The deconversion of a Trump troll.

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You may remember a few weeks ago I asked readers to let me know if they knew of anyone who had finally turned on Trump.   I wanted to write a blog post describing the journey of such a person.

I got no responses to my question, and personally, I don’t know anyone who supported Trump who has changed their mind.   I gave up finding such a person.

But they do exist!   Granted, they’re rare as snow in Mississippi, but they are out there.  Yesterday I came upon an article written for Forward (an online magazine focusing on issues related to Judaism and Jews) by a New Yorker named David Weissman.

He colorfully describes his days as a hardcore Trump supporter and Internet troll.  Everything you might expect, he did it or said it.  He was all-in on bullying liberals and  Democrats (and RINOs — “Republicans in Name Only”).   He mainlined on Fox News.   He went to Trump rallies and owned a MAGA hat.   He willingly soaked in Trump’s hateful rhetoric and dismissed anyone who was offended by it as “snowflakes.”

It took one woman to change his views.    One day the comic actress Sarah Silverman responded to one of his inflammatory comments on Twitter.  He describes the way she engaged him in conversation and debate without putting down his beliefs or attacking him.  She remained patient and doggedly kept replying to his tweets in a civil and engaging way, explaining why she felt the way she did about things like healthcare, immigration, racism, and many other topics — and why she believed Trump was wrong for America and the world.

I have also tried to engage Trump supporters with the truth, but eventually I give up, because most Trumpists I meet online waste my time with straw man arguments, what-aboutism, straight-up gaslighting, and even personal attacks.   I began to block them  because it was just easier than the futile and frustrating experience of trying to get them to think outside their comfort zone or handle the resulting cognitive dissonance.  Patience is not one of my greatest virtues.   Maybe if it were, I might be able to eventually get through to a few of them.  Maybe.

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Mr. Weissman seems like a man who might have been receptive to a different viewpoint anyway.   One of the things that worries and saddens me is that many Trump supporters seem to show signs of sociopathy themselves — or are attracted to a “strongman” type of leader who tells them exactly what to think because they don’t want to think for themselves.   Trumpism has been compared to a cult, and it really is one.   Its followers respond to Trump as they do to a cult leader, and like Jim Jones’ followers, they willingly, even eagerly, drink his poison Koolaid even though it might literally kill them later (Trump is doing nothing for the average working class white person and is fact is doing a lot of damage to his own supporters).

As with all cults, it’s almost impossible to reform someone drawn in by its promises by anyone on the outside, because it really is a form of mind control.    Trump supporters are literally in thrall to their golden calf.  Reality and facts just can’t get through.

Maybe Mr. Weissman was less brainwashed than most other Trump supporters, or just had enough intelligence for reason and facts to begin to sink in.   Maybe it’s because Ms. Silverman, a fellow Jew, was seen as sympathetic.   But it doesn’t matter why Weissman could be redeemed from Trumpism, while so many others seem impermeable to the truth.  What matters is that it’s possible.

It didn’t happen overnight.  His deconversion happened over a period of several weeks or months (he doesn’t give an exact timeframe of how long it took), mostly by continuing his online conversation with Ms. Silverman.   He decided to read the links to articles she gave him instead of attacking them as “fake news.”   By reading and educating himself about the facts, he began to question what he’d believed (or wanted to believe) about Trump.   He became willing to deal with the cognitive dissonance all the new information was causing him.  (Cognitive dissonance is extremely uncomfortable for most people, who will do almost anything to avoid experiencing it).  Weissman describes how welcoming the “liberals” were, and the way they did not judge him.   Some of his Trumpist buddies began to bully him and call him a traitor. They were incensed that he and Ms. Silverman — a liberal — appeared to be friends.  Weissman began to see his fellow Trump supporters in a new light –  as ignorant people embracing a narcissistic bully (or even being bullies themselves) and willfully shutting out the truth.

Here is his story (which also gives tips on how to engage with Trump supporters):

I Used to Be a Trump Troll 

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3 questions to ask yourself if you raised kids in a dysfunctional home.

I’m giving this post another day in the sun. This is for anyone with children at home who thinks their own issues might be negatively affecting the way they raise their kids. I hope this helps.

