Stories like these are playing out across the country where mere miles — or sometimes just a fence — separate those unbothered by the controversy swirling around the Trump administration and those hopeful that Trump’s self-inflicted wounds will finally take their toll. Here at Amvets Post 19, the former outweighs the latter.
Hess and her husband, Craig, were both registered Democrats but picked Trump because he promised a fresh direction for the country and speaks plainly about what he intends to do. But Craig Hess, 66, an Army and Vietnam veteran, said Trump’s detractors have been “on him brutal.”
Cherryl Hess said she hoped Trump would make things better for senior citizens in the US — she said they’ve been trampled — while Craig was frustrated with the state of the military and national security, the beleaguered economy, the lack of strong guiding principles. Things aren’t what they used to be, he said, but Trump perhaps could have an answer, provided he’s given the chance to try.
“I think they need to give him a break, but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said, dismissing the reports of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia as “lies.”
“I’d be hard-pressed to trust anybody anymore,” he said flatly.
Tom Stock and Buddy Lewis set up shop at a different crop of folding tables, selling old newspapers with historic headlines, a collection of lapel pins attached to denim and some books. Both men were frustrated by what they saw as a glacial pace of investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia ties.
“It’s just baloney, this back and forth over every little nitpicking thing, that’s what pisses me off,” Stock, 84, said. “Now they have this new guy Mueller. See what he does. How long is he going to take, a year or two?
Lewis, 77, piled on, agreeing with Stock that Trump’s been unfairly maligned and castigated by Washington politicians.
Both retirees — Tom is a veteran, Buddy helped build Maryland’s Fort McHenry tunnel back in the 1980s — say they don’t like to argue politics, they just like to soak in information. The two men go back and forth, trading a list of headlines they’ve heard on Fox News, NBC and CNN.
“All you hear is investigating this, investigating that. I’m tired of it,” he said, exasperated. “I don’t think he’s ever been given a chance to do what he could do.”
Richard Sims, a 55-year-old who recently moved back to Pennsylvania from Arizona to support an aging parent, suggested that the daily drama surrounding the Trump administration was exactly what he expected.
“Things are kind of crazy, but I knew that was coming,” Sims, who is working on starting his own service business said.
Of those Trump supporters in the parking lot, Sims alone was willing to entertain the idea that the candidate he voted for could soon be on his way out of the Oval Office by way of impeachment.
“I don’t want to pass judgment right now, but it wouldn’t surprise me because he’s definitely not the typical presidential character that we’re used to.”
Nearly 540,000 people live in the surrounding Lancaster County, roughly 75 miles west of Philadelphia. More than three-quarters are white, and in 2016, 57% of voters chose Trump.
Two miles away, a totally different perspective
Just two miles away in the multipurpose room of a Lutheran church, the feelings about the Trump administration were quite different. In this space, more than a half-dozen immigrants and refugees gathered to learn how to speak to the media and lawmakers and effectively share their stories.
Many said they felt targeted by the Trump administration’s immigration policies, including attempts to temporarily block refugees from being resettled in the United States.
Lancaster has a decades-old tradition of welcoming refugees, largely through a branch of Church World Service, a national nonprofit that works with the State Department’s refugee resettlement program. Thousands have come to Lancaster over the years, a tradition now in peril thanks to the priorities of the Trump administration, although the White House plan to hit pause on refugees and immigrants from certain Muslim-majority countries has been stalled in federal court.
“The whole community was in shock. They didn’t know what to do or where to go from here,” said Fadia Abdelrahman, 48, who came to the United States from Sudan in 1998, becoming a US citizen several years later.
Abdelrahman, a mother of two with a master’s degree in environmental engineering, came to the US to pursue her education. But amidst the economic downturn opportunities have been scarce. She plans to return to school soon to pursue her doctorate. But she’s become a leader in Central Pennsylvania’s Sudanese community, hoping to provide resources to those who come to America the same way she did.
Sudan was one of the nations targeted by Trump’s order — something Abdelrahman said she didn’t find surprising and believed that the President wanted to keep Muslims like her out of the United States. Even though Abdelrahaman has been a US citizen for more than a decade, she said she worried that the Trump administration immigration policies would impact her too.
“In my passport, it says ‘country of origin’ is Sudan, so I don’t know, maybe (Trump) will come up with an executive order and say if you are from Sudan, we take your citizenship away from you,” she said.
During the 2016 campaign, Abdelrahman volunteered for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign and found Trump’s victory “unbelievable.” She remains suspicious of the Trump administration and believed there to be some truth in reports of ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“They’re talking about Clinton using her personal email to send work related information to somewhere and they think that is a big deal and she’s got to go to jail for that? How about this? Russia is No. 1 enemy of the United States right now,” she said. “How can he be friends with them or deal with them?”
Mustafa Nuur, 24, participated in the training, too. Years ago, he fled Somalia for safety and came to Lancaster after spending 10 years living in a refugee camp. The day he left Somalia with his mother and siblings, his father was killed in front of his entire family.
“We went from losing my father in the morning to leaving our country in the evening,” Nuur, who now works as a web developer said.
Resettling in the US was “a scary process because you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into,” Nuur said. But he was thankful that he ended up in Lancaster, which he described as a “very welcoming community.”
In the Trump administration though, Nuur saw parallels to the country he fled more than a decade ago.
“When you come from a broken country where the government is not stable and you come to another country hoping for stability,” Nuur said. “To sense that tension and that unexpectedness is almost a tiny reminder of why our country fell apart.”