Op-Ed: Protesters, Trump voters share resentment of government

Op-Ed: Protesters, Trump voters share resentment of government


There were 6,000 people at the “Love Trumps Hate” protest at the Boston Common, but it seemed more like 10,000 or 20,000 strong when they started chanting. First, it was “say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here!” Then it transitioned to “my body, my choice, her body, her choice!” One girl, with a crudely made “Not My President” poster and hair dyed green and a proud expression on her face screamed “[expletive] Trump!” because, well, why not?

As my Republican friend and I walked through the throngs of people, trying to find the front of the march, we were noticeably more subdued than our counterparts. But I wasn’t feeling smug or vindictive like he was. Instead, I took a more cynical approach to these protesters. I was incredibly harsh on them, as I joked with my friend about the percentage of these people who even voted.

Then, one exiguous lady screamed, “This is what democracy looks like!” No, it isn’t. It’s unbecoming of our nation to be protesting the results of a fair process, a democratic election, no matter which candidate won or what the Bill of Rights declared about citizens’ right to peacefully assemble. But, even more so, I was dismayed by, I guess, liberals in general. How could they let this happen? The same people who are protesting and will continue to protest across the country had their chance to put Hillary Clinton in office on Nov. 8, and, as a whole, they failed.

The self-righteousness of liberals had turned the impoverished white man to Trump. In turn, 49 percent of the nation followed him. It’s not elitist to prioritize different racial groups’ issues over another because of societal readiness. It is elitist, however, to delude yourself into thinking that one lower-class group genuinely needs more attention than another, especially if you think that it is some act of charity: That you owe them one.  

The very same silent majority that powered Nixon to victory in 1968 also powered Trump to victory in 2016. The grievances of poverty-stricken white communities have unintentionally (or intentionally, depending on the party you ask) been cast aside for Native American rights, African-American civil rights, Hispanic civil rights and the rights of LGBTQA+ people. The guilt white America bears almost seems interminable, so in an effort to look out for people who have been marginalized, the left ignored the silent majority. Irony in its finest form.

I walked with little purpose and no vigor, slowly sifting through the people who were chanting things they genuinely believed. But every time I would start to join in, the words would get caught in my throat, so only a resigned breath would escape me. I avoided cameras so they couldn’t capture my grimaces. Most of the people marching were college students, and I tried to absorb some of the palpable energy my peers exuded, but my legs remained lifeless and my visage emotionless. I did not belong in that rally. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t as pro-Clinton as many of my fellow marchers were. Or maybe it was because I, as an Indian, wasn’t enough of a minority. But, there’s the chance that I was actually the wrong kind of minority for the left — the kind that didn’t detest Trump.

We rounded corner after corner in some haphazard route. Sometimes, my friend and I would exit the streets and amble on the sidewalk to get closer to the front. But every time I left the horde, I felt an unexplainable, strong pull back to join the raucousness. Suddenly, I saw the core issue. At the heart of the matter, these people wanted to be wanted — the women, the LGBTQA+ community, the affected minorities. They wanted to be seen and heard, and they desired, more than anything, to be wanted by society without having to fight so hard to prove themselves worthy.

I empathized with them by the end of the march because at times, I feel that same craving for validation, to know that I matter to the right people. These protesters felt like they were going to be left behind by the Trump administration, ending progress made under President Barack Obama’s direction. Everything liberals did for women, the LGBTQA+ community and refugees would be cast asunder, left stagnant until the country was ready for another mass liberal push.

Paul Revere’s statue was glowing with the lights of the protesters. In the shadows, he almost appeared alarmed. I remember walking past an anti-fascist group with people holding a black flag and wearing black masks covering only half of their faces, and I felt afraid. I walked past them, with some wariness, and soon the the penultimate speaker stood in front of thousands, and started belting his message. The raw energy of the Black Lives Matter speaker, among others, was inspiring on one hand, but on the other, it was perturbing. The inherent displeasure toward the upcoming Trump administration had me cautiously imagining potential national unrest and tensions unseen since the early 1990s. I quickly shoved aside the negativity because these people yearned to be heard, so I listened for a couple minutes more, even at the behest of my friend to leave the demonstration.

Paul Revere was riding from tyranny. The protesters were charging against potential irrelevance. Regardless, my empathy for the protesters’ plight did not extend into unilateral acceptance of their actions to assemble, albeit peacefully. With every step I took away from the protest, I felt that I was walking away from trying to acknowledge the protesters. I was not standing alongside them with my shoulders square, but with only my vitality-sapped voice and my spiritless gait. As a group of one, I was my own silent majority.

America has been defined more symbolically than anything else — a sort of gross exaggeration of beauty and mythical perfection that most people still believe. We tend to see things for their symbolic value. If we didn’t, Columbus Day should serve to prove that some people cannot use compasses (or identify races), and Thanksgiving should serve as an emblem on how to backstab those who help you. So maybe these protests of Trump’s election as president serve only a symbolical purpose, since Trump will be president regardless: That these people will not be forgotten, belittled or tossed aside again. It’s just too bad that most of the people who voted Republican also feel the same way.

As electric as the atmosphere was, and as passionate as the speakers were, I couldn’t help but think the gesture was too little, too late. So maybe, instead of protesting, we could try to change people’s attitudes before the next election using the protester’s arguments, particularly the point that tolerance must be spread across this nation. The country must show its strongest face, its resilient one, once more in the face of difficult odds. I have faith, as Don Vito Corleone did in The Godfather when he asserted: “I believe in America.” I do too.

– Lal Birali is a freshman pursuing a combined major in computer science and business.

Photo courtesy Quinn Dombrowski, Creative Commons

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