Lucky Otters Haven

Nobody’s perfect, and that goes for parents too.  There’s no such thing as a perfect parent. There’s something called a “good enough” parent though, which means that you are going to make mistakes raising your kids, no matter how much talent you have for the task or how well adjusted you are.  Children don’t come with instruction manuals, and some of the mistakes you make might even be pretty bad ones.    But overall, you’re “good enough” if your kids know you love them no matter what mistakes you made, and they turn out to be functioning, reasonably happy adults.

But for survivors of narcissistic abuse, things are a little more dire.   Because many of us suffer from mental disorders caused by abuse–C-PTSD, BPD, OCD, anxiety, depression, and a host of other mental maladies–we probably entered parenthood with less of a sense of ourselves and our place in the…

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The swamp again!

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about a surprising swamp here in the Blue Ridge Mountains.   At the time, I only had a couple of photos not taken by me.   I’ve been fascinated by the swamp ever since I discovered it.

Today, with nothing else to do, I took a drive back to the swamp to get some photos.  There wasn’t really anyplace to go down into the swamp and get closeups (not that I’d really want to do that anyway) so I took these from the highway that goes right past it.   The weeds along the side of the road were too tall to walk in.

I love the creepy beauty of these pictures.

The flowering plants growing on the water are water lilies and the blooms are a lovely bright pink, but it’s hard to make out the color from the photos.   It would have been worth getting closer in for that.

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The summer of the toads.

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When I was 10 years old, my parents sent me to summer camp in upstate New York for a month.   I was a weird kid who loved books, was by turns standoffish or overly-friendly, and tended to be bullied at school.   At first, I wasn’t too happy about being sent to an unfamiliar environment without the comforts of home, where I’d have to share a cabin with 7 or 8 other girls I’d never met and who probably wouldn’t like me anyway.   To be completely honest,  being sent away for an entire month felt like a rejection, though I didn’t dare tell my parents that.

But the camping experience wasn’t anywhere near as awful as I expected.  It had its good points and its bad.  The good:  the hikes in the woods, the lake, the campfires, arts and crafts, nature walks, an hour of free time at the end of every day before dinner, the letters and gifts from home.  The bad: almost all the mess hall food, getting up early every day, the bugs, the lack of privacy, the uncomfortable cheap plastic covered mattress on my bed, no TV,  and the endless rules.   As for friends, well, I wasn’t exactly Miss Popularity, but I developed close friendships with a couple of other girls who were as quirky and weird as I was.

One of the girls was named Janie.   Janie was a year younger than me, but looked about three years younger.  She was like my adopted little sister.   She was angry a lot and used to yell at the other girls for silly reasons or for no reason at all, but she never yelled at me.  In fact, she seemed to look up to me, which was pretty flattering for someone who wasn’t used to ever being looked up to by anyone.   I think she was just homesick.  I liked her hair — it was short, thick, stick straight and a pretty bright golden brown — and at night before lights out I liked to comb it and play with it.  She wore thick glasses and liked to read as much as I did.  She was sort of a tomboy too, shunning girly things.  She was always dressed in striped polo tops and black or dark blue shorts and sneakers.  Like me, she loved nature and didn’t mind getting dirty.

The previous summer, a sort-of-friend (who only seemed to like me sometimes) who lived in a house behind the grove of thick spruce and maple trees that divided my backyard from hers,  had come over every day during one hot July week when we dug a huge hole in my backyard.   My mother wasn’t happy about the hole or the mess it caused, but she tried to ignore what we were doing and let us be kids, as long as we didn’t dig anywhere near the lawn.   We had chosen the far back of the yard, under some large old trees, where it was shady and no grass grew, for our hole.   We spend hours digging to see just how deep we could dig that hole.  Could we dig it as deep as the deep end of a swimming pool?  Maybe deeper than the earth’s mantle?  Could we dig to the center of the earth? Maybe even all the way to China?

