Everyone is trying their best. Remember that: Everyone is trying their best.
I think President Donald Trump is a bad president, and I do not support him. In that, I agree with Mayor Emily Larson more than with the participants of an Oct. 2 Trump parade that went by her house.
But the guy who inspired that parade is a good friend, and I know some important missing pieces to the story. It was not an attempt to bully or intimidate anyone. It was just a good old-fashioned protest that I happened to disagree with.
I thought everyone’s initial responses were good. Videos of the parade showed laughter and sincere apologies to the neighbors who were accidentally blocked in. (It’s hard getting an amateur parade exactly right the first time.) Mayor Larson smiled and waved. Another neighbor held out a pro-Democrats sign. It sounded like everyone left in about 20 minutes.
So far, so good. I actually felt it was a great example of Duluth being Duluth: strong opinions, peacefully expressed, and we’re all still neighbors in the end.
But now I’m seeing posts and articles accusing the paraders of bad intent, and I wanted to add my perspective.
I see how something like that parade can feel threatening if it comes out of the blue. At first, you don’t know the intentions of the people in the cars. But actions speak louder than words, and the protestors stayed peaceful. That should mean more than their political affiliation. We’ve all been too primed to see the worst in our political opponents instead of the best.
I’ve seen accusations that the parade was an attempt by men to “bully and intimidate” a woman who spoke up. In fact, the event organizer (who brought my friend’s Facebook idea to life) was a woman, who brought a megaphone and a manifesto to read in front of Mayor Larson’s house.
Do you remember hearing about the megaphone or the manifesto? No? That’s because my friend talked the woman out of reading it. Why? “I mean, if it was City Hall, sure, but c’mon, it’s (Mayor Larson’s) home,” my friend texted me later. “That would be a little over the top.”
Everyone’s trying their best. (On both sides).
Some people were concerned with traffic blockage. This summer, I marched to demand justice for George Floyd, and in one of those protests (not one I was in), traffic was blocked for an hour. You know what? With the exception of one awful night in Lincoln Park, that whole series of protests was peaceful.
Everyone is trying their best.
A 20-minute parade by the mayor’s house? The traffic blocking was an accident. Like Mayor Larson said, those are some tight streets, and the parade was more impulsive than carefully planned. While I’d personally rather get three COVID-19 nasal swabs (which hurt a lot!) than be part of a pro-Trump parade, we shouldn’t slander or libel the protestors. They were peaceful.
Everyone is trying their best.
I respect Mayor Larson for her previous support of protests, for caring about her city, and for smiling and waving at the protestors this time. I think she was right when she said that democracy requires forthright participation and speaking up.
I want everyone to know that my friend’s protest was just that. It wasn’t a vicious attempt at silencing or scaring the mayor; behind the scenes, cooler heads worked to de-escalate tensions to make sure it stayed quick, peaceful, and lighthearted.
Here’s a thought for all of us this tense election season, whatever side we find ourselves on: Maybe our political opponents are not our enemies. Maybe they’re not trying to destroy the country. Maybe, just maybe, they’re people like us with a different set of assumptions. Wrong assumptions? Sure, of course we think that. That’s why we argue and vote. But let’s remember the other side is human, too.
Everyone’s trying their best.
Robert Lillegard is an author who lives in Superior.