m tired, my head feels like a bell and despite everything, I feel safe in this crowd. I’m more afraid of what will happen when I go out. Will there be fights, confrontations, discussions, stones, whacks and tear gas bombs? “‘People’ is a contradictory multiplicity capable of incredible acts of solidarity that surprise the most cynical intellectual, but they can also go astray in the lowest passions of fascism,” wrote Zizek. And if for those who are outside the crazy people are here inside, and for those inside the crazy people are outside, who are the crazy people?