Several times it rained and the hole filled with water, collapsing its walls and ruining much of our work, but once it dried up again, we’d be back out there digging.  After a few days, I’d brought out some plastic play plates, saucepans, and cups from a toy kitchen set, and we set up a sort of “kitchen” inside our hole, which was now large enough to hold both of us without our heads protruding above ground level (as long as we remained in a squatting position).    My friend brought over an old black umbrella that had belonged to her dad,  and we used that as a roof on our underground “house.”   We made makeshift “stairs” out of  large flat stones stuck in the mud walls on the side (the stairs didn’t really work but they looked nice).  At the end of every day, we’d both be filthy, sweaty, and covered head to toe with mud.   My mother, horrified at the sight of me, always sent me immediately to the bathroom to take a bath before I’d be allowed to go anywhere else in the house.

Finally,  when the hole was approximately the size and depth of a grave, my mother had enough and made us fill in the hole.   But by that point, the novelty had worn off and I was covered with mosquito bites from spending so much time wallowing in the stagnant water that was constantly filling the bottom of our hole.  So my friend and I didn’t mind spending a few hours shoveling the dirt back in the hole.  Away went the dollhouse plates and cups, and her dad’s big black umbrella.

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So getting dirty was never much of a problem for me, and when I met Janie at summer camp, we immediately hit it off.   At home and school, I tended to be too obedient and docile, not having the courage to speak up about anything, but for some reason summer camp was a different story.   Janie was freespirited and she hated following rules.   Although I was generally in the big-sister role, Janie’s willingness to break rules rubbed off on me and I found myself breaking rules too — and not really caring whether I got in trouble or not.   After all, what could the camp counselors do to us?

The way we broke the rules was to disappear during certain planned camp activities we disliked.  Every day there was a schedule of activities and except for an hour of free time at the end of the day,  our time wasn’t really our own.  Although I liked most of the camp activities, two I hated were Archery and Softball.   Janie didn’t like them either.  So those became the times we’d disappear and go off on our own to explore.

There was a stream that ran through our side of the camp (the boys had their own side) , and along its banks were wonderful areas with slippery clay-like gray mud.   We loved the look and feel and smell of this mud, which smelled sour-earthy and squished satisfyingly between our fingers, making squicky noises as it squeezed through.   We spent hours building little clay animals and people and whole towns out of this magical mud, then squishing them all into oblivion between our fingers again.  Overhead, the tall trees whispered softly in the warm summer breeze and dragonflies flitted about, their wings shimmering in the patchy sunlight that filtered through the green canopy overhead.

There were lots of small toads in the rocky stream and the clay-rich estuary-like area in which we spent so much time.  One day Janie climbed up from the banks of the stream,  cupping a minature toad in the palm of her small hand.  He was the cutest thing I ever saw, and she said she was going to keep him as a pet.    Of course, he escaped within minutes, but we kept finding more tiny toads.  They were everywhere!  I caught a larger toad, and soon toad-hunting became our obsession.   We imagined the toads had their own personalities and we gave them names.   They were our friends.

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We’d always forget the time, and arrive back at the cabin late, during the middle of Quiet Time.    The first couple of times that happened, our counselor punished us by telling us we had to read during Free Time.   But for us, that wasn’t a punishment at all, since we both loved reading and would have chosen to do it anyway.

So Janie and I continued to play in the stream during Archery or Softball, arriving back at the cabin late.   Finally, our counselor had enough and sent us to the Camp Director.   He threatened to expel us from camp early if we didnt start obeying the rules, so after that day, our frog-hunting adventures finally came to an end.

On the second to last day of camp, there was a special ceremony in which awards were given out to the campers.   I didn’t expect to receive anything, but I did receive an award for “Most Improved Swimmer.”    I was sure I’d be getting nothing else, but when the  ceremony was almost over, Janie and I were called up together to receive an award.   Smiling, the camp director handed us certificates.  I looked down at my certificate, and printed in pretty calligraphy was my name and under it, in smaller calligraphy, it said, “Best Frog Hunter.”   I looked over at Janie’s.  Hers said the same thing.  We gave each other knowing looks, and sheepishly sat down while the entire camp cheered and clapped for us.

That was a good summer.

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A swamp in the Blue Ridge Mountains? Who knew?

