Every great narrative begins with a stunner of a first line. "Call me Ishmael"; "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"; "Just a small town girl livin' in a lonely world"; that whole Snot Boogie America scene in The Wire; and now: "Donkey boy, I'm comin' for you! Take off that mask!"
There have been lots of conflicts between anti-Trump protesters and Trump backers, many of which have been captured on smartphones. But none have matched the almost performance art–esque insanity of "Donald Trump Supporter Confronts Protester in a Donkey Costume." DTSCPIADC is not a short film about an asshole. It is not a short film about an asshole yelling and being yelled at by other assholes. It is a short film about anger and nonsense and the media—America itself, in other words.
We begin in the most American of locales—on the side of the road in a nondescript town (Phoenix), where people have congregated to shout and be filmed by TV cameras and phones. One is wearing a bandana mask and holding a Soviet Union flag, one is wearing a donkey costume, that sort of thing. There are police officers making sure nothing gets out of hand, and also one very angry man who will serve as the star of our little performance.
He is angry because he's on his way to a Trump rally, and these guys are standing in his way, or just because they're standing and shouting in his vicinity. Or he's just angry. Reasons aren't really the point here. The video has no preamble, no exposition—we're dropped in the middle of a scene.
The middle of a monologue, actually, because the Angry Trump Fan (ATF) says all of this without the donkey man responding, without any kind of response at all:
"Donkey boy, I'm comin' for you! Take off that mask! Are you Hillary Clinton? Who are you under there? Hillary, why are you hiding, Hillary? Take off the mask! Take off the mask! I can see your eyes, lemme see—is that a burka? Is that a burka? Is that a burka? I'm just asking if it's a burka. Are you allowed to take off the mask? Who hates gays more than Muslims? Who hates gays more than Muslims?"
At this point, it would be useful to ask the sorts of questions that are normally asked in screenwriting workshops, to "break the story" of this two-minute hate. For instance, what does ATF want? To go to the rally? Are the protesters stopping ATF from doing so? What do the protesters want? What is the arc here? What's the journey? The destination?
The answer to all these questions is nothing. There is no reason or dramatic purpose here. All anyone on this side of the road wants to do is stand here yelling at one another, and bless their hearts, that's exactly what they're doing.
ATF is the antagonist here. He's everybody's racist Thanksgiving relative made flesh, but there is no hero. The other characters are just as one-dimensional, just as seething with useless rage. Mostly, they stand around shouting "racist!" at him. He turns on one of them and says, of the Orlando shooter, "He worshipped Islam, you liberal dove! [Makes gesture that is vaguely suggestive of wings] Bend over and let them chop your head off! Go to Syria you dumb fuck!"
Then he turns over to the man who has been most consistent in his "racist!" yelling, and addresses him: "I didn't say I'm racist!"
"You are racist! You're supporting a racist!"
"Obama-Biden, how many more days left for them? Are you gonna cry when they're gone? [Makes gesture of tears streaming down his cheeks]"
Then the protester, who is an ordinary middle-age white dude in sunglasses, the sort of guy who picks up his kids from soccer, listens to Tom Petty, whatever, abandons the pretense of a discussion and shouts "Racist! Racist! Racist!" in ATF's face while ATF spreads his arms out wide, and goes, "Hit me, hit me… Who's violent, liberal? Who's violent, liberal?"
"Racist! Racist! [Pauses to take drink from Snapple bottle] Racist!"
The news cameras, the people shooting this whole thing on their phones, and the police all step forward because they can sense the potential for violence. This is the sort of scene that turns into a shove-fight, or an actual fight, or even a shooting—Americans have literally died at the hands of other Americans over bullshit arguments like these.
Studies have found that Americans trust one another less than they used to, that anxiety and depression in young people has been rising for decades. Clubs and groups from PTAs to the Kiwanis have been suffering from declining membership, and confidence in various institutions from churches to banks is low; the federal government is distrusted perhaps most of all.
Maybe this is what all of that looks like. Americans are disconnected from one another, stressed, angry, convinced that it's other Americans who have been poisoning the country. There are fewer places you can go and talk with others about what you're feeling—actual places, not comment sections or Facebook threads. Those virtual spaces merely magnify your anger and outrage and, maybe, convince you that the other side, the side that gets outraged about all the wrong things, is barely even human.
So why not show up by the side of the road to harass Trump supporters? Why not, as three muscled bros did to ATF, chant "Trump is hate!" into a microphone until the police have to separate ATF from you to avoid a physical fight? Why think before you say anything? And if you're ATF, why not try to bait these random people into hitting you? Why not keep ratcheting things up? The cameras are here, the cops are here, it's like a real Donald Trump rally, only maybe better, because now you get to be the star.
The only person who was silent throughout the whole kerfuffle was the other person at the center of it, the donkey man. His name, the Arizona Republic learned, is William Robles, and he shows up often at local protests for migrant rights. Sometimes he goes out with his camera to film sheriff's officers—the local sheriff's department is run by Joe Arpaio, the notoriously "tough-on-crime" anti-immigration hardliner. If there's a sympathetic character on that stretch of road, it's Robles, if only because he didn't escalate matters as everyone around him was doing. You can't yell your way to peace, you can't shout the hate out of anyone, you can't find consensus by screaming. Those aren't lessons that everyone understands, I guess.
"What Donald Trump is doing, he's just showing people the hate, he's hurting the people, he's hurting the public," Robles told the Republic. "It doesn't have to be like that."
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