By Dan Burns
I attended the Trump rally at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, hoping I could ask him a question. “What about vaccine injuries, autism, and the CDC?”
“Fire them!” Trump would say. And vaccine injury would enter the national discussion. I printed up an AoA neck hanger and headed for the press entrance.
Trump was late but the crowd was mellow and the music was feel-good eighties. All was well, until the program started. A mangled pledge of allegiance, then the grand entrance. Trump, trump, trump. Who complained that unlike other candidates he had to write a different speech everywhere he went, because TV covers him live. Not fair treatment for someone so rich and exceptional as the phenomenal Trump. When does the speech start, I wondered. Twenty minutes in, he was still talking about his money, his celebrity friends, his great leadership, his mistreatment by the “liberal media,” his fantastic negotiating skills.
I gave up listening for content, listened instead to the mortar of his speech, the mannerisms, vocabulary, subliminal patterns. I learned that in Trump’s world there are two kinds of people: good, strong people, winners like himself. And weak people, incompetent losers, who don’t like him even though he has great money and great hair, which by the way is really his own, as approved by the people behind him who clap when he says so.
Then the rhetoric turned darker. We must turn this country around. Make America a great Judeo-Christian nation again. Build a wall. Expel illegal immigrants who lead the gangs and commit senseless killings. We should keep the Latino Ph.D. students who are destined to be winners like Trump, trump trump. But out with babies conceived in Mexico and born on vacation in Texas. And not just Texas. “We have illegals in New York too. They’re everywhere.” The crowd whoops. “We can change that,” he said. “The government doesn’t dictate to us – we dictate to the government! We the people. We, WE ARE the people!” Wild cheering and applause. I imagined I had wandered into an early Nuremberg rally, with immigrants switched out for Jews.
I know what kind of dictator Trump would like to be. There would be no questions, only hit and run. And one answer: Trump. Who would win Iran and China and make them love him. Then all would be well. An hour into the rally I could no longer believe that this preening narcissist cared about vaccine-injured children or anyone else, unless he could use them to find the flash point in an audience and strike a match. I walked out, embarrassed, feeling dirty and frightened, sorry I had ever defended the man, and made my way up the Katy Trail toward Reverchon Park.
Peaceful out here in the cleansing twilight. I pass a young Hispanic couple and their toddler. Welcome lovely couple; welcome beautiful child. From two blocks behind, I hear the American Airlines Center explode with celebration and rage. The grand finale. Was this to be the future? Instead of attending the rally, I wish I had joined little band of Hispanic protesters across the street. It would have been a gentler evening.
Dan E. Burns, Ph.D., is the father of a 27-year-old son on the autism spectrum and the author of Saving Ben: A Father’s Story of Autism. Dr. Burns is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism and serves on the Executive Leadership Team of Health Choice, advocating for vaccine-injured children and their parents. Through his dba, Appleseed Ventures, Dan empowers parents to organize communities where their adult children on the autism spectrum can live, work, play, and heal.