ACCIDENT, Md. — In this tiny town of rolling hills in far western Maryland, many of President Trump’s supporters have a message to those protesting his policies: Take a deep breath and stop yelling.
Many here say the president is simply doing everything he promised to do and that he was elected to do — fight political correctness, protect the country from terrorists, crack down on illegal immigration, make Washington’s swamp dwellers uncomfortable and show strength to other countries. Critics are unfairly exaggerating the effect of Trump’s executive orders and complaining without giving him a fair chance, supporters say, just as critics blew some of his comments and jokes out of proportion during the campaign.
“I think people are just picking sides and not really getting all of the facts that they need,” said Charisse Smith, 25, a waitress at Annie’s Kitchen Country Restaurant on Main Street who voted for Trump. “They just go along with their side. They’re not digging into what they’re actually saying.”
There’s wide support in this town of roughly 320 for the president’s rapidly implemented ban on refugees and on citizens of seven countries that are predominantly Muslim, along with Trump’s decision Monday night to dismiss the acting attorney general who refused to defend the executive order.
“Did you really think he was going to go too long without those two words: ‘You’re fired?’ ” said Buz Gosnell, 71, a retired helicopter pilot who had fried fish for lunch at Annie’s on Tuesday. “He’s the first president since Teddy Roosevelt to really do what he says he’s going to do. . . . It’s what executives are supposed to be.”
Others at the restaurant that afternoon agreed. A 60-year-old who works in the oil and gas industry said he is relieved to have a “tough businessman” in the White House and hopes Trump will “slam the door shut” on all Middle Easterners. A 26-year-old IT worker with a bushy beard said everyone should support “enhanced screenings” at airports and struggles to take protesters seriously, referring to them as “an entertaining show” that keeps airing new episodes.
Accident — yes, that’s really its name — is located in Garrett County, surrounded by West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Most versions of the story of how the town got its name involve two groups of surveyors who accidentally assessed the same patch of land.
This county has long been deeply conservative, and Trump won here with more than 77 percent of the vote — while the blue state of Maryland went to Hillary Clinton, who received 60 percent of the vote statewide. One local pointed out that even the weekly newspaper is named the Republican.
The mountainous area is also dotted with expensive weekend homes that belong to residents of Philadelphia, Washington and Baltimore, who tend to be more liberal. During the Women’s March on Washington the day after Trump’s inauguration, a bus filled with women from St. Louis broke down in Accident — and the pink-hat-wearing passengers decided to march there, instead.
Accident’s Main Street features the staples of a small, rural community — a credit union, a white clapboard Lutheran church, a decades-old car dealership, a laundromat and Annie’s, which serves breakfast all day. There’s also a creamery that produces goat cheese sold at Whole Foods and Wegmans, an organic grocery store that carries almond milk, and Moonshadow, a restaurant known for its craft brew list and locally sourced ingredients.
“It’s peaceful,” said Smith, who has worked at Annie’s for 10 years. “And the people are nice and it’s not too crowded.”
In high school, Smith traveled with her church youth group to Columbus, Ohio, and “got a little glimpse into what life’s like in the cities.”
“It was a pretty big culture shock from what I’m used to,” she said. “There’s no way I could do it. I like my country life.”
Smith and her husband, who works for the county health department, live comfortably in a house they own just outside of Accident. They make enough money to cover their mortgage, car payments and other bills. She thinks America should be more like Accident.
“I think a lot of city people always think that we’re so ignorant, and we’re just hillbillies, and I don’t believe that at all,” Smith said. “We might not always be super-educated in politics, but we’re just human beings like everyone else.”
Religion guides Smith’s life, and she acknowledges that Christianity has its own extremists, like those who violently attack gays. So she understands that the horrific acts committed by Islamic State terrorists cannot be held against all Muslims. But, she asks herself, can the United States protect itself while helping Muslims from other countries, especially those fleeing war?
“I think as Christians we definitely need to be reaching out to these people, and I think our country should be helping them,” she said, “but I don’t think letting them come in and just have free rein of our country.”
Karen Engel, a retired hairdresser who lives in the next town over, said her niece attends West Virginia University and has a co-worker who is from Syria and is nervous about what could happen. This summer, Engel was in Ocean City and skipped the fireworks display for fear that the crowd could be targeted by terrorists.
Before the election, Engel said, she was discussing Trump’s proposed “Muslim ban” — at that point a wholesale barring of foreigners of Islamic faith — and a friend posed a hypothetical: Three people show up at your house, starving and needing a place to stay. Engel said she would help them. Then the friend asked what she would do if there was a chance one might stab her. Engel changed her answer.
“I don’t know who’s the bad person in the bunch, but I’m not willing to let anyone in,” said Engel, 58, a lifelong Democrat who voted for Trump.
Engel was one of nearly two dozen women, mostly retirees, who gathered at Accident’s library on Tuesday afternoon to sample various teas from around the world. One woman gave a spirited defense of Trump but declined to give her name, for fear that someone on the Internet would come to her home.
Patrice Wells, 63, is one of the county’s rare liberals and said she is horrified by the president’s ban and other actions he has taken.
“In my opinion and in my heart and in my stomach, America is the place for refugees and immigrants. That’s what our country was built upon,” said Wells, who lives about two miles outside of town.
Wells has lived in the county since 1982 and has slowly seen the overwhelmingly white area gain some diversity thanks to seasonal workers from South America who work at the nearby ski resort and to international students at Garrett College. She said her neighbors could benefit from learning more about the world.
“If you live in an area that’s all white and all Christian and you think that that’s the only way that there is, then those other people are scary, and so in trying to keep their families safe and keep their surroundings safe, then the thought is: I don’t want them here,” Wells said.
As the older women drank tea and chatted, Casandra Kinzey applied for jobs using one of the library’s computers. Kinzey, a 24-year-old mother of two, remembers being in fourth grade on 9/11. Her teachers turned off the lights and turned on the news.
“It terrified me because we didn’t know what was going to happen,” she said. “That’s the scariest part — not knowing.”
Trump’s aggressive personality makes her feel safer, and she’s glad he implemented the travel ban.
“It’s to protect our people,” she said. “There’s been a lot of trust when it comes to that situation and obviously we made the wrong decisions. I honestly feel there could have been more security.”