When Shirley Teter of Asheville heard that Donald Trump was coming to her town on Monday, she felt she had to be there to protest him. At 69, Teter is the same age as the Democratic nominee, and she has an oxygen tank strapped to her back to help ease her chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
She arrived at the Trump venue and saw that some 100 protesters had gathered. She joined them. Soon enough, the Trump crowd came boiling out of the building like angry bees, and the catcalls from the protesters began. At one point, Teter hooted, “You better learn to speak Russian!” in reference to Trump’s strange obsession with Vladimir Putin. That’s when the lights went out.
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A man later identified as Richard Campbell of Edisto Island turned to Teter and punched her dead in the face. She went down immediately, crashing to the hard pavement and falling across her oxygen tank. She was in the hospital until 2:00 a.m. the following morning, and came away from the incident with a jaw so sore she can’t chew, as well as bruised ribs. The incident did not improve her opinion of Trump. “People need to know what state of agitation he puts people in,” she told USA Today. An arrest warrant has been issued for Campbell.
This is not nearly the first incident of mayhem perpetrated by a Trump supporter at a rally. Hell, it wasn’t even the only incident at the Asheville rally on Monday. Inside, Thomas Vellanti Jr. of Flat Rock shoved and slapped three different protesters before finally being restrained. An arrest warrant was issued for him, as well.
After experiencing the police violence at the 1968 Democratic Convention, Hunter S. Thompson used to say he always brought a helmet when he went back to Chicago. If I bring a helmet anywhere, it will be to a Trump rally. Clearly, I might need it.
What’s the explanation? Certainly, the overheated rhetoric from the candidate has something to do with it. “I’d like to punch that guy in the face;” “Knock the hell out of him;” “Bomb the shit out of them;” “Tell them to go fuck themselves” — rally words from Trump’s own mouth made famous by Clinton campaign commercials. Violent imagery is second nature to the man, and clearly there are members of his audience willing to take his lead and start punching out 69-year-old women wearing oxygen tanks.
There have also been multiple instances of overt racism at Trump rallies. In November, a Black protester was pummeled and kicked while down on the ground. As ever, the candidate signaled to the mob that he approved of this behavior, and that the beaten protester got what was coming. “Maybe [the protester] should have been roughed up,” he said the next day. Message received.
Not since the Klan was deeply involved in American politics have violence, intimidation and blatant racism played such an obvious and overt role in a national political campaign. Trump has become the avatar of the white supremacist movement in the US, and his campaign has repaid the favor in kind; Trump’s #1 surrogate, vice presidential candidate Mike Pence, still refuses to say a bad public word about avowed Klansman David Duke.
Speaking of deplorable, this anthropological phenomenon is being largely ignored by the corporate “news” media. The “news” media are doing what they always do. They find the easiest, simplest thing to cover and run it into the ground, to the neglect of far more important stories. This is part of the reason why Thursday was day five of Healthapalooza, followed by Birtherpalooza, because filling the hours with doctors diagnosing Hillary Clinton at a distance requires less rigorous journalism than exposing the root causes of why 69-year-old women are getting punched out and Black protesters are getting kicked when they’re down.
The Republicans have spent generations now inculcating a segment of the population with fear of The Other, with the sense that they’re losing the country — that God Himself is under assault. They won plenty of elections doing so, but kept very few of the promises they made along the way.
The cork finally popped with the re-election of a Black president, a large segment of the GOP base rose up in befuddled revolt, and Donald Trump shot the gap. He put those people in the traces, and they are plowing his field all the way to the Great Getting’ Up Day awaiting him on the first Tuesday in November. Don’t fool yourself; it just might work. Trump has exposed a deep vein of true ugliness in this country. There are far more deplorables than we ever knew of.
Let’s say it does work and Trump wins. Let’s say he is allowed to assemble his 10,000-strong “Deportation Force.” What kind of person would choose to sign up for such a group? Maybe the type who punches women and kicks protesters at rallies. The absolute loyalist core of his supporters. All of a sudden, Donald Trump would have his own private army of fanatic devotees, loyal only to him. It has happened many times in the past — the Tonton Macoute, the Khmer Rouge — and it has never, ever worked out well. This is the future these people seek: an authoritarian wonderland under the guiding hand of a tyrant.