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Anti-Trump protesters are patriots

Protesters are removed as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Fayetteville, N.C., on March 9, 2016. Gerry Broome/AP

Donald Trump slams protesters at his rallies as “thugs” but, as usual, the unhinged GOP presidential front-runner is dead wrong:

They’re patriots.

By now, any protester at a Trump rally knows what they will face. The lucky ones will only be ridiculed by the candidate, have their anti-Trump signs yanked away and torn to pieces, and be hustled out of the arena. At worst — at least so far — they’ll be peppered with racist or anti-Semitic invective, manhandled by security guards, spat on, or sucker-punched by some moron sorry only that he couldn’t have inflicted more lethal damage.

With Trump nearly sweeping this week’s primaries, those rallies will become more hostile toward anyone pushing against his hideous rhetoric. Yet those patriots will still come, not just because they oppose Trump but for the love of their country which is being shoved toward the abyss. As poet Adrienne Rich wrote in “An Atlas of the Difficult World”:

A patriot is one who wrestles/ for the soul of her country/ as she wrestles for her own being.


Odds are these aren’t the people who fueled an all-time spike in Google searches on moving to Canada after Trump won multiple states on Super Tuesday. They weren’t checking real estate prices in Toronto or job openings in Vancouver. Patriots don’t surrender their nation to a preening narcissist or to his supporters, who, like goats unable to discern between what they should chew up or spit out, swallow whole all the nonsense they’re fed.

Armed with nothing more than the unshakeable certainty that their nation will collapse under the weight of Trump’s insatiable ego, they walk into arenas where they will be met with scorn, even physical retaliation. This stunningly frightful time demands more than hash tags, and these protestors have placed themselves on the front line.


That’s a lot more than Trump’s fellow GOP candidates have done. On “Meet the Press” last Sunday, Governor John Kasich of Ohio said, when asked if he would support Trump as the presidential nominee, “It’s tough.” Actually, Governor Kasich, it’s not. Likewise, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas condemns the bombastic billionaire’s bruising style, but in his next breath says he will back the party’s nominee — even if it’s the troubling GOP front-runner. Kasich and Cruz would rather save their floundering party than the nation they claim to love.

For his part, Trump told CNN that if he doesn’t get the nomination, “I think you’d have riots. I think you’d have problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen.” That veiled threat is nothing more than a dog whistle for Trump’s rowdiest supporters.

Still, even under the risk of mayhem from those supporters, rally protesters are determined to keep that craven man with his dark dreams from running this nation into the ground. That is the essence of patriotism.

Especially after 9/11, patriotism was remade into something regressive and divisive, not unlike what extremists have done to various religions. It became flag pins and “freedom fries,” while dissent became tantamount to treason. Too many were left sputtering in enraged silence. Perhaps spurred by the success of the Black Lives Matter movement, many have found again the lasting power of voices joined in a common cause.

And that cause is to stop Donald Trump. Those who oppose him — and they will grow in number as he racks up primary and caucus wins — will not relinquish their country to the kind of made-for-television tyranny that Trump spews as easily as he breathes. A true patriot knows that for America to be great, it must be wrested away from this vain, empty man who believes in nothing but himself.


Renée Graham writes regularly for the Globe. Follow her on Twitter