Towards the end of November, I planned to publish this blog about all the protests I went to during the month. Unfortunately, depression hit pretty bad and decided to stick around, so it was never finished. I began to question the effectiveness of activism– protesting, these blogs, tweeting about political atrocities….it all started to seem like a waste of time as the state of our government only appeared to be getting worse despite my efforts. I think my last poem (A Soldier’s Lament) sums it up pretty well.
BUT…I want to feel hope and joy, or at least spread it if I can’t feel it myself. That’s why I’m sharing what I have written and concluding with what’s next.
(ˌsɑləˈdærəti ; sälˌədarˈətē) noun:
a combination or agreement of all elements or individuals, as of a group; complete unity, as of opinion, purpose, interest, or feeling
I was recently looking through old pictures, seeking some kind of social justice assurance….or at least, nostalgic good feels. I found what I was looking for it in an album titled, “Women’s March-Washington D.C.” It was my first real protest, my first assignment in Photojournalism, and my first understanding of the word “solidarity.”
On the day after Trump’s inauguration, about 450,000 people hit the streets of D.C. in protest and an estimated 5 million worldwide. Although labeled the “Women’s March” and meant to address the women’s rights violated by appointing a misogynistic administration, people from all over came to voice their concerns on racial inequality, immigration, LBGTQIA rights, environmental rights, and many other issues threatened by a Trump White House.
What I learned that day is that many on the left might have different priorities, but all believe Trump is one of the worst things to happen to the U.S. in this generation. The unity I saw that day will stay with me forever. We were powerful in numbers. So powerful, I thought, we could change things.
I remember my voice becoming one with thousands of people, traveling like a wave through a sea of pink that seemed to go on for miles. I remember passing Trump International Hotel, where world leaders were already encouraged to stay, where protesters shouted “Conflict of Interest!” and where I found my now most treasured possession: an End Voter Suppression sign. Shortly after, I found a “Slave$” sticker on the side of the hotel, which I slapped on the back of my new sign.
I felt so empowered that day.
“This is ‘We, the People’ I’ve heard so much about,” I thought to myself.
I thought that energy would continue throughout Trump’s term but when I returned to Detroit I didn’t feel the same resistance…but I persisted.
I continued to go to protests but continually saw low numbers until the Kid Rock protest in September. I have to tell you, as an activist, it can be discouraging to see only a hand full of people at events but the people who do show up are always so full of hope for a better future that it’s worth it.
Leading to November 4th, Refuse Fascism put out this ad in the New York Times:
It sparked mania throughout the Alt-Right movement, notably in online personalities like Alex Jones who claimed an Antifa uprising (I could only watch about a minute of this bologna, but if you can watch more…power to ya):
While the Detroit chapter of Refuse Fascism traveled to Ohio that day, Metro-Detroit Political Action Network (MDPAN) hit the streets of Detroit. There were about five of us in total to begin with– we waved our signs and Meeko Williams took to the loud speaker.
At the corner of Grand Circus Park, we chanted the usual, “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA” and other slogans when a high school marching band passed by. We tried to encourage the youth with words of love and inclusion. As the tail-end went through I turned to Meeko.
“Tell them to come over and play the Star-Spangled Banner,” I joked. He did and we laughed. I wondered if the young teens understood the complexity of the song they were forced to play every football game. I know I didn’t until I saw Colin Kaepernick take a knee and researched the history of the song (which actually references slaves as separate from a brave American– indicating that this anthem does not represent all).
That weekend also happened to be Youmacon– Detroit’s anime convention. So, obviously, we decided to crash it. After marching down Woodward and dealing with some hecklers (Meeko: If you love Trump so much, go get locked up with him!), we approached masked heroes, challenging them to become real heroes of American democracy.
We encountered a costumed crowd whose minds were set on a good weekend, but we came to wake the sleeping masses with a message that their leader is the villain of their fantasies made manifest. Inside, we spoke to them, colliding their escapism with the sad reality of our nation. Although many scrambled away to watch panels and browse the dealer room, a few stayed to listen.
One black man labeled himself a ‘centrist’ but shared our belief of corruption in the White House. After a moment, he paused and realized that this virtue of calling out evil was instilled in him from his father, now hospitalized. He wept. We embraced him and spoke softly with words of encouragement. When he left, we (the remaining three) took up our signs and held them high.
“No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA!” we shouted. The Cobo security, who had been apprehensively watching from a distance, quickly confronted us.
“You can’t say that here. Saying ‘KKK’ is offensive,” the black woman told us before pulling out her radio and calling for backup. I was confused why a black woman would be offended by people denouncing the Ku Klux Klan, but I knew she probably needed this job. I nodded and started to leave, as she said over her radio, “Yes, there’s two girls in all black.”
We weren’t Antifa, we weren’t there to start trouble. We left.