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The swamp covered in water lilies.  They don’t appear to be in full bloom.  Photo: John Boyle/jboyle@citizen-times.com)

 

Yesterday as I was driving east along US Highway 70 headed toward Black Mountain, I passed an unusual sight:  to the immediate left on the road was a flat expanse covered with what looked like bright pink water lilies.   On closer inspection, I realized I was looking at a swamp!   We don’t have swamps here in the Blue Ridge Mountains!  Or do we?

I’ve actually passed the swamp many times before without knowing it.   It never really stood out to me before, since this stretch of the highway isn’t especially scenic.   It’s filled with used car lots, run down buildings, and sad, outdated, nearly empty strip malls.    During the winter and early spring, I had seen the swamp, but because of the vast amounts of rain we’ve had this year, I assumed it was just a flooded area and would probably eventually be drained and something built there.

But the presence of the water lilies made me realize this wasn’t just a flooded area that would eventually dry up, but an actual, bona fide swamp!

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Photo: John Boyle/jboyle@citizen-times.com)

 

I was intrigued.  I wanted to find out more.   When I got home, I Googled “Swannanoa Swamp,” not expecting to find much, if any information.   But there were actually two articles written about it, one in the Asheville Citizen-Times and another on the River Link website.   There were also a few photos, which I have copied here.

Since both articles appeared to be written in the past year, I assumed the swamp was a new thing.  I had never noticed it at all until this year, when I assumed it was just a flooded area.  But it’s actually at least 60 years old!

Here is the quote from the “Answer Man” on the Asheville Citizen-Times article that explains the swamp’s (actually two connected swamps) unusual history:

…The KOA Campground in Swannanoa owns the swamp ponds on the north side of the road, which are actually strangely attractive with all the lily pads and bright pink lilies in bloom.

A co-owner of the KOA, who asked not to be identified, said a divider lies between the two ponds, and they do have a resident beaver. Campers aren’t allowed to fish in the swamps.

For their origin, she referred me to Swannanoa Valley historian Bill Alexander, whose family owned much of the property around there on the north side of U.S. 70.

“When Grovestone inquired about some property they would like to get rock out of, my father and my uncle gave them permission to dig some of that area out, just for the granite or whatever they could get out of there,” Alexander said. “They did that, and because they were getting something essentially for nothing, they said, ‘We’ll make you a lake.'”

This was in the early 1950s. The lake remains as the KOA Campground lake.

“There was a body of water that came from the original lake, and it didn’t have anywhere to go,” Alexander said. “The swamp was a run-over from the lake. That’s how that body of water, specifically, came to be.”

The article went on to explain that there have been no known health issues or problems because of the swamp’s presence, but that people exploring the area should take precautions and stay covered and use bug repellant to ward off mosquitoes, which breed there as they do in any wetland.

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Swamp in winter or early spring.  Credit: Riverlink.org

I didn’t get out of the car to explore the swamp myself, so I didn’t get a chance to take my own photos.   I think you probably have to go in via the campgrounds, which are behind it.   Maybe one day I will do that.    These photos don’t show the brilliant pink of the water lilies.  It’s not a large area.  I’d say it’s about the size of a fairly small, but long pond.

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This is fine.

It might be an old meme, but it’s just so perfect right now.

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Hoping this changes.

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I’m hoping and praying it’s only this year I feel this way.

I still believe in what America stood for (and still stands for for most people).   But today, I have to admit, I’m ashamed to be an American.   Not because I don’t love my country, but ironically, because I do.  I know we’re better than this.   I hope we can find our way out of the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into.

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Donald Trump, Psychopath

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Here’s an interesting, informative article from Patheos.com in which the author, Andrew Spitznas, makes an excellent case for Donald Trump being afflicted with Malignant Narcissism — Antisocial Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and traits of both Paranoia and Sadism.  Donald Trump displays all four elements, and the author gives examples of each.

Donald Trump, Psychopath

My only criticism is the author states that malignant narcissism is the same as psychopathy.  I disagree.  Psychopathy (as opposed to sociopathy, which it’s often confused with) is a congenital condition in which the brain is missing the structures responsible for the development of a conscience and empathy.   Thus, a person can be a psychopath even though there was no unusual trauma during childhood.  Psychopathy is not a personality disorder, but really a developmental disorder of the brain.  Psychopaths are often “bad seeds,” but not all psychopaths are criminals and some can even be trained to be prosocial (even though prosocial behavior will never come naturally to them).

