This story is dedicated to the kids from Parkland and everyone else Marching for Life today. I’ll be out there marching with you guys. Let’s make some change happen.
Inspired by a True Story
She held her fingers into her ears. They were sticking straight in like arrows and her elbows bowed out to the sides of her head. Bangles slid down her left wrist and a purse hung from two golden rings around her right forearm. Her son, probably around fifteen or sixteen, stood next to her watching them chant and yell from the other side of the street.
“What are they saying, mom?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care.” She said turning away indignantly.
The line started to move forward and I followed the woman and her son around the curve and in towards the Convention Center. It was starting to drizzle and the wind was whipping through the downtown streets so I zipped my rain jacket up a little further. The cold made the extra layers I was wearing very convenient. All around there were signs and hats and people along the line selling T-shirts and stickers and more hats on those plastic tables that college kids use for beer pong. The quartermasters and their uniforms.
As we entered the Convention Center we were all quickly searched and waved through metal detectors. The woman in front of me had to open up her purse with the large gold rings and watch as the security guard poked through her things. I emptied my pockets and opened my jacket for the guard as I stepped through the metal detector. There was no alarm so I took my phone and wallet and keys from the plastic tub and headed in towards the bathroom.
There was a line for the urinals in the men’s room but a stall was open at the end. I went in and took off my jacket, hanging it on the hook on the door. Next I peeled off my sweater underneath and put the jacket back on, balling the sweater up and discreetly carrying it out of the bathroom. I headed in towards the convention hall.
Walking past a trio of police officers, I took a place standing near the back off the hall. I wanted to get a little closer to the stage but it looked too crowded and I didn’t want to get trapped in with all those people if I needed to get out quickly. And I knew I would have to get out quickly. I didn’t want to risk it. About halfway up the hall towards the stage stood a large, black steel platform thronged with reporters and cameras and guarded by two security guards in suits at the bottom of the stairs. They all leaned in over the barricade to try and get the best shot or angle. Behind the reporters’ platform there was a long line of people chanting and holding up signs as guards and police officers marched them out.
The doors closed behind them and the speakers shuddered as an audio cable was plugged in. Music, first just a steady beat, came blaring from the speakers in all the corners and along the front of the hall, just above the stage. The lights dimmed and the music began to build as the different instruments joined in. The people in the crowd started to cheer and clap and stomp their feet awkwardly with the beat. As the music got louder and louder so did the crowd, some jumping and screaming as the song reached its crescendo. Finally the crowd erupted in roars and cheers and I could just barely make out the small figure on stage, slinking across as people’s raised fingers danced in front of him. He clapped and smiled, pointing generally out into the crowd, not to anyone in particular. He clapped for himself again and clamped his hands onto the podium like a much too old man grabs a much too young girl. He nodded and grinned a thin smack of a smile to the sordid rhythm of the crowd chanting his name,
“Trump! Trump! Trump!”
I stood in the back hating myself for even being there. The lights swirled around the stage and landed on Donald Trump, with a smug look of self-satisfaction that only an up-jumped, golden boy, silver platter fucking, man-child bitch would be capable of mustering. There is no fucking way this living embodiment of Troll will be elected President. No fucking way. He is an incompetent and boorish boob whose stumble into politics is the same as a drunken vagabond coming across a winning lottery ticket. He was like that one ‘friend’ you have that you would do anything to avoid. You ignore his calls, don’t reply to his texts and try to hide from his sight if you ever spot him in public. He’s the person you’re embarrassed to have even met. He’s your mom’s new boyfriend who smokes in the house and tells you to go get beer for him. He’s the pedophile on the sex offender registration. He’s the rapist in a prison cell. He’s Harvey Weinstein and Roman Polanski. He’s Hitler without the charisma and Stalin without the victories. He’s Pol Pot, Idi Amin and Rodrigo Duterte. I wanted to punch him in the face.
