There are many ways to filet a sperm whale. I suspect most of them require a village working in harmony, or with tools beyond my comprehension. So while handling the freshly washed-up leviathan of Donald Trump, a lonely undergrad ought to go straight for the gut, to savor on all of the good meat and let his grisly shanks go to the gulls.
This election cycle, we have seen a trend of pundits circling around, hinting at, suggesting, and all but flatly stating their personal beliefs: Donald Trump is Satan incarnate. Tune to any 24-hour news channel and watch baffled anchors hungry for profits bemoaning Trump’s latest assertion of ignorance, or the violent tensions that loom over his whistle-stops and rallies. As someone who overdoses on cable news, it is obvious to me that major outlets firmly believe Trump is seated antithetically to Christ, now ascended to this earthly realm, intent on spreading Sin and Malignancies from sea to shining sea.
The American media is dangerously wrong. Trump is not Satan. To be sure of this, I sacrificed great personal safety and went to a Trump Rally to ensure my logic was sound.
Asserting that Trump isn’t Satan opens the writer up to great criticism; there are plenty of readers who rightfully believe he hides two horns. Most of these people are phallus-less or have skin darker than porcelain and have every reason to fear a Trump presidency. There are moon-faced Evangelicals, I’m sure, who sing of Trump’s Christly qualities. Not surprisingly, his supporters are wrong, too.
By luck or providence divine, I obtained a pair of press passes for a rally held in Syracuse, New York, the city from which I hail.
In addition to the semi-professional photographer (who would shoot with a rented digital camera while standing next to people who use $10,000 lenses) I convinced two of the younger guys on my rugby team to accompany us. Like Mr. Trump, my photographer and I want security for the moments when someone with radically different political beliefs tries to stomp us into the concrete. This, in addition to getting our hands on two designated drivers in case we wanted to confirm every myth about journalists and photographers by drinking ourselves into oblivion.
We left for Syracuse the night before the rally. Pizza and lodging were provided by my parents, who allowed four college-age fools into their home. We settled in, and switched between cable news sources until we fell asleep, each outlet covering Trump.
That night I saw Trump in my dream as a conglomerate of Hell’s lesser devils. An orgy of three contemptible rebel angels, chained to a lake of fire and plotting revenge on God. It is my theory that three specific devils—each worse than the last—have evaporated into rank steam and pooled by dubious means into Trump’s bowels. I believe that Moloch, Belial, and Beelzebub all puppet the businessman from within.
I am aware such reporting requires cold evidence, and to that I am forced to turn to the blind prophecy of John Milton, who labels Trump’s qualities as objectively devilish in Paradise Lost.
Weary of using language inaccessible to whole percentage points of a modern audience, I will clear up Milton’s elevated wordiness so that Trump supporters and critics alike can see Trump for what he is: an ex-angel who uses his own regret of turning on God to terrify men and women into seduction.
Milton starts his poem shortly after the battle in heaven, when those that revolted against God find themselves floating in a lake of fire. They construct a city named Pandemonium in Hell, and hold a meeting to decide how they may best seek revenge. It is here we might see bits of these devils bubbling up in Trump’s outrageous mannerisms as each of Satan’s leaders speaks.
First goes Moloch, the bull-headed devil who demands parents sacrifice their children. He advises another war with boots on the ground (or rather, in the sky) in a mean secondary assault, even after the crushing defeat that landed him in hell in the first place. In a few words—a stupid reason to rush into combat, like pontificating on using nuclear weaponry in the Middle East, a damaging but non-fatal attack that would only serve to weaken the aggressor.
Next speaks Belial, who appears composed and fair despite his fallen state. He is described as having a tongue that drops mana (divine nutrition from God) and can “make worse appear the better reason.” This, despite everything he has to say is “false and hollow.” Sometimes, when Trump yawns, you can see Belial manipulating his tongue from behind his uvula. He speaks of dragging his feet and being as difficult as possible while serving a sentence in Hell. Every time the candidate dodges questions of his own inadequacies, he hints at battling congress—regardless of which party controls it. He’ll then blame the authority of the Republican National Committee, as he did a few days earlier at a rally in Rome, New York, quickly surpassing even Obama as their chief pain in the ass.
Beelzebub sits just below Satan himself in the demonic hierarchy and most closely resembles Trump. It is my belief that Satan charged his second in command with overseeing this operation. Beelzebub, inspired by Satan, proposes to the council the idea of poisoning the minds of humans, God’s favorite creation. By doing so, the forces of evil will prove God’s weakness (in that if everything he created was good, then corrupting man would prove that false) or force God to destroy the thing he loves most. Either outcome a loss for God.
