Because I don’t want to think of them as “those people”
Well designed protests can be very simple. Rose Hamid is a Muslim American who recently attended a Trump rally in Rock Hill, South Carolina and dressed in simple Muslim head dress and with a T-shirt which said “Salam I come in peace.” The crowd turned ugly and she was shouted at until the police came and escorted her out.
There is a telling moment in her CNN interview when the interviewer said
CNN: Why would you even put yourself in that position, Rose, why would you want to be with those people?
Rose: Because I don’t want to think of them as “those people.”
So the first thing to point out is that CNN is actively participating in the division of the country here. It may seem subtle, a genuinely curious question asked by an empathetic reporter, but it is not. It normalizes the us vs. them mentality: there are good people (like you, Rose) and there are bad people (those at the Trump rally.)
Rose spent much of her time talking about what the real problem is, which is crowd effect. She spoke about the people around her who were “very nice” and supportive of her, but when the mood of the crowd turned, people (including those around her) started to get more ugly. Rose represents the best of America, a genuine desire to embrace differences and live together in tolerance.
This is rich intellectually. Her donning of a yellow badge similar to the Star of David with “Muslim” written across it reminds us that if we follow the Cruz or Trump plans for national registration of Muslims and banning their immigration, we will be mimicking the early stages of the Nazi treatment of homosexuals, jews and gypsies.
But there is something else going on here which is even more important. Like many, I have watched in disgust and amazement as Trump has gained further popularity with his incendiary rhetoric and embarrassing policy proposals. But there is a weakness in this campaign strategy that Rose has pointed out to us.
While there are many in the minority Republican party who support these racist and sexist proposals, this view does not reflect the view of the majority of the electorate. What this means is that this type of protest is potentially incredibly powerful. If the average voter keeps hearing about people being thrown out of rallies because they present as Muslim, this will be a racist turn off.
Anyone can walk into a Trump rally looking a lot like Rose. Only women would be able to wear the Hajib, but anyone could wear a yellow star and a printed T-Shirt. Either Trump has to allow the crowd to throw them all out (alienating moderate voters) or he has to tell his supporters to permit these people, undercutting his strong base of racists. The worst for Trump would be a supporter throwing a punch. And this is completely possible, crowd effects are very powerful.
I am often cynical about US Americans and the governments we choose. And while I am impressed with Trump’s ability to control media for free, I think the message won’t work after he wins the nomination (if the Republican establishment cannot wrestle it from him). And these simple powerful protests might just be one of the exit ramp from this toxic candidacy.