A week ago Wednesday, I was sitting on the ground on a mat, as I have been doing for the past eight weeks, outside the office of Kansas’ 1st District Congress member Roger Marshall. While making art in rebellion against everything Marshall and his ilk stand for, I have been making that patch of sidewalk my studio.
As I was embroidering a piece that’s intended to draw attention to our government’s sadistic policy of tearing children away from their parents (something that both Marshall and fellow Republican/2018 gubernatorial candidate/voter-suppression poster boy Kris Kobach enthusiastically support), a white F-150 pickup pulled up and parked outside the Republican campaign office, which recently popped up adjacent to Marshall’s hardly-anyone-ever-in-there office.
After loading his pickup with Kobach signs, the twentysomething driver of the pickup walked up and loomed over me for about 20 minutes, delivering a racist, misogynistic tirade, mocking my birth in India and trashing a whole roll-call of Republican targets, including Native Americans, immigrants, and Kobach’s Democratic opponent Laura Kelly.
When the guy, after I asked him several times to go away, finally got back in his truck, I wrote down our conversation as best I could from memory. So the exchange below is not exact quotes, but rather paraphrased:
He introduced himself, but I didn’t catch the name. Then he asked who I was.
> Is that a real name, ‘Pretty’?
It’s not ‘Pretty,’ it’s Priti.
> What are you doing here?
I’m demonstrating against our government’s domestic and foreign policies… police brutality, attacks on immigrants, the war on Yemen —
Yeah, let’s. We’re arming rebels there. We’re the largest military with bases all over the world.
> What would you have us do?
Stop arming countries like Saudi Arabia. Stop supporting dictators.
> What about when Obama blah! blah! blah!
This isn’t a Democrat or Republican thing. This is about government policies.
> You’re not even from here.
I’m from here. I’m a citizen just as much as you. Are you Native American? We’re all illegal. You. Me.
By now he’d become visibly Republican: red in the face and hovering even closer as I remain seated.
> We’re settlers. You’re speaking about Native Americans? We civilized the Native Americans.
Demonstrating with his foot:
> They they crushed babies with their feet… My uncle was killed by an illegal immigrant in a car accident.
What does that have to do with anything? That’s just one incident. What about when you white people kill people with your cars? Then nothing?
> One illegal is too many. One illegal is too many… Do you have a job?
This is my job. I can sustain myself. Maybe you need hundreds of thousands of dollars of income. I don’t.
> What’s that silly hat you’re wearing?
[I was wearing a ‘pussyhat’]
> You know hundreds, hundreds of women have called the office to show their support for Kavanaugh. Hundreds. They hate women like you… How long do you plan to be here?”
This is a public sidewalk. I’m making art and have every right to be here.
> To a certain extent.
At this point I just want him to leave so I could continue working on my piece.
But then he reached out his foot and kicked my artwork pattern that was lying on my work-mat beside me.
> What’s this you’re doing?
Stop doing that. Don’t touch that with your foot. Please leave. Go.
Then in a sing song voice, he says:
> No, ha! ha! ha! I just want to see what you’re do-ing.
He continued to touch the pattern with his foot. I thought, Isn’t it ironic that he’s using the same foot to kick my artwork that he used to describe barbaric acts that he claimed were committed by indigenous people of this land.
Then he walked around to the other side, and looked at my embroidery.
> The message is good, but…
He apparently had not grasped that it was a work inspired by my horror at the treatment of immigrants on our southern border.
> … good luck.
He started to walk away.
You need luck more than I do.
> What did you say? Do you mean in the election?
>What are you going to do after the election?
I’ll be here.
> Get a job
You do what you do and I’ll do what I do. What did you say your name is?
John Doe. Good luck.
Then, this past Friday night, my husband Stan and I were on the way to the Salina Art Center to see and hear from Kansas’s great filmmaker Kevin Willmott (co-writer of the recently released BlacKkKlansman), when we spotted the infamous white F-150 parked once again outside Republican headquarters. The office door was open, lights were on, so we went in and were met by the man whom I’d encountered ten days earlier.
The only information we could glean from the contentious conversation that followed was the guy’s first name, but I took a video of the conversation (during which he confirmed that he was the guy who had confronted me earlier; he then repeatedly threatened, for some reason, to call the police). Twenty-four hours of local crowdsourcing (thank you, fellow Salinans!) identified this Republican operative as one Kerrick Kuder.
Recalling his racist rant a week ago Wednesday, I believe that working for the likes of Kris Kobach and Roger Marshall is an excellent fit for young Kerrick.