My parents and I were 3 among the millions of Americans who stayed up on election night 2016 to watch as Donald J. Trump was announced as the next President of the United States of America. After sharing tears of joy, acknowledging our answered prayers, and being thankful for this unprecedented outcome, my father became quiet and then he said to my Mom and me, “Do not wear anything or put anything on your vehicles that say Trump or MAGA. I don’t want anything to happen to either of you.” It was at that moment that my heart sunk realizing that his perception of how the not so “tolerant” left would respond was right and it angered me to tears. Why did showing support for the candidate I voted for need to be hidden out of fear?
I will never forget making my way through the crowd at Ponce City Market in a gentrified part of Atlanta the very next day as several shoppers donned their t-shirts bearing the words “I’m with Her,” “Bernie 2016,” and, of course, “Obama/Biden 2008.” It saddened me that I was unable to express my support for the 45th President of the United States as a proud American. After all, my voice mattered as well, right? Or was the First Amendment right to free speech reserved for the “enlightened” ones? As I sat down for lunch after shopping for a bit I could hear some of the conversations around me. The grumbling from those who saw this election as “stolen” was laughable. To hear a middle-aged Caucasian woman complain to her middle-aged Caucasian husband on how she feared that President-elect Donald Trump would surely launch America into World War III blew my mind. The man just won the election and already these self-righteous judges of character and rabid “haters” had begun to spin themselves into a frenzy. I had never invested as much time and energy in previous elections as I had in this one. I was passionate in my support of Donald Trump, but the intensity of the acrimony of the losers was completely foreign to me. Was this the way people always reacted after their candidate lost?
On the day that President Obama won the election in 2008, I was working for Transocean on an offshore Deepwater oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. As I headed up to the Chief Mate’s office to meet with the rest of the crew, the deafening silence in all of our company offices was impossible to ignore. It dawned on me the way that this election placed my industry, my job, and my future in the cross-hairs of this incoming Administration. The oil and gas industry had been demonized by many of this newly elected President’s supporters. Even so, the men and women I worked with carried on like any other day. We had a job to do and no time to complain or make up imaginary scenarios on how the Obama/Biden presidency would ruin our lives in so many ways. Little did we know what was to follow. When I returned to Atlanta after my three-week hitch, I found it remarkable seeing flags, banners, bumper stickers, and even fashionable clothing items plastered with Obama’s face. His supporters were free to show all of the love in the world for this man. In fact, it teetered on idolization. He was the next President and, although I did not approve, I respected those who were able to proudly display their support. After all, they earned it.
Which brings me to today. While making a grocery run at our local Publix, I noticed a woman wearing a Biden/Harris 2020 t-shirt. Not one word was said. I smiled, this time, I had an even better reason to. Mask mandates remain in effect for many states, cities, and places of business. For those who don’t wear one, or dare to forget to don one, the mask-fascists are known to yell “murderer.” For four years now, I have prayed for, supported, and loved this President, while still adhering to the advice of my protective father. There is not a single sticker on my vehicle nor is there any pro-Trump gear that I wear regularly in public. I’ve reserved my right to free speech to posting online, where I’ve been an ardent supporter of the president on Facebook and Twitter. Until now.
I found the most perfect Trump 2020 mask that fits my sassy style. If I am required to wear one, let this one be it. To boot, it is American made by a Floridian. It allows me to be respectful to the most vulnerable while safely showing my support for our President. And I’ve noticed I am not the only one. Our Governors and Mayors have asked us to protect ourselves and others with face coverings and the market has responded with a myriad of choices. We should be able to proudly show our support, ever so fashionably, as we please. Perhaps you choose a mask with just an American flag? Or even just a 45+ in small font? Baby steps, I say. And if another patron at my local Publix or shop has a problem with my Trump 2020 mask and is compelled to voice their anti-Trump opinion, so be it. They have that right in America. I’ll just smile with my eyes and remind them to kindly do so from 6 feet away.