The Hagerstown Speedway is an oval dirt track approximately seven miles from downtown Hagerstown, Maryland. Its red clay court has hosted Bobby Allison, Jeff Gordon and Ken Schrader since the facility opened in 1947. The track was dark Friday morning, but there was some action in its backcourt, which overlooks the speedway quarter midget track. There, parked among rusting trucks and the woods that lead north to Conococheague Creek, were the roughly 50 vehicles that made up the “people’s convoy” before the organizers. proclaimed “victory” Friday afternoon and said its members would return home within a week.
The convoy has already come here. He arrived at the racetrack in March ready to fight with vaccine and mask mandates, weeks after the Supreme Court struck down an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule that required employees at some companies are vaccinated against the coronavirus or tested weekly, and days after DC dropped its indoor mask mandate, which had been a site of right-wing anger during the Omicron push. This left Convoy in the position of trying to explain what exactly they wanted from their stay in the DC area.
He merely objected to the president’s ability to declare a state of emergency, but for anyone paying the slightest attention, the convoy’s objectives were less esoteric: strong expressions of frustration, often in the form of honks, from people whose candidate lost the last presidential election as well as animosity towards vaccines and government authority in general. It’s no surprise, then, that aside from a few meetings with congressional GOP members, the convoy left town 24 days later with nothing to show for its long days of driving in the area and long nights in cool, wet spring weather.
The band traveled west, losing members and leadership along the way, before declaring in early May that they had decided to return to Washington — or, you know, a racetrack 90 minutes away — to continue whatever ‘he hopes. accomplish. Last week, a new challenge presented itself: the group that had organized the payout of the nearly $2 million that the convoy had crowdfunded said the kitty was almost exhausted and that it would soon stop working. with the group. Since the convoy returned to Hagerstown this week, it has made an uneventful journey to the district and has hinted that it will try to carry out an “occupation” in DC. Such a plan has yet to come to fruition. A few of its most popular live streamers are gone. There was a fight the day before Washingtonian arrived Friday morning. Not much was happening.
A convoy stood by a parked crossover SUV near five portapotties. He was from Ohio and wore harem pants, a backwards baseball cap and wooden sunglasses. His car, like most vehicles there, was adorned with messages: Tupac’s lyrics “Real Eyes Realize Real Lies,” for example, and “Coerced Prick Is Medical Rape.” He spoke in a spurt of lightly verified grievances against the World Health Organization (which is actually leading the US response to the pandemic), Anthony Fauci (apparently under investigation) and the possibly apocryphal ‘cobra effect’ that some economists cite to explain perverse incentives (I had no idea how we landed on this, but he assured me that cobras could be hunted in Britain). Pointing to one of the slogans on his car, he compared vaccinations to “getting penetrated to keep your job”.
Like many people I spoke with, he was frustrated with his elected officials, although the only one he remembered was US Senator Sherrod Brown, whom he wasn’t crazy about. He said U.S. Representative Jim Jordan’s suggestion that convoy members go home and work on political campaigns had “scattered our numbers.” Why not take this advice and work to elect like-minded people? I asked. Wouldn’t that be a better way to achieve your goals? He said he’d rather try to make “a change, whether it comes from this train or from the revival that comes from this train.”
Others told me of their frustrations with inflation and high fuel prices. A Florida woman, who unlike most people I met in Hagerstown was actually a truck driver, said she had heard that diesel fuel may soon be rationed. Her banker, she said, had advised her to store cash and food. She planned to stay a few more days, but said she and her husband would soon be on the road again to earn some money.
My conversation with a man named Ratrod will live long in my memory. I kept trying to ask him about his hot rod, which he explained he uses in convoy situations to encourage people to ignore red lights – “Why are you staring at the light when the sky say go?” he asked, but he was more interested in airing his complaints about some of the live streamers. “Everyone is trying to make money,” he said, before asking if I paid taxes. When I said yes, he told me how stupid I was, because I was paying for a president who “sniffs the kids”.
Ratrod said he didn’t love Donald Trump as much as he didn’t love Joe Biden, and that one of them should be prosecuted and hanged, either Biden for his alleged child sniffer or Trump for may have lied about it. As Ratrod warmed up, he complained that his convoy mates (“incompetent people”) asked him if Washingtonian could be bought next to supermarket tabloids (yes) and comes back to the fact that I was stupid to pay taxes, which he said he refused to do. Waving his arms to the sparse crowd behind the racetrack, he said, “These are all the people who are ready to defend the whole fucking country.” We agreed that it didn’t seem to be very many.