Nashville, Tennessee. Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States visited the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. Trump was slated to speak at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 99th Annual Convention. He chose to belabor how fortunate rural farmers would be, now that he was taking steps to provide broader, faster internet coverage to rural America. These words ring largely hollow in the wake of the death of net neutrality, which will almost certainly ensure further commodification of internet access and functionality. Additionally, Trump regaled the audience with mendacious accounts of his accomplishments, stating, “We’re way ahead of schedule and unemployment is the lowest it’s ever been.” (It’s not, and a collaborative study from Harvard and Princeton investigators revealed that most of the jobs created since 2005 are temporary, low-wage service jobs with little or no benefits). He also touted that the, “…stock market is breaking new records ever day.” This simply underscores how committed his administration has been to creating wealth for the oligarchy, which translates into little or no benefit for the undercaste in America.
Eighty-two percent of the counties in Tennessee are rural.
Tennessee is a deeply conservative state, and Republicans have instituted policies and legislation that panders to the fears of that base and concomitantly cuts the social safety nets. Of 95 counties in Tennessee, 78 are rural (a whopping 82 percent). As a state that staunchly refuses to expand Medicaid, Tennessee leads the country in rate of closures of rural hospitals. The Trump Administration’s health care agenda seeks to further slash federal funding which will deal a death blow to rural hospitals, effectively forcing rural farmers and their families to drive hours to the nearest metropolitan hospital; a trip that will cost untold lives during acute healthcare crises such as accidents, heart attacks, etc. Rural residents in Tennessee account for approximately 36 percent of the state population. They tend to be older, uninsured, have higher rates of chronic illness, higher death rates, lower life expectancies, and higher rates of infant mortality already. Cuts to rural healthcare will exacerbate these issues. Many of these rural counties have a single hospital, which is the major employer in these areas. The Trump Administration’s continued assault on rural areas with these draconian cuts has not gone unnoticed by citizens of Tennessee. Thus, his visit to speak with rural farmers in the state was met with hostility.
Citizens of rural Tennessee protest Donald Trump’s visit to Nashville.
Farmers, citizens and activists gathered on the dreary, rain-soaked sidewalks to air their grievances and allow their voices to be heard. A coalition of more than 100 leftists and so-called progressives met outside of the Conference center to protest and disrupt Trump’s visit. Antifascists and Anarchists were present at the confrontation as well. Trump supporters, a minority of the crowd outnumbered more than 8 to 1, began arguing and spitting vitriolic rage at the Antifascist protestors, with cries of “COMMUNIST!” Antifascists stolidly withstood the aggression and refused to back down. The argument ended when one Trump supporter gave a Nazi salute, underscoring the type of following Donald Trump is eliciting at these speaking engagements. The crowd began yelling for him to go home and he eventually retreated.
Antifascist activist stoically faces an enraged Trump supporter.
As the day wore on, Indigenous rights activists from the American Indian Coalition (AIC) also voiced concern about the Trump administration’s treatment of native peoples. In his last visit to Nashville, Trump placed a wreath on Andrew Jackson’s grave in honor of the late president. Jackson is well-known for his campaign of genocide against Indigenous people. Albert Bender, coordinator of the AIC was quoted by the Tennessean as follows:
“The reason the Native American community has come out is because of the adulation that Trump has given to Andrew Jackson, his anti-Indian policies and his pushing through of the Dakota pipeline through the treaty lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, his utter disregard for Native American treaties and he has the nerve to have a portrait of Andrew Jackson in the oval office.”
Trump finished his speech to the farmers and jetted off to attend yet another leisurely sporting event. In his wake, he leaves millions of rural, working class people wondering what will happen to their communities and their livelihoods. Thus, it remains critical for the resistance to the Trump Administration to be intersectionally focused on dismantling patriarchy and racism, human rights, decolonization, environmental protection, labor rights, and access to healthcare.