I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with DT being in town. One great benefit of being in Kansas City is that one never has to see “Trump” on anything, except that one chiropractor on 93rd Street, which I am sure is no affiliation. The provinces, as I think of out here, in the provinces we are a little protected.
But then I turned on the TV for background noise (this is one way I seduce myself into working from home), and “The Price Is Right” was on, which was perfect background noise.
The local news interrupted the showcase showdown. This is the airport! He is here.
My body filled with adrenaline, feet to crown of head, I got up, threw on clothes, deodorant, sneakers, texted my friend who was already at the protest.
I made myself drink a glass of water. I stopped and bought three mylar balloons because I wanted to write three things on them. Then I drove downtown.
My friend had suggested parking far from the action, and I did park far off, and started walking. The sign I took is a little ambiguous, well, it shouldn’t be, but is: Celebrate Immigration, Cherish Journalism, Love Truth. In our current situation, all even the last proposition is controversial.
So as I walked, and walked past some old ladies with badges who looked like they might be part of the event, and a table of Trump t-shirts and buttons, and a table of Fuck Trump t-shirts and badges. A guy yelled after me, “We love immigrants, too!” which from his tone I could tell we had different ideas of what “love” meant.
And I’ve always been instructed, as a protestor, not to respond to hecklers, to respond to any feedback with a thumbs up, a smile, a wave. If they’re for you, this looks kind, and if they’re against you, it makes them look like assholes. (Thank you to Julie O’Conner and the animal rights kids who mentored me through my first protests.)
My balloons were bouncing along behind me. One said, FREE PRESS, one said LOVE IMMIGRANTS, and one said TRUTH. The helium seemed to have little effect, compared to the wind. I felt like I had brought three inflatable puppies.
I passed a few other folks who looked at my sign and tried to decipher it. And a few who gave me a thumbs up. And two who gave me a high five, also. And a lot of people squatting and smoking outside their office buildings, on break. Wearing uniforms. And people wearing their work badges, walking in twos to get lunch, or to get some air that was actually relatively fresh that day. In the shade, it was comfortable.
I turned right and furiously climbed the hill across downtown. I was a little sweaty and my calves strained a little. It was a lot of Kansas City walking, not a lot of New York walking. Seventeenth to 10th, and Baltimore to Broadway. I got to Grand before I realized that I was going the wrong way.
A man came out of the building where I was standing in the shade realizing I had gone the wrong way in my own city, well, the city I’ve lived in the longest, by far. “My friend is at 10th and Broadway,” I told this office guy.
“Yeah, that’s down there,” he said, as if I were straight off the turnip truck.
“Oh, yeah,” I said. You see, I really do have no sense of direction.
I went back down the hill. I might have realized my mistake because my church is on Broadway, but no. I made it to Broadway and my fellow protestors. Four corners of 10th and Broadway had people with their signs. The kids with bullhorns, and hippie lady with facial hair, the older veterans, quiet with flags, the gay dudes, one of whom held an American flag upside down. The people who just stood, they didn’t have a sign. Some familiar faces, now that I have been to a few protests here. The Poor People’s Campaign people. The Black Lives Matter. The moms against guns. The immigration people. We get together now.
And we chanted, as we do. I learned some new ones. We struggled over: “The people/united/shall never be….” Some thought defeated, some thought divided. Rhyme is so important in English. I can’t emphasize that enough.
My balloons were in the way, refusing to float up over our heads, ready to bop someone in the face. So I turned and tied their ribbon strings to the street barricade behind us. And next time I looked back, Truth, Immigrants, and the Free Press had disappeared.
When the presidential motorcade zoomed around the corner, a couple of blocks behind us, people started shouting, “Fuck Trump! Fuck you!” Which I did not enjoy. I mean, when I listen to NPR in my car, which is too often, I frequently say, “Or, you could go fuck yourself,” but that is me alone expressing myself. I don’t want rage in public. In public I want to get together, and be brokenhearted, and be angry, but not raging. Rage burns down everything.
I hope someone found the balloons. I hope they didn’t choke birds, or whatever other bad things loose balloons do. “Hey, truth! Here it is!” someone said.