Elizabeth Welliver, a Davidson College senior, describes her experience being kicked out of a Donald Trump rally in Concord on Monday. She wrote this in collaboration with Davidson classmates Marlene Arellano, Amani Carter and Hannah Lukow.
As a Christian, I claim to live by Jesus’ radical command to love our neighbors, even our enemies, as ourselves. As a Davidson College student, I live with “neighbors” who share backgrounds very different from my own. My best friend, Gabriel, loves Chinese and poetry. He also happens to be an undocumented immigrant who crossed the border when he was four years old. Fleeing the violence and deep poverty of southern Mexico, his family arrived to South Carolina to make a life. Gabriel (I’ve changed his name because he fears for his safety), now 20, is one of 11 million undocumented persons concerned about the upcoming presidential election. He was struck by the amount of Donald Trump signs in his hometown. How could his Christian neighbors stand for a political figure that threatens to deport him, tearing him from his life and future?
On Monday morning, I woke early with 10 other Davidson students to attend a rally for Mr. Trump in Concord. There, I met neighbors who have given their support to Mr. Trump as he gave them hope. I met neighbors from every generation who were searching for a better economic standing, a sense of identity, a role model in power. Before Mr. Trump took the stage, a woman led the crowd in a prayer. “Lord, bless this man as he rises to power,” she spoke to the ravenous applause of the body.
The crowd raved at Mr. Trump’s messianic fervor. He commanded the crowd to pledge its allegiance to him in the election. Following his talk on trade, he led the crowd to chant “build that wall” as tall as the stadium ceiling. That wall, I knew, could lead to the deaths of people like Gabriel who risk their lives to cross the border. As the chants rose, I knew then it was our time to speak.
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In a breathless moment, we joined hands and raised them above our heads, chanting the words that Jesus taught us: “love thy neighbor.” For 30 seconds, my heart was racing – especially when Mr. Trump stopped speaking and turned his attention toward us. He commanded us to “get out.”
Some would say we were defeated by the crowd’s mockery. Yet the rally renewed my hope. Raising hands with my neighbors, I knew that no wall, no matter how tall, could separate us from the truth that God’s love is for all of us – those who rally for Trump included. To love our neighbors, we also must deliver them from fear. We must embody a new way of relation where citizen and immigrant, Latino and black, Muslim and Christian neighbors can know and love one another as equals made in God’s image.
I am thankful to the Davidson students who showed up with courage. I am also grateful for Christ showing me that loving our enemies is difficult but not impossible. Even when we are escorted out, we can still stand victorious. When we raise our neighbors’ hands in love, then we can make our nation truly great.