The first in line are four students from a state university that’s often reserved as a safety school, and have been there since 4 AM. It’s obvious they don’t want to talk to the press considering Trump has run such a successful assault on journalism in America. The couple in line behind them gives instructions to ignore us as they hurl the first of many insults of the day. “The press lie” ripples through the line until I started quoting Fox News.
As we arrive at the Trump Rally, it is immediately apparent that my nation is locked in a cosmic battle; the air is thick with tension and hazy with cigarette smoke coming from the line of citizens, there to watch the spectacle unfold. Without credentials, our security is lost in a line of NASCAR jackets and emphysemic seniors who are overheard arguing not about politics or candidates, but which off-brand cigarette is best.
There are—I’m afraid—scores of high-school aged boys and ones even younger. They wear shirts that read “Hillary Sucks But Not Like Monica” on the front and “Trump that Bitch” on the back. There are shirts and hats and buttons and jerseys all bemoaning any other candidate with language so foul, my editor’s hair immediately greys. The worst are worn by toothless, disgruntled old men with massive beer-bellies and sparse beards and boys with prominent acne and orthodontic work who can’t vote in this election. At once, a flock of boys descend upon a hapless cameraman, the lot of them trying to be featured in their cluelessness and misogyny on CNN. Their handling of Kurt, the veteran cameraman of 25 years causes him to glare at me with strong envy—I got to sit in obscurity while the pups of hell snapped at his ankles. I begin to suspect the allure of Trump with white, middle-class high-schoolers has to do with the chance of attention and a spot on television. It may be seen as a chance to stave off the loneliness of adolescence, an attempt to conform to something seen as entertaining—something to be joked about at the lunch tables when the monitors are out of earshot.
There are, sadly, Trump supporters that don’t seek spotlight, and are twice as dangerous as the young boys who have not yet learned that the humor of being an indecent person is fundamentally false and hollow. There are people like Christy Dunster, who takes deep pride in being “Mrs. American Dream (New York)” and is a matriarch in her own right; she is the grandmother of a child pagentress and speaks of her victories as “Ms. American Dream (New York)”. With the years, her skin has begun to resemble the gaudy leather purse she totes everywhere. At a distance, she is stunning in a tight red gown. Her platinum hair catches the camera lights, but not their focus. She approaches me, giddy as all hell, and I see her beauty as a construct of make-up. On her calf, she has a small tattoo of the Declaration of Independence, clutched by an eagle, done in prison-ink blue. She wears her sash and tiara as a tactic to shake hands with the candidate; her attitude, left over from when Nixon reigned, is.
The sun now erumpent, glares off the mostly glass façade of the convention center, searing the hung-over retinas of the press. We clamor outside the media entrance and wait for Jimmy D’Brozzo to let us know when we are allowed to hurry up and wait in line for our credentials—the final security sweep now underway.
Poor Jimmy is a nineteen-year-old community college student studying film with serious military aspirations. In briefly questioning him, my photographer and I begin to understand how deeply over his head Jimmy is. He tells us of the FBI agent who gave each uniformed and part-time Securitas person a crash course in behavior analysis and how much Jimmy had to try not to defecate just in learning what to do.
It is just before 8 AM and Jimmy’s armpits are already dripping with stress. I spot him several times during and after the rally, each time sweatier than the last, until the final time I see him and his grey uniform is several shades darker. He is being raked over the coals by who I expect is the FBI agent who instructed the part-timers in what to do. Mr. FBI suffers from extreme male-pattern baldness, and all but flogs D’Brozzo and his co-workers for not following his directive; it stems primarily from cozying up to the press a little too much. Jimmy promised me an exit interview of what it was like to run security for nine-plus hours while having no experience running security period. As we pass them, his face reddens and Mr. FBI reminds security not to engage with the press.
There are several on-duty police officers who receive demerits for pausing to take pictures of Mr. Trump with their cell-phones, instead of responding to the rash of scuffles expected at any given Trump rally. The most serious ones I witness require four linebacker-sized secret service agents, strapped with three-point tactical slings and heavily modified assault rifles. The aggressors are zip-tied and hauled off to a back-room, unlike the protesters who are merely escorted to the doors and told not to come back.
