Last Friday, three days after the election, one day after a riot, around 7:00 pm, I set up a table on SE 82nd and SE Powell. It was lightly sprinkling and my table was lit by a combination of car headlights and fast food signs. I had a big sign on the front that said “Let’s Talk about Donald Trump and America”. I had two chairs, mugs, and a thermos of tea.
People came and talked. They laughed, people yelled, people gave me funny looks from their cars. A few didn’t speak English, but they stopped and smiled at me. A few felt angry and anxious. The whole experience reminded me who America is and how much I love them. Below are some excerpts.
Imil was one of the first people to stop and we talked for a while. He is 30 years old, Muslim, black, and from Seattle originally. Our conversation was fast and fluid. I had a hard time following him at first, but quickly enjoyed his quick wit and wisdom. “Donald Trump is going to do his job” he said, “if we learned anything from the last two presidents, it’s that nothing is going to change overnight.” Our conversation moved from politics, to Trump’s cultural movement, white supremacy, and how he expresses his faith. I ended our conversation by asking him to record some advice for a friend.
Unnamed man riding by on a bicycle: “Not much to talk about”
Matt and Elliott: Our conversation quickly turned to end times prophecy and how “things aren’t supposed to be getting better.” Matt told me there would “be wars, and rumors of wars. Signs in the sky.” He went on to tell me he was a drug addict who was “looking for joy in the bottom of a spoon” until he got involved with Victory Outreach. Now him and Elliott canvas streets like 82nd and invite people to their church.
Devin: Devin walked right up to my table, sat down, and said “yeah, let’s talk about Donald Trump.” I think he was ready for me to defend Trump, but I explained I was just hear to listen and he shared his perspective.”I’m diabetic, and insulin is expensive. I’m worried what’s going to happen to my healthcare.”
Unnamed woman from car: “FUCK Donald Trump!”
Two guys wearing MMA shirts: “Oh man, you could be here for a while, bro. So much to talk about.”
Unnamed couple: They laughed and offered to buy doughnuts to contribute to my project. They mentioned the need to be civil, but I told them this wasn’t exactly what I was doing- I want to hear the anger and think it’s ok. We have to let that emotion out but we must also reject violence in all forms. We talked about the riot the night before; we didn’t know a man would be shot at a protest just a few hours after our conversation. Rejecting violence has to include rejecting the day to day violence the people in the margins our society deal with every day.