COLUMN: Reacting to covering my first MAGA rally, dispelling falsehoods
After a nerve-wracking few days of little sleep, monitoring the constant news stream, and all the hope in the world, the 2020 election seemed to be over. Media sources projected Vice President Joe Biden to be the winner.
The president-elect made history with the first female vice president among several other accolades. If there is one thing I have learned since Saturday, it’s that this election won’t end without a fight. Donald Trump refuses to concede and so do his supporters.
On the day following Biden’s win, I found myself at the very last place I thought I would be. I pulled onto the dirt road that led to the Mount Pleasant Speedway. As I got closer, Trump signs and flags decorating the parking lot were revealed to me.
I sat in my car for a second to prepare myself for what I was about to observe.
As I exited the car and walked toward the group of more than 100 people, I clung to my camera and tightened the mask on my face. I was one of less than five people taking proper COVID-19 precautions. The CMLife press pass hanging around my neck seemed more like a target than a notice of media presence.
“It’s all bullshit,” I overheard a man with a giant American flag say to another man who stood with a Vector 9mm semi-automatic weapon attached. They shared the same opinion that the coronavirus is a hoax.
That was the word I routinely found myself contemplating throughout my time at the MAGA Truth Rally. Why? Why do you need so much firepower while surrounded by like-minded people? Why do you negate science? Why do you think the coronavirus is not real?
“Sign the sheet,” the organizer, Bree Moeggenberg yelled, encouraging supporters to sign a petition to recall Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-50. The order created COVID-19 dedicated units within long-term care facilities to offer those who need it intensive medical care if infected with the virus. I approached one of two tables set up to gather support for the petition and was offered information by a man gathering signatures.
Why? Why are they garnering support for an executive order that was made to better treat those afflicted with COVID-19?
An answer came when a lady informed me of her reason for signing: Murder.
She told me the governor murdered people. She ranted on about Gov. Whitmer purposefully endangering the elderly by placing infected patients with healthy ones.
Coronavirus deaths were inevitable; it is demoralizing that Americans would believe Gov. Whitmer took a step to not only undermine the severity of the situation but to intentionally cause death to people to “up her numbers,” according to the woman.
The order, signed on April 17, did not contribute infected patients to facilities. It isolated those people who showed symptoms or tested positive and even transported them to other locations. The order ensured facilities had proper PPE supplies deemed by the state health department and aimed to increase the health and safety of both the employees and residents.
The misinformation does not end there.
As I wandered around a crowd of exclusively white people, I thought about the very message in and of that. I didn’t see a single person of color; what does that say about the people who support Trump and the man himself?
Speaker after speaker took the stage and preached about the need to save America. And that could only be done with a second term for Trump. After four long years, over 230,000 deaths due to COVID-19, over 4,000 Black Lives Matter protests, how could the answer to a better America possibly be more Donald Trump?
Another common and false theme was that the election is not yet over. This is incomprehensible in my mind. Donald Trump lost. Joe Biden won. That is not going to change no matter how many more votes are counted in Arizona OR Georgia. That is not going to change no matter how many lawsuits he files against states claiming voter fraud with zero evidence. That is not going to change no matter how much of a problem Trump and his supporters have with it.
As I stood there, listening to the falsities that people genuinely believe in and preach about, I was taken aback by the idiocy sweeping through the crowd.
A woman took the microphone and began her message. She said it’s impossible to believe the media. Everyone agreed and clapped along. “The media has warped into really being an illusion," she said. I felt alienated; like anyone I then spoke to was going to agree with her, that I was only there to create malicious lies rather than simply communicate the truth. However, this was not the case with the few individuals I spoke to. I asked one woman why she was in attendance and she answered politely - that Trump won. I got her name, thanked her and moved on. Another offered me her opinion without my even having to ask.
I think people who believe in something as radical as the media being false tend to hide behind groupthink. I believe even though they chose to cheer on a speaker delegitimizing media, they may not necessarily believe all those things first hand. I was humbled by the cordial attitude others had towards my presence; I did not receive any personal attacks or accusations of 'fake news'.
I don’t think I will ever understand the beliefs of Trump supporters or the opinions they share. Hard evidence can disprove nearly everything they claim.
I understand the inability to determine the truth from the embellishments. News stations – for example CNN and Fox – spew opinions and offer biased information from the way they speak about political figures to their association with certain political affiliations. That’s why my job, as a journalist, as a truth teller, is valuable. That is important to not only me, but the world around me. We all deserve the truth.
However, denying the truth is a different story. I don’t understand the ability to nullify proof of the egregious statements and acts of Trump.
We all have different opinion and we will always have different opinion. My hope and aspiration in writing this is that an honest conversation will arise. One that will bring us as Americans closer together, because unity and truth is what we need most of all.
Now and always.