The whole day is nearly derailed before it starts as my photographer and I have no proof of employment from the media outlet that sent us here. Everyone else has official badges from their employers. We have only an email from our benevolent editors. The two volunteers try to deny us entry, despite being on their list. We are about to abandon all hope of getting press credentials and try our hands at joining the crowd, when the sun-filled atrium suddenly chills and we start to see our breath.
I’m not entirely unconvinced that the representative from Trump’s campaign, responsible for wrangling the press, isn’t a manifestation of Satan—if not, she certainly dwells in Dante’s 9th circle. Unsure of who she was at first, I was amazed by her ability to snap her fingers at guards and volunteers to get what she wanted. She pushes reporters through the lines and others are left to wither without credentials. She is a severely pretty woman with a platinum blonde bob and a feathery, leopard print jacket. Despite her hellishness (or perhaps because of it), she commands as much respect from those around the pecking order as the candidate does himself.
She reluctantly gives us credentials and tells us the rules “off the record.” As a journalistic hack, I’m not sure what she meant by that, but she told us was:
– Once the festivities begin, we may not leave the press bullpen until Mr. Trump is secured in a room far away from us.
– We may be stripped of our credentials at any time for any reason: Mr. Trump is allowing us to cover his rally—we are told we are guests of a very kind host and warned not to betray him, calling to mind Dante yet again.
After we pass through the security line, we are corralled behind metal gates in the empty convention hall. The doors had yet to open to the public and the hall is oddly empty; there are frazzled volunteers scurrying to and fro, trying to people their stations before thousands of citizens come flooding into the hall. There are a few VIPs already in the hall like “Mrs. American Dream (New York);” a women clad in a gorgeous red dress, a dress I saved from ruin by catching it as it dangled from her car door at a traffic light. She thanks me with a smile I cherish before taking the stage to perform a rendition of “God Bless America” that any sovereign deity would reject with both ears bleeding. The National Anthem is performed by a woman from my high-school graduating class, a semi-professional operatic warbler who drums up support from the crowd through national pride rather than purity of tone.
I am forced here to admit my contempt for my own national anthem—a true piece of Americana—a grandiose attempt to trump every other nation’s with an impossibly broad range of notes and syntactically awkward lyrics. She does a job not all that dissimilar from a butcher’s.
Apart from the Ice Queen herself, the only other person I meet whom I intrinsically know better than to pester or try to get on the record is a secret service agent who towers over my photographer and me, and who speaks with a molasses accent I place from somewhere in Appalachia.
At once, an ominous and disembodied voice fills the hall and instructs rally-goers what to do if a deranged liberal slips through the cracks and begins spreading their nonsense. “Do not touch the protester,” the voice warns. The voice’s words are along the lines of, “Mr. Trump supports the first amendment as much as he supports the second” and at the first mention of guns, nearly four-thousand people roar in throaty support, drowning out the voice entirely.
Carl Paladino, a wealthy businessman in his own right serves as Trump’s warm-up speaker. Mr. Paladino gets everyone in the room riled up by screaming about walls and Mexico, using his devilish wiles to convince everyone in the room to turn around and boo the press. He reminds them that we are people too, who put on their pants one leg at time like everyone else, but assures them they won’t have to expect any brilliance out of us.
Trump emerges under Technicolor lights to the theme from “Space Jam,” which rattles around my skull and makes my stomach churn. This essay ought to have more seriously discussed the possibility of Trump as a collection of minor devils in Satan’s army, the auspices under which I obtained my credentials. But seeing him flooded in red and grooving to God-forsaken tunes, the whole essay crumbled in front of my now saucer-like eyes. I suspect he relies on this type of sound because of his dependency on white-male twenty-somethings or the inane in general.
I catch the Appalachian secret service agent tapping his foot along to the song. I point at him while his back is turned, and whisper in my photographer’s ear, “Get a picture of that.” Quinn—my invented name for the agent—without reaction to us, stops at once.
It’s impossible to tell if this is merely a coincidence, or if the observations of secret service are so sharp that they observe me observing Quinn’s moment of distraction and instruct him to stop. Regardless, it only adds to the creeping paranoia, now manifesting in sweat.
Trump begins his speech and I am viscerally disgusted at the beached whale with tiny hands, spewing phlegm from his blowhole, moaning about Mexico. I leap from the elevated stage made for the press so my photographer can break out his camera, rented from a public library, and begin to make a fool of himself. I talk to a few attendees at the far-back of the rally to see if I can sniff out a protester. It doesn’t take long to do so.
