March 14, 2017

Sean Spicer goes to the Apple Store, meets an American, slips on a Banana, gets a Tomato

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Over the weekend, Sean Spicer, former White House Easter Bunny and current White House Press Secretary, went to DC’s Georgetown Apple Store, where he was confronted by Shree Chauhan, a local education advocate.

Chauhan was one of the organizers who helped prevent Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from entering a DC middle school, and she, like most of us, is very unhappy with the Trump administration’s performance thus far.

And so, as Rachel Kurzius reports in DCist, Chauhan recorded her confrontation with the Press Secretary, using the live-streaming app Periscope to post the minute-long conversation (though calling it a “conversation” is a bit grand) to Twitter. In the video, she presses Spicer on a number of issues, asking questions like: “How do you feel about destroying our country?”; “How does it feel to work for a fascist?”; “What can you tell me about Russia?”; “Do you feel good about the decisions you are making?”; and “Do you feel good about lying to the American people?”

Now, Spicer should expect this kind of thing. Anyone with such disdain for the truth, the free press, and the American people should expect such treatment. Ditto anyone working to bring fascism to America. Perhaps Spicer did expect this kind of thing. And to his credit (though exactly none is due), he played it pretty okay. I mean, until he didn’t.

Spicer’s responses the questions were, in general, exactly what you’d expect from any politico under fire in public: they were tepid, diversionary, and mostly empty. He said things like “thank you” and “we have a great country.” Mid-way through the short video, though, following a series of questions about Trump’s entanglements with Russia, Chauhan asks, “Have you committed treason, too?”, and something less civil, less empty, slipped out of Spicer’s Dippin’ Dots-fearing mouth. Visibly exasperated as ever and play-laughing at jokes from a man nearby (that probably were not funny, or never told at all), Spicer responds under his breath: “Such a great country that allows you to be here.”

Chauhan was born in America. She is an American citizen of Indian descent. She’s fucking entitled to be here. She’s what “here” is. Spicer’s implication that America is so nice for dealing with problems like her, for letting these people in, is horrifying and un-American. And though the response is not exactly surprising, it’s still somewhat revelatory. How quickly an empty platitude, America is such a great country, devolves into something else in a shit fascist’s mouth: a brief but luminous spotlight on the operating ethos of a White House that’s (barely) running in the dark (really).

The next day, Chauhan took to Medium to share her thoughts on the interaction, in a piece entitled “Such a Great Country, Such Nasty Bigotry”:

I have spent enough time online to encounter rabid Trump supporters. Many of these folks see my brown skin and question my citizenship. They question whether I am here legally. They tell me to leave the country. They have told me to go back to where I came from. To which my snarky reply is often, “Go back where? New York?”

It’s one thing to have a Twitter egg tell say you do not belong in America, it is quite another to have the Press Secretary of the United States of America do so. I am still astounded. And while I am fearless, I wonder how this administration will use its power to silence ordinary people like me.

The fact of the matter is, the Trump administration does not, at least not constitutionally, have the power to silence ordinary people like Shree Chauhan. At least, it doesn’t yet. No doubt about it, Trump and his clan will take it if we let them get comfortable. So let’s not let them get comfortable. Like Shree, let’s shame them in the light.

 

 

Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.

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