But I knew any act of violence towards Trump and he would sic his loyal fanatics on me to tear me limb from limb. So I decided I would turn on them. I had planning it all for a while and was still nervous. I didn’t know if I would make it through. I had all the requisite equipment and prepared to do whatever it took. So without waiting any long I looked around as I slowly unzipped my jacket. I wondered how quickly the counterattack would come. There were police officers near the back of the hall. I faced forward and steeled my reserve, dropping my jacket and revealing my weapons. I began my assault,
“DONALD TRUMP IS A FACIST!” I shouted at the top of my lungs, “BLACK LIVES MATTER!” The shirt under my jacket bore the likeness of Trump but with a little black ‘Hitler’ mustache and an SS styled black skull hat on his head. Above his face were the words, ‘You remind me of Hitler’ printed in huge black letters. On the back were the words, ‘Black Lives Matter’. I had wanted Trump himself to see the shirt, but seeing then how far back I was from his view, I decided to use my weapon against his soldiers around me. I shouted again and again, the same mantra that would keep me going through the whole campaign, “DONALD TRUMP IS A FACIST! BLACK LIVES MATTER! DONALD TRUMP IS A FACIST! BLACK LIVES MATTER! DONALD TRUMP IS A FACIST! BLACK LIVES MATTER!”
A few of the enemy started to pull back from my perimeter. As I kept shouting a man approached my right flank. He was wearing a brown jacket and wore a camouflaged trucker hat. I looked down and saw his thick black combat boots and a pair of dirty blue jeans. He wore a gray beard and a pair of glasses. As he came up behind my right, I smelled stale beer and Marlboros as he leaned over my should and said way too close to my ear, “Why don’t you give him a chance to speak? I want to hear him.”
His voice was cold and flat. It wasn’t sincere but rather someone making a final vain attempt to be cordial before resorting to more violence. I wouldn’t fall for his feint. I kept my eyes forward and kept up my attack, not holding back despite the threat to my exposed right flank. I thought I would have to withdraw but an unexpected ally broke through the lines and covered my right flank from the drunken man leaning to close over my shoulder. Should stepped between me and him and kept herself facing forward, ignoring him as well as I but not letting him in close to me. She just kept her eyes on her phone filming Trump blunder his way through some populist gibberish and kept her free hand in the front pocket of her black hoodie. It was more than a relief to have an ally at my side. Unfortunately she wasn’t able to hold off the cops.
They surrounded us on all sides and split us down the middle, pulling her away from my side. An officer calmly spoke to me in a quiet tone, “You need to stop yelling or we’ll have to leave.”
I looked over at my new ally surrounded by officers as two of Trump’s dogs came pounding in around her, “Why are you bothering her? She didn’t do anything. She’s not with me.”
“You just need to stop yelling, ok?”
I didn’t want to stop. If they were going to bother her for no reason than they would have to kick me out for causing a scene. I kept up my assault. Eventually one of Trump’s dogs turned to me with a rabid stare in his eye and drool on his jowls and snarled at the officer to kick me out.
“Ok, you need to leave.”
“Why?” I asked without turning to look at him. If he was going to defend them then perhaps he was my enemy too.
“Because they have rented this space and have the right to decide who stays and who goes. Don’t be difficult.”
Again without looking at him, I turned and beat a hasty retreat from the hall and my new ally followed, finally able to break free from the officers. We had been routed. I had decided to save my energy to continue the fight outside, knowing I would do better out there than inside the back of a police cruiser.
Outside the battle lines had already been drawn. On one side were the protesters, a ragtag group of peoples from all walks of life coming to fight against everything they know is wrong. They also came to fight for what they believed. There were young people and old people. People of all races and walks of life. I could see what looked like three generations; a grandmother, a daughter, and a granddaughter all holding hands and chanting with in unison with the rest of their comrades. They had called out of work, left school and dropped off kids with family or friends to be there. They decided that they had to do something. That this would not come to their city. They decided that if no one else would step up and volunteer then they would do it. They were ready to fight. They were ready to sacrifice. They stood across from people who spat at them and called them names and told them to go back to their country or to get a job. Unlike the people who jeered and cursed at them they had many jobs. Some worked two or three jobs to support their kids and still couldn’t get by. They didn’t have 401Ks and trust funds and salaried jobs that gave them bonuses once a quarter. They didn’t have a spare car just for vacations or houses in Florida. They were barely getting by paying rent in an apartment. But they were there because they knew it was the only right thing to. They didn’t want to be the ones who asked, ‘why didn’t I do anything?’ They refused to be the silent accomplices. They would fight.
