Are Americans really as frenzied as the media depicts us?
The comments before I set off to observe the second presidential debate at Washington University (Wash U) were mostly along the lines of, “Be careful,” “Watch out for protesters,” and “Are you sure that’s safe?” Based on the events broadcasted on news stations, shared on Facebook, and uploaded onto YouTube, these comments were justified.
However, what I found couldn’t have been further from the expected. Lines of protesters were everywhere (a Black Lives Matter group, Trump defenders, Hillary haters, Gary Johnson supporters, and Jill Stein fans), but they were intermingling, talking, and discussing radically different ideology with passion and composure. On the same sidewalk a vendor sold Hillary buttons while having a friendly conversation with a man distributing Trump stickers.
Signs were both blunt (“I’m with Hillary”) and subtle (a plastic butt that had “Rump” written on it). Two grim reapers walked around with cardboard signs ironically praising Trump for all the business he would bring them.
This wasn’t the action that was promised – the barely contained rage that CNN, Fox, NBC, and most other news stations loved to broadcast to every television in America.
Searching for it actually proved to be a fruitless endeavor. Areas marked available for protests were humming with people, but the kind who recorded drama rather than created it. They had phones, GoPro cameras, drones, and camcorders, but not a single interesting thing to record. A disappointment for thrills seekers to say the least.
There was one thing in particular that contributed to the calm atmosphere of one of the most politically charged presidential races in recent history: a massive police presence. Hundreds of police officers surrounded the campus center, directed traffic at intersections, and patrolled the campus’ major entrances and exits. There were dozens on bikes, as well, ready to rush into action at the first sign of foul play. Overall a small army locked that campus down and it would have taken a Danny Ocean type of plan to successfully pull off a stunt endangering the candidates or their supporters.
Is America fractured by this election season? Absolutely, anyone can see that. Yet, this hasn’t translated to citizen-on-citizen violence. Instead, it seems to be fostering an even deeper examination of the state of politics in America rather than pulling apart an already divided voting public.