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A school divided

President Trump's rally creates division among students

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A school divided

Rally attendees snap pictures, shoot videos and cheer as President Trump takes the stage.

Rally attendees snap pictures, shoot videos and cheer as President Trump takes the stage.

Julia Brookshire

Rally attendees snap pictures, shoot videos and cheer as President Trump takes the stage.

Julia Brookshire

Julia Brookshire

Rally attendees snap pictures, shoot videos and cheer as President Trump takes the stage.

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As the crowd waited for the doors of the SHS Fieldhouse to open on Nov. 2, they talked quietly among themselves in the line that wove from the doors, through the front yard of the school and into the east parking lot. Vendors had tents and tables set up selling “Make America Great Again” merchandise. Many of those waiting in line dressed patriotically to show support for their country. The line grew more condensed as more arrived. When the clock struck 3:55 p.m., the doors opened and the crowd roared with shouts of joy.

But an event that seemed to be united was ultimately divided.

When President Donald Trump’s visit was announced on Oct. 29, social media flared up with people that were excited about the event and others that were disgusted with the thought of the rally being held at SHS.

Inside the Fieldhouse, attendees chanted “Build the wall!” while protesters lined the outside of SHS and chanted “Love, not hate, that’s what makes America great!”

And for one incredible night, the President’s rally made SHS and the streets surrounding it the forefront of political division in America.

LEADING UP TO THE EVENT

According to Pew Research Center, the division between Democrats and Republicans over political values hit record levels during Barack Obama’s presidency and increased even more during Trump’s first year in office.

Students at SHS feel they have been affected by the differing views of the political parties. Senior Alexis Zrebiec feels that the lack of acceptance of others views has influenced the country’s divide.

“If someone has a different opinion than me, they will completely block me out or not like me, and I don’t think that’s how it should be,” Zrebiec said.

According to Principal Brian Knight, when he received a call from Superintendent Pat Mapes notifying him of the possibility of SHS being the venue for the rally, his first reaction was ‘Oh my gosh. You mean the President?’ Then, he says he was somewhat concerned about the idea, seeing as the results of the 2016 Presidential Election were very divisive. Knight believes, however, that it was a unique opportunity for students.

“Regardless of your political views, or whether you agree or disagree or like or dislike, it’s not something that people get to experience very often,” Knight said.

Others disagreed with the decision. The night before the rally, three PMHS students decided to give their opinion a voice through painting the rock in front of SHS with a rainbow of color, in order to express their feelings that Trump was not welcome. PMHS junior Grace Nash wasn’t able to attend the protest on Friday, so her mom suggested that she paint the rock as her own form of protest. Nash liked this idea because many people would see the rock.

“I came up with (painting the rock) the pride flag so that it was a message of love,” Nash said.

Nash told PMHS junior Claire Marlatt her plans for painting the rock, and Marlatt asked to join her, along with PMHS senior Abby Hoover. According to Marlatt, the group also painted the rock at PMHS to put aside the two schools’ rivalry and express a common, united message.

“It was just incredible to be able to bring people together in a time that was so dividing,” Marlatt said.

By the next morning, the rock was painted over, but Nash says that she found many comments on Twitter to be supportive of her actions.

Unlike the group that painted the rock, senior Madison Haag was excited that Trump would be holding a rally in the Fieldhouse. She obtained her tickets the day it was announced and purchased a “Make America Great Again” beanie at the rally.

“(I went to the rally) because it was at our school and because I really like Trump,” Haag said. “And I don’t necessarily support all of his ideals, but some of the things that he has done I support.”

TWO DIFFERENT WAVES

In his address to the crowd, Trump stated that he has given citizens more healthcare security. He claimed that the Republicans have worked to lower prescription drug costs and get critically ill patients the care they need. In short, he discussed many things that he believes the Republicans are doing right and the things he feels the Democrats are doing wrong.

“A blue wave would equal a crime wave, very simple, and a red wave equals jobs and security,” Trump said.

