Make no mistake about it — Donald Trump is not my president. I am as Canadian as maple syrup. That said, as a biker, I’m more than a little concerned about future motorcycle trips into The Land Of The Free.
My concern stems from this group calling themselves Bikers for Trump. If you believe the hyperbole on social media, there are more than 200,000 of them. They even rallied together in Washington, D.C., at Trump’s inauguration. According to a story in USA Today, more than 30,000 of them were there last week, prepared to build a “wall-of-meat” (their words not mine) to protect (oppress) revelers from protesters.
Quite frankly, it scares the shit out of me to think the next time I’m roaring down the highway in America on the way to a motorcycle rally, some Trump hater is going to mistake me for a right-wing nut and exercise his or her Second Amendment to the United States Constitution by blowing me off my bike with a shotgun.
Dramatic? Perhaps, but these folks have definitely drawn a line in the sand.
If you ask me, tying politics into lifestyle choices is bad medicine. I chose to become a biker for plenty of reasons, none of which were political.
Back in our ‘hood there was this house on the corner. We were already from the wrong side of the tracks, so like most of the houses in our area this one featured a tattered screen door and flags for curtains — which swung freely in the breeze. There was also an abandoned truck on the overgrown front lawn. A big, loud German Shepherd named Axle was always tied to the truck’s rear bumper with a chain not quite long enough to reach the public sidewalk.
It may sound like a nightmare, but to me this place was sacred ground. Parked along the gravel driveway there was always a cavalcade of chrome. Souped-up choppers with mile-long forks and lightning fast Knucklehead, Panhead or Shovelhead engines that gleamed so brightly they would have looked at home under glass in a jewelry store.
To me, the pilots of these mean machines were equally impressive. Large, bearded men with bandanas wrapped around their heads to keep the long hair out of their eyes. Dressed in black, loud and brash, with fire in their eyes and beer in their bellies, flanked by beautiful ‘old’ ladies in short shorts who’d keep the boys in line around the seemingly endless bonfire — then later, hang on for dear life on the back of one of those fire-breathing Harleys as they roared off into the black night.
In my early teens, I finally mustered up enough courage to ride into the yard on my dirt bike. The dog didn’t bite me, so the guys let me hang around. I’d bum cigarettes and return their empty beer bottles. It was the first place I ever smelled the pungent odor of the devil’s lettuce. It was the first place I ever peeked inside an Easyriders magazine. There were many firsts there.
Looking back now, it was also the first place I was ever accepted. Nobody cared that I stuttered a bit when I was nervous, was a chubby kid, needed a haircut, had an Indian mother or came from one of the townhouses around the way. The bikers accepted me for who I was. They helped me fix my dirt bike, they kept the local bullies off my back, and they taught me as much about respect as they did about motorcycles.
I’ve gravitated toward folks like this ever since, and would like to think I have a good reputation within the Manitoba biker scene. Sure, I like to have a good time, but I’m also always there for any of my brothers and sisters and they are always there for me. Respect is much more than simply a word.
That bond is one of the main reasons why I travel so extensively in the United States. Whether it’s to Sturgis for the annual motorcycle rally, or Milwaukee for one of Harley-Davidson’s legendary anniversary parties, or just across the border for a night of fun in Smalltown U.S.A., the contagious camaraderie that comes with being a biker knows no borders.
On the surface it may appear easy to paint me with the right-wing brush that seems to have stroked the Bikers for Trump. I’m a 40-something bearded man with a bald head who stands six feet tall and weighs nearly 300 pounds. I am well aware I look the part of a ‘typical’ biker.
The reality, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. In addition to being a proud Canadian, I’m also a proud Metis, and I’ve seen my fair share of bigotry and intolerance. I’m also a proud father to a beautiful 24-year-old daughter named Katelyn who will graduate from the University of Winnipeg Faculty of Education in the spring. Katelyn was born with cerebral palsy and has overcome more hurdles in her short life than just about anyone I’ve ever met.
Kate hates Trump, and I’m okay with that. She’s an educated and informed young woman. Initially, I was on the fence about Trump, thinking maybe he’d be good for the American economy and we’d benefit from it north of the border. Then he appalled me with his dreadful commentary on women, and made my blood boil in that horrific moment when he mimicked a disabled journalist. It’s pretty much all been downhill for me and Trump ever since. I can barely stand to look at him. If he was my president I likely would not protest his rise to power — but I’d surely not line up with the Bikers for Trump and build any walls of meat to keep those protesters at bay.
I have many American friends who are bikers who I’m fairly certain aren’t FOR Trump. The folks I hang out with down south are just as accepting of others as I am — I wouldn’t have it any other way. That rings especially true among my Native American friends, my Mexican American friends and my African American friends. We all had no trouble riding together all day and partying together all night. The rest of America, frankly, could learn a thing or two from us bikers. It’s my fear Trump will further divide a nation that deeply needed more unity.
Perhaps the oddest part of this whole Bikers for Trump movement is that, suddenly, the people who’d have previously never sat next to me in a restaurant now think because I’m a biker we are some sort of allies. That’s utterly perverse in my mind. Everything that made me want to be a biker, the acceptance of others, the live-and-let-live cavalier attitude, the mistrust of the man — all the things they once hated me for, are suddenly now all the things that will make America great again?
Now the righties who wouldn’t give a greasy biker like me the time of day want me to be their vigilante? I’m neither right nor left. I’m an outsider.
While I hope with all my heart this man becomes the greatest president in American history, I’m relatively certain the Trump train will derail with a disastrous outcome.
In the meantime, I’m thinking about sewing a really large Canadian flag on the back of my leather vest before I make my way back to Sturgis this summer. Just to remind them, you know, that he’s NOT my president.
Hopefully by then they will still like Canadians…