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Has Godot Arrived?

Eric Chang | Virginia, United States

“I’ve loved Trump for a long time. I thought he was cool. He was a playboy and everything he touched turned to fucking gold.”

   This personal project was undertaken in an attempt to create a relationship with one of Trump's passionate followers and thereby try to understand more broadly, what motivates his followers to believe Trump's narcissistic lies.

   In Samuel Beckett's existentialist play, ”Waiting for Godot," two vagabonds wait at the side of a road for a long time. They are waiting intently because much is at stake. They are waiting in the hope that when Godot arrives, his mere presence will make their lives whole. Of course, Godot never shows up.

   During President Obama's eight years in office, many Americans also appeared to be Waiting for Godot. This version of Godot, though, finally arrived. And once arrived, doesn’t appear to want to leave.

   The first time I passed Tommy's house in the Shenandoah Valley, I couldn't believe what I saw. Big, colorful homemade Trump signs littered his yard and adorned the sides of his dilapidated house. Once, when I stopped my car to take photos, he yelled from a distance, asking if I were a Trump lover too. I peeled away, fearing his mental state. Two years later, and countless trips past his house, I read in the news there was a fire in his home. On my next trip, I stopped by the nearby gas station and bought some fried chicken for him. Since then, I've visited him many times. And through our interactions, I've tried to understand why he loves Trump. And by that, I hoped to understand why anyone would be Waiting for Trump.

   In one of our first conversations, I got a hint that it was more than Tommy simply agreeing with Trump's politics. I asked him why he loved Trump so much and he replied the love started a long time ago. When I inquired further, Tommy said, "because I thought he was cool. He was a playboy and everything he touched turned to fucking gold."

   In another candid conversation, Tommy told me that people thought he was a racist. "I'm not a racist, it's white people that scare me." I started viewing Tommy with more interest after that, enjoying his wit and intelligence. And yet, several times after, I've heard Tommy make disparaging racist remarks that I know (hope) he doesn't mean; perhaps, just expressing unfiltered personal frustrations. I saw there were many different, complicated sides to him.

   He's lived in his Shenandoah house since 2002, when his wife "exiled me here." Years later, the day Trump infamously rode down the escalator to announce his candidacy for president, Tommy enthusiastically decorated the side of his house with his first hand painted sign that read, "Lock her up!" Suddenly, Tommy was getting a lot of attention. People honked their horns and waved as they drove past. Sometimes, they stopped to talk. Before getting kicked off of Facebook, he live streamed from his front yard. Several times I’ve heard Tommy express disbelief in his living situation. He once told me that he created his “own world out here, otherwise, I would go fucking insane."

   I used to think it was rather simple; people supported Trump because they let their racist tendencies out of the box. But I have learned there’s probably more to it. In the same way the two vagabonds hoped Godot would give meaning and purpose to their lives, some people hope Trump will do the same. They have attached themselves to Trump to compensate for things they see lacking in themselves. Trump’s (false) bravado and brash style creates an illusion of strength. And, perhaps, they attach themselves to his anger and make it their own because those emotions relieve them from the boredom and loneliness of their daily lives?

Eric A. Chang

Washington, DC

eric@echangphotography.com

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