Trump struggles massively in the first ten minutes or so of his speech with a near constant string of protesters. Despite the ominous voice’s earlier warnings, nearly every protestor escorted out is pushed, pulled, pinched, or worse. An Asian woman holds up a sign that reads, “ASIANS FOR RUMP: MAKE DUMPLINGS GREAT AGAIN” and is shoved by a man almost completely camouflaged, while his portly neighbor calls her “a fucking chink bitch.” Neither of these men are removed. There are many other protesters whom Trump admonishes with a “Send them home to Mommy,” causing the crowd to explode in their loudest celebration, or “Don’t worry, his voice is very, very weak.” His supporters noisily berate an elderly woman who described herself earlier as an “Eisenhower Republican,” fearful of a Trump presidency. While his supporters simultaneously boo her and call for her removal, they unintentionally drown out Trump himself—the epitome of a back-fired plan. Inflate your supporters’ heads with hot-air and let them detonate on any long-haired freak that gets out of line.
I meet a young photographer. She’s still in high-school, and her mother rightfully fears for her safety, despite being tucked behind the press gate. I promise to protect her daughter and the mother shows me what she calls her “dirty-lil’-secret,” a Hillary for President, 2016 button she has fastened to the insider of her jacket’s lapel; she flashes the button as a form of protest against the ignorant misogyny of Trump and his supporters.
He starts his speech by apologizing to the thousands of people waiting to get in. They might make it in, he says, but by the time they make it in we’ll probably be done. This is untrue. The number 7,500 is thrown around by event staff and even Trump’s Ice Queen—2,500 more than the hall can hold, this is a flat lie. At the start of the speech, the only people left outside are the protesters, and this rally is his lowest attended in recent memory; he had roughly half the number of the Bernie Sanders rally held in the same space less than a week before.
Then, seven minutes into his speech, Trump points directly at me and hoarsely bellows the following: “The Press…The Press are terrible…terrible. They Lie! Among the most dishonest people you will ever deal with in life.” At this, his supporters start hurling unprintable curse words at us. I glance over to my one ally, the photographer’s mother, to find her missing. Undoubtedly yanked out by the S.S. for displaying a button when I wasn’t looking.
Everything is intensified by a particularly large man, who I notice turning grey before he lists heavily port-side as he crumples to the floor.
Several police officers begin working to revive the man before paramedics can strain their backs lifting him onto a stretcher. When Trump called us terrible, this is the man who spit at the press and demanded we get jobs. Before police can arrive to help, a member of the press corps hops the bullpen to start CPR and splash water on his face.
Trump’s speech trundles on, but I’m frankly bored by it. I’m stunned, however, by his blatant lies, spicy rhetoric, and broad, sweeping (racist, misogynistic) generalizations—all working concurrently to control the room.
Any rhetorical analysis of Trump’s language requires a consortium between Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and a formal guide to its devices. It is apparent from my loose background in linguistics studies that Trump is essentially oblivious to formal rhetoric, but in spite of that, he’s still able to manipulate the beliefs of scores of people through words alone. For example, I doubt Trump could define Procatalepsis, but he uses it throughout his speeches.
And here is a generalization I’m willing to make: Trump’s supporters do not possess the intelligence to have a policy discussion. Nowhere is this more obvious than when Trump treads a little too closely to speaking about policy and the roars of his crowd becomes mere cheers. He will then circle back to any of the clauses he knows will cause a violent eruption of noise from his supporters. They are as follows:
1.)”Folks, we’re gonna build a great, great wall.”
2.)”We’re gonna bring back jobs like never, ever, ever, [repeat “ever” ad nauseam] before.”
3.) “Crime has to stop! Heroin is pouring over our Southern border and poisoning our children.”
This might just be my exquisite taste in dope—or the knowledge of my uncle who’s with the Drug Enforcement Agency—but I know that the heroin that comes to Syracuse comes from Europe and Canada, not Mexico—the climate is all wrong for growing superior poppy.
Trump concludes a full fifteen minutes after he tells the crowd he’s “gonna wrap it up.” At this point, some of the professional journalists from the major news outlets are allowed to leave the bullpen and are escorted to the VIP room across the hall. The young photographer with the mother missing in action tries to sneak out with them but is torn asunder by the Ice Queen who knew who was (or more importantly, who wasn’t) allowed on the list and sent her back into the pen. Trump gives the crowd a final “Make America Great Again,” to various cheers and scattered boos, people start filing from the hall.
