IT was only upon leaving Cleveland that I realized how utterly strange the set-up there had been. As we drove out of the city, Jon said he didn’t think he could tell people that he’d actually ever been in Cleveland. We weren’t in Cleveland; we were in Trump World, where everything was scrubbed, locked down, and managed. The rules were different there. Facts don’t matter; only what you believe matters. The Enemy is all around us, trying to come in from the outside (“Build the Wall, Build the Wall”), but they’re also inside, rigging the system. They’re like cockroaches: turn on the lights and they run like hell. We don’t want to torture and kill them, and kill their families, but we have to do it. We have no choice. We have no choice.
I am the only one who can protect you. I am the only one who can fix everything. I am the only one you can trust. I know how the rigged system works because I helped rig it. I was one of Them, but now I’m your Voice.
The security and surveillance in Trump World was so intense that a collective Stockholm Syndrome eventually set in. Even I acquired an unprecedented volubility around police officers, greeting them as if they were old friends, asking about their families, and commiserating about the heat and long hours.
Just before going through the biggest security check on the way in to the Q, everyone walked down a short section of Fourth Street filled with vendors selling Trump souvenirs—Trump playing cards, thousands of buttons, t-shirts reading “Hillary Sucks, but not like Monica Lewinsky”—a singer-songwriter with Trump stickers on his guitar, preachers, comedians, impersonators, “protestors,” etc. It was a block-long display of “diversity” and “street life” for our delectation before entering the inner sanctum. Looking back on it now, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if “Fourth Street” only existed on the Holodeck.
As far as I can tell, the only two spontaneous actions that happened at the Republican Convention were the two Code Pink eruptions, and both of those women were pounced on, silenced, and removed instantly. One of them was tackled and cocooned in an American flag before being carried away. The only other possible unscripted acts involved my fellow Kansan, 93-year-old Bob Dole, but I’m still sorting that out.
Speaking of crusty old codgers, the one sitting next to me on the penultimate night of the convention, up on the top tier, gave me his card, reading, “Democracy won’t work!” in large type, and then “51% voting to Rape, Pillage and Rob the other 49%. —Ben Franklin.” And on the other side: “Our Representative Constitutional REPUBLIC. Agree? Reach out to me. Bill T. Davis.” When Bill rose to leave, he leaned over and whispered in my ear, “The only three I’ve seen in my whole life: Goldwater, Reagan, and this one.”
David Levi Strauss
Saturday, July 23rd, 11:55 pm
[Photography: “4th Street.” July 20, 2016. Jon Winet.Click on the images to see an enlargement.]
LINK to all David Levi Strauss Power 2016 Dispatches