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Walking to Cleveland

Read Part One of Four here.

RNC Part Two of Four

RLn Editor’s Note: Drew Philip, a freelance writer with Belt Magazine with photographer Garrett MacLean, in the grand tradition of Alexis de Toqueville and Woody Guthrie walked to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and talked directly and plainly with the people along the way. Philip documented what he learned in a four part series published on Belt Magazine’s website.

This post was originally published on July 11.

By Drew Philp
Photos by Garrett MacLean

I want to believe people are good. And for the most part, as I walk from Detroit to Cleveland, they have been good to me. One man, a Trump supporter, stopped on his bike to see if I was OK as I was taking a rest in Trenton, Mich. People I barely know, or straight up don’t know, have opened up their homes to me, introduced me to their children, shared the deepest parts of themselves. The ladies at the Wyandotte Seven-Eleven gave me a free Slurpee.

I’ve been on the road for a week, and only one person has said anything remotely nasty directed toward me, personally, this whole trip.

I had already walked almost 40 miles, and because of writing duties and spending time talking to folks, I was a bit behind schedule. I’d spent a brutal night off the highway in the bush with the ticks — I’d ducked off the road into a little forest clearing and set up my bag inside a bivy sack on a little crushed rock path.

The night began supremely pleasant: I had a good spot to sleep hidden from the road and the sunset was playing a red scarf dance on the clouds across the sky. But when the sun went down the bugs began. Mosquitos and ticks, those vampires of the night.

When I woke up about four in the morning, less a little blood, I started walking and after a couple miles, I decided to hitchhike to make up some time and do some informal interviews.

The Race Rides

The first guy who’d picked me up was helping his daughter build her house. He gave me a ride about a mile. We didn’t have time to get into politics.

Second guy picked me up in a Cadillac. When I mentioned I was out speaking to people about their thoughts for the country he told me, without preamble, that democracy was the worst form of government and there were “biological differences between the races,” the white race, in his view, being superior.

“When anything can crawl into a voting booth,” he said. “What we end up with is this.” He swept his arm wide over the rural landscape scarred by the freeway to the south.

Two-mile ride.

He dropped me off in Monroe, Mich, and I had breakfast at a chain restaurant with a brown and white logo and cute old-timey stuff for sale in the vestibule. The waitress was kind enough to find me a piece of cardboard and a marker to make a hitchhiking sign that said “Toledo Please” before I headed out again. I walked to the truck stop across the street and met Danielle Whitman  smoking under a tree in her fast-food uniform.

I asked her about Donald Trump. “I fucking hate Donald Trump,” she said. “He’s a racist asshole.”

“He wants to make America white again, but Indians are the ones who started it. So how you going to go back to white America when it never started off as a white America?”

Continue reading here.

Read Part Three of Four here.

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