These pictures belong to a larger series "only compassion can save us now" 

Politics are too often portrayed in a way that seems out-of-touch with the reality of America on the ground. My photos aim to break that mold.

In these pictures, Trump uses his own emotions like an actor, to draw out reactions from the crowd. In his supporters, we find a mistrust of the media (directed at personnel like me) and a fanaticism for their leader.

My biggest take-away from going to Trump rallies has been a


of my political stance. That is not to say I have fallen more in line with conservative ideals. Rather it has meant that I take my blame away from Trump voters and into a faulty system. As they, for the most part, have fallen victim to a changing society. I may never agree with them but I have begun to understand them.

And yet as I put together this project, I understood something I was unwilling to admit in my journal entries and writing. It’s easy to talk and write about reconciliation. It’s a lot harder to practice it. So, I had a lot of trouble depicting the people going to these rallies in the same embracing way I wrote about them. And I am reminded of a conversation I had in Iowa with a few people at the bar. When asked about how they viewed the presence of racism, they replied, “Black people aren’t bad as individuals, they’re bad in groups.” This struck me as obvious racist rhetoric and I left soon after.

In some ways, however, that idea of “being uncomfortable with a group of people more so than individuals” is how I view Trump supporters. The lowest class in America has been weaponized to carry out the most disgusting and hateful ideology. And their own ignorance appears to be largely willful, out of fear of facing the reality. The reality that America has been built on the embrace of white superiority which has been nothing more than a destructive myth. Still, as I interact with them in person, I feel their humanity, and feel somehow that they are trying their best. So, while my writing reflects a tender embrace of the hypothetical “other side,” my photography portrays the cold reality of the situation.

After a rally in Newton, Iowa, I stopped briefly at a hole-in-the-wall bar, and started talking to an older man about politics.

He was a Trump supporter.

He’d lost three wives.

He’d gone to war.

He was the definition of anti-vogue (in demeanour, not necessarily ideology).

He sorta liked Bernie, and he liked Medicare-for-All, but he would NEVER vote for a Democrat, because he believed they wanted to violently murder the Second Amendment (which was something I heard a lot while at bars in Iowa).

He told me that he thought the government should make a 3-year military service compulsory for all American citizens, like they do in Sweden.

“In Sweden,” he said, “it’s mandatory to serve your country for three years, and when you leave the military, you are allowed to keep your weapons.”

Then, he told me a story.

Apparently, once upon a time in Sweden, some guy saw a home invasion happen across the street from his house.

He called the police frantically, looking for help. However, when he relayed the information, the police told him that they likely wouldn’t be able to make it to the house in time.

“What should I do then?” the man asked.

“Do you still have your weapon from the Army?” the police replied.

“Yes,” said the man.

“Well then go get it and defend your neighbour!”

So the man went to his basement, grabbed his rocket launcher, ran upstairs, pointed it at his neighbours house, and pulled the trigger. The house exploded into a million, beautiful, distinct little pieces.

He had got the bad guys.

I looked at this older guy trying to discern what the moral of the story was. He began to smile, “He got those crooked robbers.” I laughed because what the fuck else was I supposed to do. But I also laughed because I got it. I had come to Iowa trying to understand this America I didn’t ever really relate to. But that story made it click. It perfectly summarized how people who had voted for Trump felt. “Fuck it, burn the whole place down as long as it kills a couple bad guys, as long as I can keep my guns, as long as I can keep my rights.”

This is that man.

Social media has removed the dignity and power of human interaction (or perhaps more specifically, human disagreement). We must acknowledge that. If we do not, things will only get worse. People will continue to speak into echo chambers, and form groups that reinforce misguided ideas.

Because while people are influenceable, groups are not. 

It’s easy to find the ways in which Trump has furthered the divide between a dual-minded nation. It’s a lot harder to accept that both sides may be at fault. So we choose to yell over each other and besmirch our better nature, instead of listening to our fellow countrymen and looking to root out the insidious forces manufacturing the conflict itself.

Only compassion can save us now.

Copyright Jonathan M. Frydman © All rights reserved.
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