I got home from work, showered and changed, and immediately ordered an Uber.
One minute before he was scheduled to pick me up, I remember the driver I had a while back—an old, overweight war vet—who refused to engage in small talk, but had the back of his front seats covered with badly printed right wing propaganda—ranging from typical conspiracy stuff (OBAMA=ANTICHRIST) to the intimidating (“You stomp my flag, I'll stomp your ass!”)
That was just a normal day - this day, on the other hand, was Trump's 2020 campaign rally at Van Andel Arena.
I imagined running into the same guy, or someone similar to him, and having to spend a 10-15 minute ride not with an antisocial conservative, but with fully-energized Trumper, doing my best to keep the small talk to a minimum so I don't have to hear their brags and rants, and so I won't get one starred because I refused to put up with their attitude.
The driver pulls up - a graying, middle aged white dude—and I think, “GOD, PLEASE”, and I give my usual greeting as I get inside.
He greets me with equal enthusiasm, confirms it's me and we're off!
It's a normal ride.
I ask how his day has been so far, he asks mine, I ask him how the pick ups have been.
He replies that they've been steady, and notes that most of them have been for people going to work at 5pm.
He asks me if I'm going to work as well - I laugh and reply that I FINALLY got out nearly half an hour ago.
He asks if I'm going to the Trump rally.
I lie, and claim I'm meeting up with friends at a bar that I haven't seen in ages.
I then realized the address I put in is for The Apartment, Grand Rapids' historical gay bar.
Probably not the best address I could have directed a potentially hyped up, Trump-loving Uber driver to.
We talk more about the rally—how everything is shut down, how it's a pain for him to get around it— and I keep hamming up the “...just meeting my friends!” story because, despite being less than five minutes away from the drop off point, and being pretty obvious that the driver wasn't going to be malicious, I'm a paranoid freak that just wants the little things in my life—like Uber rides to go smoothly
He drops me off, we wish each other well, I give him five stars and a five dollar tip, and head towards Van Andel arena.
I'm not even past Division when I spot a couple on the other side of the street wearing bright red and green shirts that say “DEPLORABLES UNITE!” tucked in to the extent that it looks like they're wearing V-Necks.
I fully expected stuff like this, but I still say “Ugh, goddammit,” because it's hard to resist natural instincts.
A local comedian who showed up hours before I did is absolutely right about one observation: most of the vendors selling Trump merch are people of color.
I observe as well that the merch isn't anything particularly mind blowing: shirts that say TRUMP/PENCE, “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”, typical flag/patriotic shit, some stuff about making people you don't like cry, and BUILD THE WALL, against a graphic of a brick wall.
Walking down Fulton towards the front of the arena, I see all the players I knew from attending previous rally's in 2016, and my first thought is “WOW. Talk about a fucking power keg.”
Seeing the militia-types decked out mainly in all black, tight fitting clothing, rocking shades and standing at the sidelines—and in random spots in the crowd, arms crossed, unemotional, enforced my uneasiness.
I'm then legitimately surprised that no one is openly carrying any guns.
I guess even the “Fuck you, my Second Amendment right!” crowd knew it wouldn't be a good idea to be packing today.
An old hippie walks by with a sign about Trump being a Russian agent. A short, highly tanned, curly haired Trump Bot who looked like a Dollar Tree knockoff of comedian Joey Diez, heckles the hippie, and goes into a short, graphic description of his desire to fuck the hippies mother.
“MY MOTHER WAS A GOOD WOMAN, YOU COCKSUCKER!” the old hippie erupted. “SHE'S BEEN DEAD FOR YEARS—FUCK YOU!”
The Trump Bot got the response he wanted.
He laughed, and replied that, despite the old hippies mother being dead, he would still savagely fuck her.
For the second time I hear this announcement over the loudspeaker: a pleasant-sounding woman comes on, welcoming everyone to the rally, then declares that, while Trump believes in free speech, his enemies and those that have “used him” will apparently utilize the First Amendment as an excuse to engage in violence.
Her solution: if a “protester” is breaking the law, patriots should surround them and chant “TRUMP” as loud as they can, which will summon a cop to arrest them.
