I wasn’t trying to snoop, but when the guy in front of me with a nice handlebar mustache started writing an email with size two hundred font, it was kind of hard not to notice. “Total breeech [sic] of ethics” his email read. “Can’t wait for that slut man to leave, I’m ready for a new dawn with Trump. I’m sitting in my seat right now and I’m pumped!” Wow, I thought to myself, calling the President of the United States a “slut man” when the guy about to get sworn-in is sitting next to his fifth child from his third wife in addition to walking into women’s locker rooms at beauty pageants and sexually assaulting 15 women?
You’re probably wondering how I’ve gotten myself into this situation. Well, when I decided to go to Georgetown, I told myself I’d go to the 2017 inauguration regardless of the person being sworn-in. On November 8th, 2016, America voted for this gem, but on December 19th, the electoral college voted for this joker. So there I was, sitting in a cold, plastic fold-up chair reading this guy’s email with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing overhead waiting for the swearing-in of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States.
I’m not going to give you a run-down of what went down at the inauguration because you could probably find that with a quick Google search. Instead, I’m going to pass along my observations, from one American to another, but first, a few disclaimers. 1) I was lucky enough to get very good seats; therefore, the crowd around me was probably a little more timid than the people farther back. Also, the people around me likely came from different backgrounds than the people standing elsewhere as I will discuss in a little bit. 2) I am a liberal, but you should already know that…you’re reading The Progressive.
“Make America Great Again”
I’ll be darned if “Make America Great Again” isn’t one of the greatest marketing schemes of all time. When I turned around to look at the sea of people behind me, all I saw were red hats. It was funny to see all the variations (font type, font size, words on other areas of the hat, etc), and it was easy to see which ones were real and fake, but regardless, they were everywhere. As much as I enjoyed thinking about how many of them were made in China, I couldn’t help but respect the efficacy of Trump’s slogan.
Don’t get me wrong, “Make America Great Again” as a phrase is one of the dumbest slogans ever. It implies that America stinks and Trump of all people is going to make it great, but this is exactly what Trump wanted. As I’ll discuss later, Trump’s vision of America, however inaccurate, is one of ruin and terror, and that’s what helped him win: fear. So while I despise MAGA and all it stands for, I respect the power of its simplicity, the power to make over 60 million people believe a man who has spent his whole life cheating people can somehow make their lives better.
A Sea of White
I grew up in a pretty homogenous neighborhood and I went to a private Catholic grade school and high school in the suburbs, but I have never seen more white people gathered into one place as I did on the National Mall on January 20th. I’m not exaggerating when I say that from 6:00 am to 2:00 pm, I saw two black guys: one of them was a cop, and the other was the 44th President of the United States. Everyone else was white. Like I said earlier, I had pretty good seats, so what I’m about to say may not be representative of the overall crowd, but the people sitting next to me weren’t your average working Americans either. I overheard talk of dinner reservations at Ruth’s Chris, and when asked if he flew on Southwest to get to DC, the guy next to me responded “No I actually have a private jet, so we just flew right into Dulles.” Take this for what you will, but at the end of day, Trump has not drained the swamp, and he has not done anything to improve the lives of the American workers that voted for him.
“People as far as you can see!”
The couple sitting in front of me (yes, the handlebar mustache guy and his wife) was pretty rambunctious throughout the day, but a few things they said caught my attention early on. At around 9:00 am, the wife turned around, looked upon the National Mall and proclaimed, “Look at all those people! There are people as far as you can see!” So I turned around to see for myself this sea of humans, only to be disappointed. There were not people for as far as you could see. You know that picture that shows how few people were at the inauguration by noon? Think of that and then imagine half of those people were there. That’s what it looked like at 9:00 am, three hours prior to the swearing-in. Later, something similar happened. When President Obama walked out, there were many cheers and many boos, but it is important to understand that there were both. Soon after, the handlebar mustache guy said, “Ah, total silence. He deserves it.” To be fair, I probably do have better hearing than handlebar mustache guy, but does that really explain it? Did he really just not hear the cheers?
We live in a world in motion. We use our senses to observe our surroundings and make conclusions, but what happens when things don’t agree with our opinions? In the case of the handlebar mustache guy and his wife, it’s okay to just ignore them or even lie about what you observed to promote your view. In a world of “alternative facts” where only certain news outlets are allowed into press briefings or Republican lawmakers introduce bills to curb our first amendment rights, our Republican friends are increasingly capable of getting away with lying, and cheating the American people, and that’s just not okay.
Throughout the day, many things made me feel uncomfortable, and a few made me sick to my stomach, not just as a liberal, but as an American citizen and even as a human being. The handlebar mustache guy’s email was just the beginning.
Early in the morning when people were still walking around freely, one guy quickly caught my attention. A larger man wearing a MAGA hat was walking around wearing a black shirt with this image on it. It depicted Donald Trump holding a cat in the style of Obama’s “Hope” poster with the caption, “Grab ‘Em.” I was truly astonished. I couldn’t believe that someone would normalize behavior which directly promotes the sexual objectification and even assault of women, but this guy did just that, and people loved it, asking for pictures with him and more.
Later, as the ceremonies were underway, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was given a chance to speak, and the crowd’s temporary indifference towards his speech quickly turned to spite.
“We Americans have always been a forward-looking, problem-solving, optimistic, patriotic and decent people. Whatever our race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, whether we are immigrant or native-born, whether we live with disabilities or do not, in wealth or in poverty, we are all exceptional in our commonly held, yet fierce devotion to our country, and in our willingness to sacrifice our time, energy, and even our lives to making it a more perfect union.”
The second Schumer mentioned “race, religion, sexual orientation,” etc, our handlebar mustached friend yelled “Aw c’mon!” The crowd began to boo. Unfortunately, you can’t really hear it in any of the videos of Schumer’s speech, but the boos were immediate, persistent, and soon followed by chants of “We want Trump!” Suddenly, inclusivity was a liberal ideal, and Trump supporters wanted none of it. Once again, I was shocked, but was I surprised? Not really.
One more thing made me uncomfortable, and that was Trump’s speech. Donald Trump’s inaugural address depicted America in a way that does not resemble reality, and that is troubling. He painted a picture of a troubled America with open borders filled with violent crime and rampant unemployment, but none of these things even come close to the truth. FactCheck.org analyzed Trump’s speech and found most of his representation of America to be extremely inaccurate. America faces many problems and challenges moving forward (including Trump and threats against constitutional protections), but the ones Trump referenced in order to get elected are not the problems that we actually face.
Someday, I will be able to tell my children that I was at the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, but I would also like to be able to tell them that I did something about the absurdity I witnessed and the injustices that followed, and that starts now. Americans make America great, not Donald Trump, and the sooner we unite and stand up for our constitutional rights, the sooner we can create real change.