Leaving the convention center, we realized we were behind enemy lines. We stayed low and curved wide around their side and headed for our own lines. We were far too outnumbered to do anything more than move as fast as possible to get out of enemy territory alive. We heard a few curses and jeers and someone threw a plastic cup past my feet but we refused to engage and kept on towards our line. Finally crossing into friendly territory I felt safe enough to ask my ally her name.
“I’m Sarah. I like your shirt by the way. Especially the back. What’s your name?”
“My name is Wes.”
“Well Wes, if you make it through all this, look me up.”
I laughed, “Ok, Sarah.”
We turned and looked across the battlefield to the enemy line. They were in their matching uniforms; red hats, anger and privilege. They were like a drunken mob returning from a Greek orgy ready to lynch and burn anyone who stood in their way. Some wore shirts and ties and some wore jeans and flannel shirts but they all wore the same look of hatred and pride. Pride in their hatred. Their fathers had been afraid to show their hate but the leaders how now made it not only acceptable but the standing order for their entire army. No more hiding behind computer screens they would be set loose upon the world to wreak havoc with hate and fear.
I fell in at the end of the line, looking across at the faces staring and shouting and jeering. We chanted, we sang, and we clapped. Our battle cries bounced back and forth across the street and mingled together to form an incomprehensible din. I stood chanting, my fist raised upwards in defiance. I ignored them when they used a black man on their sides as a piece of evidence that they weren’t racist, proving in fact that they were. I saw a man in a red hat and a polo shirt move his index finger across his throat, from under one side of his jaw to the other. I don’t know if he was looking at me or someone standing next to me.
Finally the other side made the final move. Two men struck out across no-man’s-land towards the center of our line. They were tall and walked with their heads high looking back and forth down the line showing with pride the red hats they each wore on their heads. Our first line was pushed aside but the two were eventually surrounded. A red hat came off one of them and then someone threw a punch.
I didn’t see who threw the first punch but I saw the man still wearing his red hat throw the second. Then one of ours leaped onto the back of the man who lost his hat. Suddenly the crowd surged in and the rest of the opposing line charged across the street at us. I saw them running towards us and realized I was going to be crushed between their advance and our line of defense. I turned to retreat when I saw police officers break through our rear.
The officers surrounded us and used their shields to halt the enemy advance. They also sent their elite units into the mass on our side, breaking up the fight and rescuing the two men. They, along with a few of our own, were hauled off as casualties. Seeing the police now closing in on us without an escape rout, we realized the battle was over and surrendered.
Everyone was ordered to clear the streets. Multiple people from both sides were arrested but no one was seriously hurt. As the line of people streamed out of the Convention Center after the close of Trump’s speech, a few protesters remained to chant and hold up their signs. But the majority had dispersed with the crowd from the other side. The police remained on the field to sort out the casualties.
And who won the battle that day? Hard to say after the fact. It felt like a victory just standing there, making my voice heard, even if the people hearing it wouldn’t listen. Some would say that it was a strategic defeat, because in the end Trump won. But really this was only the beginning. The battle may be done but the war will last a long time and the days of sitting in the middle and not choosing a side are over.
Disclaimer: There Ain’t Gonna Be Any Middle Anymore is a work of fiction inspired by a true story. While the central events of the story took place, though not necessarily as presented, certain details such as names, places, and incidents have been added, changed or omitted for the sake of artistic and narrative integrity. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the author.
Photo #1: (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Photo #2: Inquisitr.com