Malignant narcissism is NPD plus ASPD (antisocial personality disorder), with traits of paranoia and sadism, and it is not a congenital condition.  Both NPD and ASPD are Cluster B personality disorders that develop due to early childhood trauma or neglect.  Children are not born with personality disorders; they are acquired.  While malignant narcissists are quite sociopathic and usually lack a conscience  (garden variety, non-malignant NPDs are not sociopathic, they usually have a conscience, and even sometimes have limited amounts of empathy), they are not psychopathic.    The sociopath’s — or malignant narcissist’s — emotional development was arrested so they never developed empathy or a conscience.   There is no evidence that anyone has ever been cured of malignant narcissism, though in rare circumstances, they may become self-aware.   Donald Trump is most certainly not self-aware, nor is he likely to ever become so.

While it’s entirely possible Donald Trump may be both a malignant narcissist and a psychopath, they are not the same thing.  It’s possible to be one without being the other.  I think the confusion arises because the behavior of a psychopath and a malignant narcissist (or a person with antisocial personality disorder/sociopathy) can be so similar.

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On surviving the future in Trumpistan.

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Women rounded up to be sent to “The Colonies,” Handmaid’s Tale, Season 2.

 

My most fervent prayer is that Trumpism comes to an end.  Obviously, the best way for that to happen would be for Bob Mueller to make his findings known, and then we can celebrate as we watch the entire evil regime be removed and arrested on national TV, so they can never hurt anyone else.   That would be an event worthy of a new national holiday.

Of course, it might set off a civil war.  Trumplicans have promised that.  Whatever.   At this point, I’d welcome a civil war if it meant we could be rid of the orange menace and his cabal of anti-American, antisocial ghouls.   Bring it on.

But each day this horrific human being stays in office, the worse things get.  When I look back over the past eighteen months, it’s startling how much we’ve normalized and the unnerving way he’s been able to accelerate and intensify his assaults on democracy.   We are so much closer to being a fascist state than we were eighteen months ago.   Essentially we have one-party rule now, and no one ever holds Trump and the converted Republican Party (which is now the Party of Trump) accountable for anything, no matter how heinous or cruel their actions.    The crippled but still functioning free press is the only thing left that keeps us still tethered to a thread of democracy.  How much longer that  (and our freedom of speech and assembly) will last I don’t know, and I don’t want to know.

So I’m not getting my hopes up about the Mueller investigation.   If he’s even allowed to finish his investigation, the complicit GOP Congress, which is supposed to provide a check on the president’s absolute power, is likely to do nothing.   Trump will skate — even if he’s found guilty of treason, which seems more likely every day.   He literally could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and nothing would happen to him.   That might have been the one thing he ever told the truth about.

More likely is that we could neuter Trump’s tyranny by turning the House and Senate blue in November.   But because Russia has shown every intention of still meddling in our elections, because of blatant gerrymandering and voter suppression on the part of the GOP, and because of the Trump regime’s daily assaults and smear campaigns on Democrats, the free press, and democracy itself, our side is being discredited and weakened.    The Democratic Party is  growing, since many never-Trump conservatives have left the corrupt, Trumpicized GOP and independents have also seen the writing on the wall and have vowed to vote blue in November.   But we don’t have much power and our voices are drowned out by the much louder, wealthier, and more aggressive Trump GOP.

If we manage to succeed, Trump could be rendered fairly harmless and impeachment proceedings could finally begin with a Democratic House and Senate.  It could happen, but even with all the excitement about the impending “blue wave,” I’m not getting my hopes up.  Putin is an evil genius who knows exactly how to turn things in Trump’s favor, and the GOP, with all the Putin/Koch/Mercer/Adelson money behind it and almost unlimited power and control,  will almost certainly do their best to make voting as difficult as they can, and gerrymander districts even more than they already are.   So even with renewed Democratic motivation to vote, we could still wind up losing.

