Dear Scotland, I was confronted by a Trump supporter. I said f*** all.
It was a sunny Friday afternoon in Edinburgh. I was getting organised for my PhD party which was about to take place later that evening. On my back from my local supermarket, I was carrying bags filled with party snacks. The bags were quite heavy and awkward to carry, and the bus was delayed. As I found my spot at the bus stop, I dropped my bags and continue to worry about the party ahead of me — have we got enough snacks? Do we have any vegan options? What if someone is allergic to nuts?
Concerned with my first-world problems, I did not pay attention to other people waiting for the bus — until a massive giant appeared in front of me. His physical presence was so overwhelming that I have no choice, but to notice him.
The guy was tall, white and had a substantial ‘beer belly’. His t-shirt was clearly struggling to encompass the entirety of his body, but he carried it proudly nevertheless. As it was a warm day, I could see the beautiful Scottish sun reflecting off his bald head.
A silver chain was hanging across his thick and short neck — I assume that this was to add a radical edge to the slogan on his black and visibly worn-out t-shirt, which said: “Trump Won — Get Over It!”.
This guy walked with some confidence. Head up, arms wide and confident steps. He carried himself and his distinguishable (yet also very mediocre) attributes — with a sense of pride and superiority.
He must have noticed my reaction to his t-shirt. Perhaps it was my facial expression or my body language? I’m not sure how, but my body externalised the feeling of disregard to his t-shirt. In return, he kept his eyes on me as he was walking towards the bus stop. He sensed that I might be one of the people who’d challenge him that day — and he was clearly up for it.
The first thing that came to my mind was “Hey, do you think it’s wise to wear this pro-Trump t-shirt in Scotland?”.
While preparing myself to say it out loud, the guy suddenly reached the bus stop and stood right next to me. He was very close — consciously invading my personal space. I couldn’t see him, but I could feel his heavy breath over my shoulder. He was marking his territory. He wanted to be confronted.
As a result of his heavy presence over my shoulder, I felt intimidated. Suddenly, I became speechless and powerless.
Nonetheless, my mind was still plotting a possible confrontation. I looked at my shopping bags and began thinking about the possible consequences of my anti-Trump intervention. What about the party ahead of me — my shopping, my partner cooking at home and all of my amazing friends coming to see me later that evening? Will I be able to get back home okay if I engage in an argument with this guy? I was convinced that if I do voice my opinion, I might not be able to get back home in one piece (not to mention my precious party snacks!).
My 60-second examination of his persona, as well as the time of the day and his possible bus routes, led me to the conclusion — this white middle-aged guy is not a tourist nor is he a Festival performer (all of this happened on the first day of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival).
This could have meant that he is a local right-wing radical, who (1) might have a wide range of Brexit related counterarguments, (2) might hate me passionately for being an immigrant; (3) might also be able to hunt me down later in Edinburgh.
So, I continued to stand there in silence — thinking about my cowardness and passive contribution to the normalisation of evil.
While feeling this guy presence over my shoulder, I thought about the modern-day crisis of humanity, caused and sustained by those like Trump. I wondered about the manufactured moralities, racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of othering that have become the building blocks of right-wing radicals. These modern-day oppressors, choose to present themselves as civilisation fighters. Their collective sense of purpose — mindless and furious eradication of liberal thinking and doing, provide them with strength and confidence.
Intimidated by that hate-fueled strength, I lost my ability to speak up against it — had I also become one of the oppressors?
I began to question my position as an activist — perhaps, in the serious situation of the regime, I’d actually become one of the oppressors? If, I’d need to choose sides in the situation of conflict, would my cowardly traits win? After all, “the world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing” (Albert Einstein).
This bus stop became my entire universe for a moment, where I not only traded my values for my party snacks, but I felt incredibly disempowered and scared. I felt powerless and fragile — both as a woman and a migrant in the UK. Within this short period of time (and while feeling the Trump’s supporter breath on my neck), I thought about the nature of evil and history of authoritarian regimes. All of those people who had no choice but to comply with the aggressive regime. Perhaps some of them, like myself, really wanted to spend some time with their friends or family and to be able to do so — they simply chose not to speak up.
In the end, the guy with the pro-Trump t-shirt got on the bus. As an act of cowardly resistance, I decided not to get on the same bus. Was I too embarrassed or too scared to follow him? Or, was I handing over my responsibility of challenging him to other people? Either way, he was gone.
I stood there, frozen in embarrassment and despair. If this is how I choose to fight for social change, then I should probably just stop pretending and give up now.