I actually get scared, because anyone with a memory that stretches back to 2016 knows what actually happens when Trumpkins surround you: they beat the dogshit out of you, no matter your age, gender, size, or how you were protesting, while spectators, cops, and Trump himself stand there and laugh.
I look around as I start to make my way out the so-called protest area, and see one of the windows of the rich apartments above 20 Monroe Live has a large sign that says “FUCK HIM” on it.
Cute, but it would have been better if they were down here with us peasants.
On the ground, I see a bright red shirt worn by a SUPREME gentleman—I'll honor in this poem by declaring him to be the most powerful neckbeard in all of Kent County—that has Che's typical portrait on it, followed by the words “SOCIALISM IS FOR F*GS” (the “A” is replaced with an asterisk).
I suddenly spot my housemate, rocking a sign declaring Trump a fascist.
“Fancy meeting YOU here!” I exclaim, going up to her, exchanging pleasantries and chit-chat.
I ask her, straight up: are you doing all right, protesting by yourself?
I wanted her to be safe, but I also wanted to see more of this freak show.
She assures me that she's all good, we talk some more, and part ways.
I walk to Rosa Parks Circle to gaze upon the Baby Trump balloon, as well as a balloon of Trump depicted as a cell phone-loving rat who looks like he's taking a long, violent shit.
Neither of these, nor the teenagers dressed up like internet edgelords holding signs that say “HENTAI IS ART” were enough to distract me from the fact that, in only half a days time, my home of six years has become infested with the worst scumbags that Michigan—and the Midwest—has to offer.
An old man that looks like a methed-out Larry Craig holds his phone up as he records himself taunting a protester.
The protester doesn't take the bait, and the old man laughs, flashes the OK white power sign, and babbles a bunch of Alt Right slogans that I'm confident in believing that he doesn't know what they actually mean.
Trumplicans in their 60's and 70's are the most annoying fascists for three reasons:
1) They like to brag about how tough they are compared to 20-30 year old protesters
2) They're delusional enough to think they can actually take on a 20-30 year old protester in a fight.
3) They whine the most when they get their shit caved in.
And Jesus Christ, these freaks must have SOME reptilian blood flowing through their veins— otherwise, I don't know how they can mimic Trump's smug, bullfrog smile so perfectly.
Whatever it is, they're absolute monsters—Bush era spawns who lick Reagan's coffin for sustenance l ike deer do salt blocks, and who shine Trump's shoes like they expect a genie to come out of it.
I'm not ashamed to say that I'm shocked by it all—it makes me know that, despite all the black pilling I've endured, I'm still human.
The speeches are about to start.
Both sides of the fence in front of the arena are hyped.
A middle aged woman, encircled by her husband's arm, yells to a protester carrying a pro-choice sign that if she “...kept her legs closed”, then she wouldn't have to worry about getting pregnant.
The protester screams “FUCK YOU , YOU FUCKING WHITE TRASH CUNT!”
A boy wearing a bright yellow shirt that says “VIRGINITY RULES” shyly looks at the protesters and quickly flips them off.
His father nods, and pats him on the shoulder.
A young edgelord that looks like he's either cosplaying the imagined stereotype of the Columbine shooters, or one of the fodder heroes from The Matrix—trench coat, slicked- back hair, sunglasses— fondles his junk and flaps his tongue as he walks by the protesters.
And holy shit, I can't believe my eyes—AN ACTUAL ANARCHO-CAPITALIST IS IN THE CROWD!
I truly thought they only existed on the internet. It has to be one the beards on his neck is most epic. He's rocking a shirt that has a polcomball that's half black and half yellow—the Anarcho-Capitalist color scheme, and he's chatting excitedly with some clown carrying a QAnon sign.
A brief moment of perfection.
A fat, bearded man, who's clothing indicates—whether it's true or not—that he's a veteran of some kind, brags about his willingness to kill protesters.
One of said protesters asks one of the Grand Rapids cops in close proximity if he was gonna let him get away with making threats like that.
The pig immediately follows his natural instincts and shrugs his shoulders.
This speculation on my part, but I think that, despite what they may claim to the contrary, I don't think these fascists will ever truly realize—nor appreciate—how much the police protect them.