If they win, it will be too late.  America as we know it will be over. Back in January 2017, when Trump took office, Amy Siskind, an expert on authoritarian states and the author of the book, “The List,” which documents in horrifying detail each week of the Trump administration (every week, the assaults on our democracy have increased in both number and severity) predicted we had less than two years to save our country.  After that, it would be game over.  Well, we are there.  It’s been almost two years.    Honestly, I don’t have high hopes.   Of course, I’ll still do whatever I can to turn things around, and you’d have to kill me before I wouldn’t show up at the polls this November.    But I’m not feeling too optimistic.

I know I couldn’t survive in the sort of regime that will result when Trump seizes full power — which he will certainly do if we fail in November.    My temperament isn’t  suited for totalitarianism and fascism.   I couldn’t physically, emotionally or spiritually handle a political environment of such mysogyny, cruelty and watch the exploitation and institutionalized abuse of the most vulnerable members of society.

This regime seems very hostile to women in particular, and coupled with the powerful influence of Dominionism and far right evangelicalism, they are poised to overturn not just Roe vs. Wade, but also use “Old Testament Law” (the “Christian” version of Sharia Law) as justification to take away all our rights, including contraception and even possibly the right to vote or own property, just like they do in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia.  As an unmarried (divorced) older female without much in the way of financial means, I’d be an easy target for the emboldened regime to exploit, marginalize, and abuse.   Social security and Medicare, which I’m counting on in a few years since I have very little in retirement savings, will be gone — and everything I paid into it over four decades effectively stolen from me by insatiably greedy oligarchs who believe they deserve everything and the “little people” deserve nothing.

Right now, I don’t see any way I’d be able to flee the country, and I wouldn’t leave without my adult children anyway, who are also vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by this regime for reasons I won’t get into here.   They would also be targets.

I fear death.   Maybe faced with a dystopian future of wasting away in a concentration or slave labor camp reminiscent of “The Colonies” in The Handmaid’s Tale (the “Colonies” are the grim hard labor camps that older and infertile women, and female dissenters are sent to shovel toxic waste until they die), that fear might disappear.  At that point, suicide might be an option.  I don’t know.   I can’t imagine such a thing now.   I still have too much hope that things can’t stay like this — even though intellectually I know they can.

Every day I pray that a miracle gives me back the country I love, or barring that, that an opportunity for escape opens up for my family and I to start over in a new country.   If neither of those outcomes are in the cards, all I want from God is a quick and merciful death to spare me from the horror and pain of the alternative.

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Families Belong Together Rally.

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Today, all across the country, in over 700 locations, people gathered together to protest the Trump regime’s cruel and inhumane family separation policy, that has ripped thousands of children away from their parents at the US/Mexico border, and put many of those children in cages and detention camps.

Although it was searingly hot here in Asheville, NC, today, there was a large turnout, at least a few hundred people — and this is a small city!     This was the first protest event I ever attended with an actual sign I made.   Early this morning I went to Dollar General and picked up some inexpensive art supplies and then worked on my sign.  Here’s the finished result (I decorated both sides).  I’m not much of an artist, but I think the drawings managed to capture the emotion I was trying to convey.

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Several people took photos of my sign, which was a nice feeling.   I also took photos of the signs other people were carrying.  I’m always so impressed at the creativity I see whenever I attend a protest or rally.   Here’s an example I really liked (this was also a two-sided sign).  The bottom picture is a depiction of the two year old Honduran girl who has become an icon of both the immigration crisis and this important movement (it’s hard to see the red of her shirt).     I love the way Lady Liberty has taken her hand and is guiding her to safety — something that is unfortunately far from the reality that is actually being practiced at our southern border.

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The photo at the top of this post is one I took of a beautiful toddler and her mother who were standing in front of me at the rally.   They were Hispanic (I don’t know what country they are from) and I thought this sweet moment was so perfect (I did get permission from the mom to take their picture).

The rally lasted about an hour and a half.  We listened to some great speeches from local activists, a few immigrants, and finally, a beautiful song sung by a woman from El Salvador.   There were booths set up to help people sign up to vote in November (make sure you are registered and VOTE BLUE!).  The crowd, in spite of the heat, was motivated and passionate!

I returned home feeling like I participated in something important that can help change things.   It sure beat lying in bed being depressed and feeling like our situation is hopeless and we are all doomed.

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