Sue Clark: Loyal opposition: working the Dem booth at the fair
My booth at the Nevada County Fair was all in shades of blue, as was my giant blue Nevada County Democrats shirt. I regretted not trying it on, as it looked like I was leaving for an around the world voyage with it flapping around me.
Our booth was situated as far from the Republican site as possible, as though we were two rival gangs on the prison yard who needed to be separated. We had a photo booth where people could choose a cardboard head of one of the many Democrat contenders and hold a picture by their own head. The photo then looked like a selfie and said, “See? I’m besties with Mayor Pete.” Pete was the most popular cardboard head chosen. We did get some kidding about all the heads available, and we laughed and agreed. Things were going far more amicably than I’d imagined.
I decided to do some reconnaissance on the Republican booth. I got an iced tea from a booth where a teen I know was working, as well as a young man who confidently wore a woman’s frilly apron like a boss. I saw a friendly, fun-filled fair at this point.
I arrived at the Republican booth, shining brightly blue, and was received with skepticism. I strode up to the Republicans and said, “Hi, I’m Sue and I bring greetings from the opposite side of the aisle.” A couple of older guys (my age) looked balefully at me, but I aimed my message at a friendly looking woman and said, “I think we agree on a few of these points you have on your placards.” She looked confused. I cracked a few jokes. I got reluctant guffaws out of the guys.
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The woman emerged from the booth, shook my hand and said, “Thank you for coming over.” I said a happy goodbye and left with even the two men reluctantly smiling.
I returned to my booth and thought, “Why can’t we all just get along?” and was rather proud of myself.
Just then a teen boy in a red MAGA hat came up and said, “I want to know how you Dems define yourself.”
I thought I could charm him as I sometimes am able to dazzle my students.
“I believe the core belief of the Democrats is to help those less fortunate: the poor, the sick, the elderly and the young.” I added, “Thank you for coming over.”
He then snarled and spat out, “Do you know that if I wear this hat, I will get assaulted? Anyone who wears this hat will be beaten up. Do you think we are all racists?”
Before I could answer, an older (again, my age) man joined him, and said to him, “Thank you for letting your mind be open so we can mold you.” I gaped at him.
He then gave me the full fury of his beliefs.
“Why do you socialists think Trump is a racist? He is not!”
This guy was leaning in, not far from my face. I could feel myself getting angry. But I said nothing. I could see that it wouldn’t be pretty if I argued with him, and that was not my job. I needed to represent calm and intellect and the above-mentioned compassion. This was no problem, as the man continued on his tirade and interrupted anything I was attempting to say.
“Trump helped the blacks. He is NOT racist. Do you think I’m racist? Do you?”
Before I could answer, my companion in the booth said some soothing and reasonable things, so the roaring in my ears could die down.
It was not his ideology, and it was not that he only trusted Fox News. Neither was it his accusation of socialism. What was infuriating was his demeanor. The listening boy, encouraged, walked off after saying sarcastically, “You have a nice day.”
The man kept yelling.
Finally he walked away, still turning around to again hurl the S-word at us.
I turned to my friend in the booth. “Wow,” I said. “Thanks for jumping in.”
She shook her head and said, “This is why we always have two people in the booth.” She added, “I will not work the booth at night, because that can get really scary.”
Later, I told a friend about the incident, and she said she would have called security. We were about to, I said. She also added that we should always take a picture of a heckler this for identification.
I thought of a song from Oklahoma:
“Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends. (repeat)
The cowman ropes a cow with ease, the farmer steals her butter and cheese, but that’s no reason why they can’t be friends.”
How I long for civil discourse.
Sue Clark lives in Grass Valley.
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