As was basically expected by anyone with a pulse on the nation’s political climate, this weekend’s inauguration of Donald J. Trump reignited feelings of fear and defiance that never really went dormant. Indeed, the country remains as divided as ever, perhaps even moreso – social media is littered daily with attacks on “the left” or “right-wing racists” or “liberal hippies” or “trumptards.” Friendships have fractured and families were desperate to avoid the topic over the holidays. With an ever-present 24 hour news cycle and opinions ever-present in the palms of our hands, we’ve reached a true fever pitch. While some try to compare it to Obama’s election, the truth is that wasn’t even close – this level of division is truly something I’ve never experienced.
Today’s demonstrations spread across most major metropolitan areas in the country and indeed many democracies worldwide. It was called the Women’s March, but men and women of all races and ages took to the streets, almost entirely nonviolently and in support of LGBT rights, reproductive rights, healthcare, and anti-racism and xenophobia. It was a culmination of the deepest and darkest concerns the new administration brings. And those who weren’t there largely hated it.
Stop crying. This is your President now. Get a job. Stop having a temper tantrum. My personal favorite, the son of Michael Flynn (Trump’s national security advisor): “What victory? Women already have equal rights and equal pay in this country. What more do you want? Free mani/pedis?”
Precedence aside, the divide could not be more evident than in the response to these demonstrations. If you weren’t celebrating Elizabeth Warren’s speech, or sharing Madonna’s live TV f-bombs, or posting pictures of the throngs of people in city centers, you were probably decrying “the left” or laughing at “liberal tears” and posting memes of a laughing President Trump. Some even compared it to the less tempered reaction to Obama’s election, as if Barack Obama and Donald Trump are comparable individuals at this point in their political career. While you may have disagreed with Obama’s policies, sane people never thought that their way of life or freedoms were threatened. Before going further, I would like to point out the facts; after one day on the job, the verdict isn’t yet in – but due entirely to rhetoric and baffling ignorance, Trump boasts a 32% approval rate on inauguration day to Obama’s 79%. Please note that inauguration is historically the high for most administrations – the new president has some work to do.
Back on track. Regardless of your opinion on the marches, one thing is absolutely certain and cannot be taken away: the right to protest is definitively American, and when the numbers are as staggering as they were today, it would be wise to take notice and at least try to understand their point of view. What the Women’s march today stood for is not the belly aching or sore losers, they weren’t defeated city liberals throwing a tantrum. They were a response to the Trump claims that he has a “mandate” to do however the GOP pleases. The demonstrations were a defiant stand against the looming possibility of discriminatory laws and the potential birth of a new movement, a far cry from the “#notmypresident” protests of months back. These were demands that this administration work for the people and not for the party.
It’s a cliche and has been repeated ad nauseam over the last several years, but America is at a crossroads – the election of a populist, anti-intellectual candidate is almost certain to be, for better or worse, a drastic departure from administrations past. Now, regardless of your opinion, it’s a fact that many who voted against Trump, myself included, would have given him the second look had he surprised us with generosity and grace. He did the opposite, and so the great divider has only deepened the split. To that end, we cannot look to our newly appointed leader and would-be public servant to heal the nation’s wounds, because it’s not going to happen.
The nation is more than our executive branch, more than our government, and more than our political and social ideologies. The United States of America is some 320 million people with individual beliefs and values, problems and fears. Stop calling protesters crybabies or sore losers, and they might stop calling you racists and bigots. Enough with the sweeping categorization of anti-feminism and “the left” and “the right” and discuss differences, don’t throw insults. Trump may truly drain the swamp and turn America’s economy on its head, but he will never be the sort of empathetic figure to bring about unity. That’s on us.