By now, you've all seen the video. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaking at Winthrop, begins to rant about "radical Islamic terrorism" and behind him a woman stands. She's wearing a hijab and a shirt that reads, "Salam. I come in peace"
She doesn't yell, disrupt or provoke anything besides thought. She's promptly removed by security, ascending a staircase full of angry white men shouting and gesturing at her as she walks past. She later told reporters someone screamed at her accusing her of having a bomb.
The woman's name is Rose Hamid and she attended Friday's rally in Rock Hill with a group of other activists. Afterward, she told CNN and countless other national news outlets that her goal was to show Trump's supporters what a Muslim woman looked like, because she didn't think they'd ever met one.
It's easy to see why she would think that. When you hear comments from Trump's supporters, it seems they believe all Muslim people have declared jihad against America and are walking around strapped with suicide bombs on their way to send briefcases full of money to ISIS.
It's interesting, though, that she sat through about half of the event with no incident, until she stood. People sat beside her. She told reporters that someone even shared their popcorn with her!
Could it be that Trump supporters don't hate Muslims as much as they say? Could it be that Muslims are just a scapegoat they claim to hate in order to feel unified, but in the individual face of a kind Muslim woman who is just a human being living life like they are, their fear and anger dissipates? Maybe.
I've longed suspected Trump is in on his own joke. He's a business, man. He understands niche marketing, branding and propaganda. He's an opportunist who saw the GOP was in the middle of an identity crisis with shaky leadership, and he exploited its weakness by courting the base of voters it needs, but is more reserved in pandering to. The ones that are embarrassing, racist and undereducated. The ones who don't know the meaning of the phrase "fact-checking."
Trump retweets white supremacists, speaks fluent Palin-ese and trumpets ham-handed solutions that will never work, but are easy for the dimwitted to understand (like building a wall). Poll numbers suggest his target demographic's number one fear is Islamic terrorism, so he knows his rhetoric has to be extreme and unwavering.
This is not who he really is. No one in this global economy obtains his level of success by ostracizing entire swaths of the human quilt, talking in word-salads and offering unrealistic solutions to problems. He's playing these voters like Charlie Daniels on the fiddle and building a powerhouse brand Rupert Murdoch may come to envy in the process. None of this is real.
It's worth considering that Trump supporters don't actually hate Muslims either, they just enjoy feeling like they're a part of something. It wasn't until Rose challenged their leader in front of the group that she was jeered and admonished.
Even when Trump is making fun of the handicapped, making disgusting remarks about women or praising Kim Jong-Un for "taking out" his critics, it must never be acknowledged that this emperor has no clothes.
Rose is an American-born flight attendant, a former Girl Scouts leader in our community and a columnist for the Charlotte Observer. She has family members who served in the U.S. military. She volunteers and cheers for the Panthers in her spare time. It would be ludicrous to suggest she's some sort of radical extremist, and yet by Sunday afternoon, conservative media was already fashioning a familiar narrative:
"Trump "Silent Protester" Is Actually A Supporter Of Islamic Terrorism" – Sons of Liberty
"Rose Hamid Is Another Terrorist Supporting Muslim Masquerading As A Good American" – Shoebat.com
"Rose Hamid thrown out of Trump rally is a well known activist with ties to Muslin (sic) Brotherhood" – rightwingnews.com
All of these statements are, of course, unsubstantiated, but that won't matter to Trump supporters. It provides the reassurance they need to feel good about hating people like Rose. They still get to be a part of the group, and there's no need to think too hard about what's real or what's right.