I don't really need to go into this poem about Trump's speech itself—opening speakers include Michigan Republican promptly kissing the Trump ring, Trump gets huge applause by bashing asylum seekers, claims that he'll support the Great Lakes Restoration Fund despite proposing earlier to cut it by 90 percent, makes false claims about how wind power actually works— you can go look up the garbage yourself.
I will say though that, near the end of the speech, Trump touted how pro-life he is.
The protester next to me shouts “HE HAS ALWAYS BEEN PRO-CHOICE! HE'S BEEN PRO- CHOICE UP UNTIL THE LAST ELECTION - AND NONE OF YOU CARE!”
A sweaty man in a pink shirt that bears a striking resemblance to gang leader Gavin McInnes gets in his face and giggles, “He's still YOUR president!”
The speech ends.
Lots of chants and hollering on both sides, people taking last minute pictures and vids, some being interviewed.
I look around for my housemate—we haven't seen each other since earlier, and I'm starting to get worried.
A reactionary that looks like Anthony Bourdain if he was resurrected by a Nazi sorcerer sneaks up behind two twenty-something protesters, gets close to one of their ears, and whispers something.
The protesters recoil and walk away.
The reactionary throws his head back and laughs.
He then goes back up to the one he whispered to and tries to grind on her.
They scream, push him away, and run.
The reactionary calls them cunts and returns to whom I presume is his wife—a middle-aged blonde with a thousand yard stare that only looks at the ground when he puts his arm around her shoulders.
I find a spot to get picked up by Uber and head home.
I download episodes of podcasts I plan on listening to at work tomorrow, make dinner, and try to ignore the anger swirling inside me.
I hear the door open, and my housemate ascending the staircase.
I open my door, greet her, and ask how the rest of the rally went for her.
She tells me how, at the end of the rally, she was harassed by three different chuds, and that she had to get a friend to escort her to her car, since one of the creeps tried to follow her.
I'm in Traverse City with my folks.
They were unable to go on vacation this Spring Break, so we're trying to remedy it by spending the night in the Cherry Capital of the World.
We're eating at one of my favorite spots, Mackinaw Brewing Company, and they ask me if I went to the Trump rally.
My Dad's a “staunch” Republican, and, as I've learned since Trump took office, I can't even joke with him about anything related to the orange man without him getting mad and trying to intimate me like when I was growing up.
My Mom, despite her hatred of Betsy DeVos, supports Trump to such a comical extent that I can't decide whether she's doing so in order to just not be in agreement with me, or is simply trolling.
I tell them I did, and that I don't want to talk about it.
For emphasis, I imitate the glare Dad would give me, indicating his desire to beat me like he was taking on some asshole in a bar fight.
We switched to my Toronto trip earlier in the month, and how I nearly missed my flight to Detroit due to an error on my Delta app.
Mom then begins telling a story she heard about how some guy on a plane wearing a MAGA hat was screamed and heckled at.
I'm pretty sure there's more to it than that—like the MAGA hat guy probably running his mouth beforehand—but I tell her “I don't wanna talk about that.”
“Well, don't you think it's messed up that someone could get harassed on a plane for just wearing a hat?” she asks.
What I really want to tell her is that piece of shit deserved to get his face destroyed for wearing something equal to a Klan hood.
I want to tell them everything I saw at Trump's fascist rally, and how angry it made me feel.
I want to tell them about the harassment my housemate experienced, and how I wished I could have been there to aid her.
But I'm sure they would excuse it in some way - they might even claim my housemate deserved to be harassed
I say “Yeah, yeah, whatever,” glare at them again, and switch back to how my Toronto trip went.
GARRET SCHUELKE is a writer, podcaster, and musician that currently resides in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is the author of the GODAN series (Bakunin Incorporated), Anamakee (Riot Forge Studios, 2016), Whup Jamboree: Stories (Elmblad Media Group, 2017), and three ebooks. He is also the host of The Garret Schuelke Podcast, The Cheeseburger Blues: An Exploration into Dad Blues Rock, and A Riot of my Own. He makes music under the moniker Neobeatglory.
To learn more, visit Garret Schuelke’s official website: garretschuelke.tumblr.com.