I Was Harassed Today (or, This is Trump’s United States)

While having lunch at The Picket Fence Restaurant and Gift Shop in Clute, Texas, with my mom today, I was harassed by a (White) middle-aged man and his family for wearing this Pro Equality t-shirt.

(I think it’s worth noting that none of the employees “apologized”–of course not their fault at all–or acknowledged the incident, nor did they escort him and his family out of the building and none of the other customers said anything other than what their silent mouths and stares said.) 

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My mom and I were talking and waiting for our food, and all of the sudden this man walks up to our table and placed his hands on one of the empty chairs and asked,

Are you pro-America?

I was worried he might overturn our table for minute. 

He may have repeated this question again. I wasn’t expecting to engage in such conversations and was both shocked and somewhat frightened that my memory is unusually fuzzy when it comes to this encounter.

I responded,

This is pro-America. Everything here. 

He continued for a moment. Kept asking if I am pro-America. Wanted to know why I’m not pro-American. I turned my head and ignored him while he continued talking. He continued. “This is a great nation,” blah blah blah. Before he left he said something to the effect of,

Man, you better love America.

His family followed him toward the door. Another woman with him and holding on to young children was staring at me and said, 

I don’t want to see that.

I wish we had a video recording of this encounter!

Clearly, my mom and I were left a bit shaken and couldn’t enjoy our food as much as usual. I think next time my shirt makes someone that upset, I’ll be more prepared, but it all happened very quickly and without any kind of warning.

Thinking about it now, I’m especially intrigued that my shirt made him that upset.

He was more upset than angry, I’d say. Talk about fragile masculinity. Talk about insecurity. Talk about hatred. Talk about closed-mindedness. Talk about behavior reinforced by a POTUS who endorses such hatred. Talk about a narrow conception of American.

Talk about wondering if he has a gun. 

As my mother said of the shirt,

Really how much more America can you get! 

This man’s “America”–since he objects to the items listed on this shirt–is clearly one without Black people, without Brown people, without Trans people, without Queer people, without Muslim people, without facts, without science, and without choice.

This man’s “America” is a dictatorship, is a society that has codified a post-Constitution United States, a society that accepts Trumpism as its King, a society that only has room for White conformists, a society that has voluntarily surrendered any “greatness.” 

This man and his family remind me of how backward the United States it is, how far behind it is from other countries, and how hypocritical it is, as I articulate, in part, in my “But You’re America. A Poem.

Please support people, science, education. Please do everything you can to resist Trumpism. Trumpism is causing unbelievable harm.  

You can buy your own Pro Equality shirt here.

Finally, I’m reminded of President Obama’s words,

When our laws, our leaders, or our government are out of alignment with our ideals, then the dissent of ordinary Americans may prove to be one of the truest expressions of patriotism.

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda 

CODA:

(added 6/16, 5:20 pm)

Taking time to consider what actual is and isn’t pro-America is interesting and important. There are so many contradictions between the nation’s ideal rhetoric and its actual everyday practices. In theory, the nation is a harbinger of and promoter of freedom. In reality, it’s always been a harsh place for the vasty majority. On the note of the shirt, Carl Moerschbacher, a good friend, says, 

I would argue that your tee shirt is rightly anti-pro-American, in the sense that America, at least its racist, hateful part, has always been anti-black, anti-brown, anti-LGBTQ+, and anti-Muslim. Now, this same part is also anti-facts, anti-science, and anti-choice. This part needs to die off, and right quickly.

As a society right now, the United States is currently waging a cultural war–arguably more so than ever before–to ultimately settle the definition of “pro-America.” Will it decide to maintain a narrow scope of what is permissibly “pro-America” or will it further narrow it such that my shirt is actually even treasonous?