June 20, 2020, Donald Trump held a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma intended to “reboot” his campaign. Although the arena it was held in has a maximum capacity around 19,000, Trump confidently expressed there would be many more. An overflow area was set up for a separate address. The campaign began signaling something big. Predictions started coming in not in the tens of thousands but in the hundreds of thousands, with Trump himself claiming up to a million people were on their way.
But when the day came, only about 6,200 showed up.
Of course, there were many reasons attendance was so underwhelming. There’s a pandemic on, and several of the campaign staff on the ground in Tulsa tested positive. Trump’s campaign claims his followers were scared away by the possibility of protests. But far and away, the biggest story of the day was the Zoomers. Generation Z. A determined, organized group of teenaged K-pop fans who RSVPed hundreds of thousands of times to watch Trump’s expectations rise, then simply did not show up.To be clear, not one empty seat in the arena was caused by this. Seating was always first come first served. And not one dollar was lost to this action. The seats were always free. In fact, if data is money, the Trump campaign actually gained by gathering all the cell phone numbers attached to these teen RSVPs.
But what a moral and symbolic blow to the president.
For years, Donald Trump has pinned his own worth to the size of the crowds that turn out for him. Watching him puff up like this and then deflate live on our television screens does come with at least a little schadenfreude. But Trump rallies are about more than Donald Trump. Historically, they have always been a rallying point not only for the candidate himself, but also for the racism and xenophobia and misogyny and ableism and outright hate he represents.
When the Zoomers take down a Trump rally, they take down every one of these hateful notions with it.
I have written about the theology of protest before. This post is not about that. If anything, this post is about the theology of gratitude. And hope. And pride.
Our future is in very good hands.