Part 11 – the Bathroom

Don’t start here! Start with Part 1.

After Steve Bannon brought up the Holocaust and Einstein, he mentioned Edmund Burke, Burke’s Compact, human agency and divine providence. I could only get the buzzwords down; I don’t know anything about Burke or what Bannon was trying to say. In Houston, according to Bannon, 50% of households can’t put their hands on $400 in case of an emergency. “Did we fight for this? Damn right I’m angry.”

It was almost over. Bannon ended with Mitch McConnell. “Mitch McConnell has got to go. Thank you.” They really are at war with the GOP establishment.

As the crowd cheered, I dashed out. I didn’t know where Emily was. But first, I had to use the restroom. You know how the women’s bathroom is at an event – you wait a long time if you don’t get there first.

I made it first, directly into a stall. I could hear other women coming in, and they started to chat. Just after I washed my hands, I heard one woman talking about the woman who interrupted the speech. I paused before leaving the bathroom so I could hear what they said. “That was so fake!” one woman exclaimed. A second woman said, “She was **definitely** a mainstream media plant!” Someone said, “How did she get in here?” I’m surprised that’s such a mystery. Obviously, she bought a ticket.

I understand where they’re coming from. Those in the audience who are conservative but not white supremacists are in an information bubble. They consume Fox, Breitbart, and other one-sided “news.” They don’t see what we see on the left – all the corruption, lies, and Russian connections with the Trump administration. Even when they **do** see it, they’re inoculated against those truths. #FakeNews, cries the right, when confronted with news they don’t like. No proof of error is needed when it’s the “Failing New York Times” or the “Amazon Washington Post.” Much of our populace has been turned against the fourth estate. They reject the very notion that makes a democracy work – the free press.

When I left the ladies room, I went back to the lobby. There were still not crowds in the lobby, which surprised me. I saw the two SLED agents, posted just where I had spoken to them earlier to tell them I appreciated their protecting us. I told them that the woman who was taken out is my friend and asked them where she was. They said she had likely been taken to jail. I thanked them and walked outside.

I really wanted to go across the street and see my friends and have some support if Emily had been taken to jail. I walked out and they were all gone. Across the street was deserted. That was a desolately lonely feeling. Was I alone here, about to be faced with the throngs of Bannon supporters while I waited for a ride home?

But then I looked just ahead and saw Emily. She was outside a police car under the awning of the Holliday Alumni Center. Two officers stood with her near the front of the car, and one officer was in the car. She left her blazer crumpled in the back of her chair, and I had brought it with me. It was cold, and she was wearing a t-shirt. I offered it to her, and she said she wasn’t cold, but she took it.

There was an officer, not one of those three, who was very kind. I spoke to him, and I asked his name, but, in all the stress, I cannot remember it. I’m not even sure what we talked about, but I remember thinking that he was being very compassionate. I wanted to know his name to thank him later. I don’t even know if he was police or security or what. I hope he reads this and knows how much I appreciated his kindness.

When they let Emily go, I asked an officer – a really large man, who (I think) Emily said was the head of security at the Citadel – to walk us to the car. The crowds still hadn’t let out, and I was afraid that someone in the crowd would be aggressive toward us. He did, and said he had already planned to walk us to the car. We were so appreciative of his walking with us, and we let him know it.

As soon as Emily and I were alone in the car, I experienced the rush of emotions from all of the previous several hours. Leaving my friends across the street after warm hugs and wishes for safety was really difficult. I really wanted to be with them. Waiting in line to be screened so intensely. Smiling and chatting when we knew we were in hostile territory was exhausting. These people really hate liberals. We knew the crowd didn’t have weapons, but they could do a lot of damage with words if we were discovered. The anxiety when I realized Emily had been the protester was physically and emotionally exhausting. I walked out to see my friend talking with the police, struggling with decisions.

I wanted to burst into tears, but, more than that, I wanted to get out of there before the crowd came out. Emily wanted to talk, too, but I urged her to get out of there and we could talk after we were safely away from the crowds.

Four days later, I’m still pretty emotional. Writing helps. As a psychologist, I continually urge people to write to manage emotions, and I sometimes get the chance to practice it myself. The stress was worth it. What I learned was invaluable. We need to send people to every single such event.

I saw this white supremacy from the inside. On the surface, it looks a lot like so many other parties and events I’ve attended. The people look the same, but some of the people here want an autocratic government. Some here think separating church and state is fine for all the **other** religions, but not for the Christians in power. Some think the media is made of crooked, evil people. Some believe that white people are literally superior to people of color and that women are inferior to men.

Out there, they blend in. Here, though, their hate for liberals and minorities could seep out. They voted for Trump, and some still defend him. Some of them don’t even know what they’re supporting, but abnormal things become normal when you’re fed a steady diet of propaganda. Fascism doesn’t leap, it creeps.

Follow Dr. Cleaveland on Twitter: @CHSPolitico

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