(Image by MDPAN)
I see clothing as a symbol, so going into the Bannon protest, I wracked my mind trying to figure out what to wear. American flag tie? Nah. It didn’t seem like enough.
It was the week after Halloween when I saw it– a banana costume in the clearance section at Meijer. At first I didn’t consider it more than just a Twitter joke:
But the more I thought about it, the more I NEEDED to do it. So this happened:
I was happy with the result because…
- The profile looked like the profile of a Klan’s hood
- The bottom looked like a penis
I wanted to criticize the racism and misogyny energized by Bannon’s Alt-Right movement and further empowered by Trump’s win. Plus, I’m a sucker for wordplay & puns. It was a success.
When I arrived to the protest, I was shaking. My thoughts were on the murdered SJW (Social Justice Warrior) in Charlottesville. As I approached, the first thing I saw was the Trump Unity Bridge, which was playing “We Are Family.”
(My anxiety was so high that night this was the only picture I took.)
As I was walking across the street, a small group of cameramen headed by a reporter ran to me and started (honey) badgering me with questions. Unprepared and unsure who they were, I began spouting out why I was there. Looking back, some of the things I said might have come off as conspiracy theory– or at least could have been easily spun to make me seem like a nut in a banana costume.
Along the lines of what I said:
Bannon has been quoted to be influenced by Leni Riefenstahl, the Nazi propagandist who created the glorifying Hitler documentary, Triumph of the Will. My fear is that his misguided Breitbart followers researched this inspiration of Bannon’s, which indirectly led to a surge in Neo-Nazi enthusiasm.
I admit, I have a big imagination, but when you look at footage of Charlottesville, the White Lives Matter protest, and multiple other Alt-Right rallies, you have to question the source of Nazi sympathies. I blame Bannon, Spencer, and their ilk for giving the ‘silent majority’ their voice.
Anyway, when they started to grill me, I saw their malicious intent to smear me and my beliefs, so I walked away and joined the group of protesters. After already unknowingly speaking to people who wished me harm (of my character), my guard was up and I was afraid to trust anyone.
In my head, I envisioned one of the surrounding “allies” pulling out a gun or bat and attacking me– but I took to the side of the road and raised my sign with one hand and a peace sign with the other.
After hours of shouting, it was time to go. The parking lot seemed miles away and the walk alone past a group of Alt-Righters was daunting. Ultimately, it was the Grand Rapids chapter of Antifa that walked me to my car. Walking past police on horseback, they laughed at us as we trod through piles of horse shit they left on the sidewalk.
“You don’t have to be so rude!” I yelled at the one laughing the hardest. He stopped laughing.
The Alt-Righters were jeering at us and a few crossed the street for confrontation. A handful of Antifa stayed behind, ready to fight, while a few others continued walking me to the parking lot. When we finally reached the lot, I looked at the leader with relief.
“Thank you so much.”
“Not a problem…Solidarity,” he replied with a smile and for the first time that night, I felt safe.
That’s as far as I got with this blog. I went to two additional events. Check out the photos below.
Nov. 11: Veterans Day
Nov. 18: Break the Silence, Bring the Noise (aka crashing the Fr. Solanus Casey Beatification Ceremony)
Moving Forward into 2018
After losing the catharsis that comes from protesting, I’ve spent the past month searching for new forms of coping with an oppressive totalitarian government. I found it through creative writing and comedy. While I am powerless to change society, I have the power to comment on it, to make people think, and to sculpt it in my own mind. Through satire, I can hold an absurd mirror to the absurd world and force you to confront it in a different way. I’ve been doing this using an Alt-Right parody Twitter account called “Famous Chins.” It’s stupid and relatively unknown, but it makes me feel good to laugh at the very thing that shook my body with fear in November.
Since I’m leaving Twitter because of its support of white supremacy and hate groups (ex. verifying known Neo-Nazi’s and allowing tools like Mike Cernovich to get away with promoting violence & smear campaigns), I’m moving @FamousChins to Facebook and Instagram (@realFamousChins).
Along with my parody account, I’ll be focusing more on writing short stories and poetry that deal with the social issues that matter most to me. They’ll be available on my Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/MissKonduct. If you’ve liked any of the content on this blog, I ask that you like, share, and support my future endeavors moving forward in any way you can…because as someone who struggles daily, I’m beginning to realize I need all the support I can get.
With the year coming to a close, I can’t say that I feel much better about the state of our State than I did at the start of the year. I hope my political fervor will return and I’ll be back on the streets waving my beloved ‘End Voter Suppression’ sign instead of dismally staring at it hanging on my wall. If we continue to have victories like Doug Jones in Alabama, hey, maybe it will return…but with such major losses as the GOP Tax Scam and Net Neutrality, the equality I dream feels just as far as the parking lot did during the Bannon protest.
I can’t say I have many expectations for 2018; my hope rests in Solidarity.
Thanks for reading!