Two days later, Obama spoke to the people of Gary, Indiana about all that was at stake, mentioning issues like healthcare. Obama reminded the attendees of all the things that the Democrats did for healthcare, including the Affordable Care Act and passing a law that says insurance companies can’t discriminate based on medical history. He said that the Republicans did not support the Democrats in these decisions and that they would continue to do so. He also suggested that the crowd go out and vote.

“Everytime we gain a victory, we move the country in a more generous, more progressive direction,” Obama said. “Usually there is somebody pushing back wanting to preserve the status quo.”

When Trump’s rally was announced, 1983 SHS graduate Kelly Sawyers was excited to attend, as said through a text message to The Journal.

“Days leading up to the rally I had the night before Christmas feeling we experienced as a child,” Sawyers wrote.

1967 SHS graduate James Renick did not share the same excitement. He sent a letter to Mapes and The Journal expressing his disgust for Trump holding a rally in the Fieldhouse. Renick believes that Trump uses hate and fear to divide the nation. The Fieldhouse was a place that he remembered fondly, and to him Trump using it was insulting.

“I have followed SHS sports over the years and will continue to do so,” Renick wrote. “However, before I enter the building the next time I am hoping you can thoroughly disinfect the premises.”

These disagreements, according to Haag, are more than political disagreements. She believes the divide is also being influenced by race. She noticed that the rally crowd was not very diverse.

Despite her observations, she felt it was a positive environment.

“In the rally, everybody was being so nice to each other,” Haag said. “And obviously it was mostly Republicans, but they were all nice to each other and they were all accepting of your views.”

Hoover, one of the painters of the rock, found her experience to be less welcoming. She recalls people flipping off protesters, threatening them and spitting on the ground in front of them. Although she says this was a scary experience, Hoover was glad she participated.

“There were a few people who stopped by just to hear our message, and if I impacted just one person, then I’d say it was a success,” Hoover wrote.

As opposed to Hoover, sophomore Chandler Wilson, who attended in support of Trump, did not find the event to be scary. He wore a costume that made it appear that he was riding on Trump’s shoulders. Wilson says that the reactions he received regarding the costume were positive and that many people wanted to take pictures with him.

“(The costume) brought comedic relief to people sitting there on a dreadful day of sitting and waiting,” Wilson said.

Senior Sebastian Perez, who attended to observe and take advantage of the opportunity to see the President, experienced the rally differently than Wilson. Perez says he did not want to be seen associated with one of Trump’s complimentary signs, so he decided to tear his in two. Attendees at the rally got upset with him and began to shout racial slurs. That was when he was asked to leave, so he joined the protest that was going on outside.

Perez says he felt like he could let go of things that had been said to him because there were people with him that were also pushing for their cause.

“It’s way different being attacked with a huge group of people than just being attacked yourself,” Perez said. “I felt like I could brush off everything that was being said just because I had more people behind me.”

MOVING FORWARD

Trump’s rally proved successful, as Republican Mike Braun now represents Indiana in the Senate. During the midterm elections, the Republicans maintained control of the Senate, and the Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives.

English teacher Sam Hanley thinks that results from the midterm elections could be seen as the country becoming more united, but he doesn’t believe actual healing is taking place yet. He views more diversity in Congress, however, as a big step.

“I see it as the American people saying ‘No, we need people from all walks to represent us,’” Hanley said.

Senior Noah Fishel, a rally attendee, believes that the divide in the country could happen anywhere since people have different opinions. He hopes the results of the midterm elections can help move the U.S. in a more proactive direction.

“During the Obama administration, a lot of things didn’t get done because of the divided government, but hopefully (since) the Republicans have the Executive, the Senate and also the Judiciary, (and) with the Democrats having the House, … that will lead to some compromises,” Fishel said.

Government teacher Brian Dugger believes that the country could take steps to being more united. Dugger hopes that the U.S. is able to come up with a solution on its own without getting involved in a major conflict, but he isn’t sure if that’s a possibility.

“Hopefully it doesn’t take some terrible event for (the U.S. to become united),” Dugger said. “But history shows that that’s usually what has to happen.”

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