This past week, I had the opportunity to hear Hillary Clinton speak. I was very excited about the event and had been looking forward to something like it for months. I’d continuously visited Hillary’s web site, looking for semi-local events to attend, so when it turned out she was going to be speaking not 15 minutes from where I work, obviously I had to go.
Imagine my irritation to have a group of Bernie Bros station themselves right behind me. They were everything the media has demonized Sanders’ supporters into: loud, rude, crude, male, mostly white. They spoke loudly during the early speakers’ times, almost drowning out the local activist who wanted to talk about how strong women like Hillary and her mother, who had died from breast cancer several years previously, had helped shape her as a person. They shoved their phones in your face, proudly displaying memes about Hillary fighting for us from jail. When the crowd chanted, “Who do we want? Hillary!” they inserted a loud, “Anyone but!” When the kids on the stage sang, danced, and waved their glittery posters, they joked, “Those kids can’t even vote. They’re completely irrelevant. Get off the stage!”
While Hillary was actually speaking, they calmed down. None of them were brave enough to boo her or interrupt her speech, though they did occasionally throw out a “Wall Street!”, “Bernie Sanders!” and “Anyone but!” when the crowd roared in response to her. They even displayed a posted saying, “Bernie Fucking Sanders 2016” before security told them to put it down. They left shortly thereafter.
While they were there, they made people visually uncomfortable. As they shared their memes, I kept catching other women’s eyes, all of us wearing a tight-lipped neutral smile and looking visibly on edge. Parents shot them dirty looks as they loudly swore or joked about the kids being brainwashed. I imagined what I would do if they were disrespectful during the actual event. ‘I was in marching band,’ I thought at one point, ‘I bet I could shout them down.’ I tightened my grip on my bag and shifted my weight, much like the other people around me were, waiting for them to, as they were promising, “Get really rowdy tonight.”
I couldn’t understand (and still can’t) why people would go through so much effort just to heckle another person’s candidate. I stood in line for almost an hour to get inside, the room was too crowded and some people had to be turned away, police dogs sniffed our bags, security made us throw out our hard water bottles, and we had to go through a metal detector. The speakers were loud and the music was throbbing. Half of the people didn’t have anywhere to sit. It was seemed like so much effort to go through just to be a jerk to another person. They weren’t staging a protest. They didn’t come with specific questions or demands. They just wanted to get rowdy and ruin people’s evening. It was excessive.
Of course, this behavior isn’t exclusive to Bernie supporters, liberals, men, or any one group. Recently, Bernie had an event in my town, and I joined the Facebook page so I could access the live feed and watch him speak without going through the three-hour commitment. Two separate pro-Hillary accounts trolled the page, making hyperbolic and insulting statements. They told people to wake up, called them “sheeple,” claimed Bernie was unqualified, and generally had atrocious writing skills. They were solely trying to bait Bernie’s actual followers, and they irritated quite a few of them. I made a point of identifying myself as a Hillary supporter and telling them why their behavior was inappropriate. However, every time an irate Bernie supporter rose to their bait, they went off again, perpetuating a 24-hour cycle of agitating, scolding, and blustering. Eventually, I turned off notifications.
I found these Hill Hounds (my nickname for Hillary Bros) just as perplexing as I did the real life Bros, especially since they weren’t even from Kentucky. It doesn’t make sense to me to waste your time trying to rain on people’s parade, stir them up, and piss them off. There is no benefit to these actions. You won’t convert a voter. You won’t get the candidate to quit. You won’t spark a revolution. You’re just going to waste your time and make a handful of people unhappy. Even worse, you’re going to hurt your candidate’s cause. So why do it?
I believe in righting injustices and correcting misinformation, and sometimes I have a hard time staying away from friends’ walls, but I seldom go so far out of my way to make another person unhappy. I don’t troll the Bernie Facebook pages or bombard my Berner friends with facts about Hillary. I wouldn’t go to a Bernie rally to get rowdy and start some shit. I think that’s a form of oppression. I think it interferes with a person’s right to choose and support the candidate of their choice. I think it interferes with the spread of free information. I think it’s fascist.
The situation is only going to get tenser as we move into the Democratic National Convention and the general election. People will begin taking greater offense and blowing slights even further out of proportion. If you find yourself sneaking into another candidate’s rally with a crudely made sign or harassing strangers, remember these magic words: stay in your lane. We’re a free nation. That means we don’t oppress or censor others. Abide by that.
* Image taken from http://www.businessinsider.com/marco-rubio-donald-trump-chicago-protests-rally-2016-3