The lesser journalists are still corralled when I spot “Mrs. American Dream (New York)” saunter across the floor, grinning ear-to-ear. She doesn’t have to tell me what happened, I can tell by the aura around her and by the dread I felt: she has just met Donald Trump. Her cheap ploy worked.
Earlier in the day, my photographer and I joked about what the event might be like after gobbling a tab or two of LSD—I tried, however unsuccessfully, to drum up a quick acid-flashback so I could see for myself. Walking out of the crowd is wild hair and a shirt that reads “Thompson for Sheriff.” Hunter Thompson is a journalist straight out of 1972, who in his exploits would drop acid at political rallies (among about several other types of intoxicants). The boy is already settling in to a permanent thousand-yard-stare. He struggles to form a complete thought and visibly shakes. His consciousness expanded in these last few hours by some unknown hallucinogen, a little too rapidly, and he will never be alright again.
I do not wish anyone to know the abject terror he must have felt. He is in a concrete hall that hasn’t finished ringing with ignorance. He was surrounded on all sides by metric tonnage of fat and hate. The psychological toll he paid to try and be like Dr. Thompson is a frightening one, since even Thompson himself couldn’t be expected to handle something like this.
Outside of the rally, protesters and supporters clash verbally, stuck on opposite sides of the street with about two-dozen officers violating traffic ordinances so the public is safer. The words they hurl are fairly innocuous, compared to what I heard for a full fifty minutes from Trump.
A protester tries to flank the supporters by crossing a side street. He is wearing a bloody mask with a hog’s features and is holding a sign that reads, “I’d rather have a little birdie than a swamp ogre.” He makes it to the sidewalks of the convention center before he is eviscerated by law enforcement for wearing a mask in a time so terroristically tense.
There are vendors peddling buttons that read, Hillary KFC Special: 2 Fat Thighs, 2 Small Breasts, 1 Left Wing and much, much worse. Two vendors fight over who has a right to sell on that corner, one of them from Syracuse, a frequent flier with police. The other is from Ohio and has been on the campaign trail for a while now. His eyes are bloodshot and his voice is hoarse.
“I don’t play no game, baby. I get twenty choppers here, five minutes, we don’t play no game. Bang, bang baby, and you a ghost.” The man from Ohio leaves and two police stand next to the more vindictive one and allow him to continue selling. They wear Carpe Noctum badges meaning they work on the overnight shifts. I ask why they’re here, because it’s still before 2 PM and they tell me their shifts go until after midnight, when the protesters will finally abandon their hopes of convincing a Trump supporter of Bernie’s agenda.
I speak to two protesters who are leaving the rally and ask if their shift is over and their response, though unsurprising, disappoints me greatly: yeah, man—we’re in the mood for a snack and a nap [one of them leans over and says not discreetly enough to go unnoticed by the agent from the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, who then chuckles at her lack of awareness:] and some pot. Revolution makes me sleepy.
This is all just what a Trump rally is like through my eyes. The words stopped carrying meaning three days after the rally when Donald Trump, the man who is terrified of the press only because they stand on the same level as him and may control a narrative he disagrees with, won the New York State Primary Election.
A beached whale will bloat and bloat until it explosively spews rotten matter over its surroundings. I believe the press is the last best hope for democracy, because by working in harmony we may butcher what little good meat there is to be found and feed the world. Barring that, an American— frightened as I am—ought to invest what little money can be scrounged from the couch-cushions in companies that produce riot-gear and start calling in favors with whatever deity they worship, so these devils, toxifying our relationships—with each other, with God, with ourselves—may they fall again into hell.
Back in the hall, it’s empty and quiet again. A battalion of janitors emerge from the woodwork and shovel up the remains of a Trump rally: signs, ripped up by protesters; thousands of water-bottles filled with chewing tobacco spit; copies of right-wing propaganda newspapers that call Pope Francis “a rogue pope” while postulating on the idea of God playing a hand in Trump’s surge to power. There’s a little blood and spit, and, I imagine a few tears—a perfectly acceptable reaction to such concentrated evil.
Words by William Hess
 Procatalepsis is a device by which an orator raises a potential objection a critic could make before dismissing it. Trump does this by lambasting The Press.
 A reference to a bird that landed on Bernie Sander’s podium shortly after he finished talking about the importance of nature, to the most deafening cheers of the campaign thus far.
 Here, the word choppers is slang for automatic weapons or pistols with high-capacity magazines. The language, though grammatically wrong, stems from the stress of trying to make money while handling your competition.
Cover Photo by Gage Skidmore