My children and I recently went to the Donald Trump rally in Asheville to learn about the candidate, the issues and to experience a part of our democracy in the United States of America. My daughter was working on a middle school project on U.S. government, and so it seemed like a good idea to head downtown to the event. Neither I nor my children shared any indication, sign or nod toward our support of a particular candidate throughout the evening.
My daughter wrote of the experience:
“The night of the rally, my brother, dad and I went to the U.S. Cellular Center. The street was blocked on the way in, and outside there were hundreds of people shouting, chanting, waving. These were the folks protesting, yelling at us and waving signs in our faces telling us we should be ashamed. As we walked in, a man followed us and yelled at my dad, ‘Shame on you! You should be ashamed that you are bringing your kids to see Trump.’
Not everyone knows that while I was inside hearing Donald Trump speak, I was scared about what was happening to our country. There was yelling from so many people, and people said mean things about Trump and about Hillary Clinton, too. It hurt my heart to be in this atmosphere. I don’t ever want to be afraid to learn about someone else’s perspective. I wondered, ‘What do the adults of our country want us to learn from them during this election?’”
After a short time inside listening to Trump, angry protesters and angry supporters, my son asked if we could leave. I agreed that it was probably best after seeing his anxiety-filled eyes. My daughter disagreed and said, “I would rather wait and walk out with the big group. I don’t want to go outside alone.”
We eventually decided to leave just before the large group and try to avoid confrontation with the largest group of people outside.
[My daughter] Olivia described her thoughts: “As we were walking out, I made sure I held my head high even though people were giving us the middle finger. I just kept thinking, ‘They don’t know the whole story, they don’t know the whole story.’’
None of us do, and we won’t unless we are in relationship with one another. Inside the building or outside the building, we felt ill at ease and troubled. We were caught between. Even before this election cycle, we were experiencing more and more fragmentation of communities, families and humanity. Each day there seems to be less and less space for curiosity, listening, compassion and wisdom.
I am grateful for the insight and beauty of the words and hopes shared by my kids during this time. They are my teachers, the wise ones.
— Olivia and Scott Hardin-Nieri