Day One Down: Things I Heard at the Inauguration

On a crisp and bright January day in 2009, when Barack Hussein Obama was inaugurated as president of the United States, Americans flooded the nation’s capital in record numbers for a glimpse at a hopeful future. On a soggy, drab day this past Friday, Donald J. Trump was sworn into the Oval Office before a decidedly smaller crowd.

The 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, D.C., Jan 20, 2017 (photo by U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Cristian L. Ricardo)
Despite the Trump administration’s “alternative facts,” asserting that people descended upon Washington, DC, in record numbers for Friday’s swearing in, most of these individuals arrived for the ensuing Women’s March on Saturday. Those familiar with presidential inaugurations have never seen the city so solemn before the ceremony, as many native Washingtonians fled en masse. Yet, as the past twenty-four months have made clear, the new president is a man who craves nothing more than attention and, having won the grandest of competitions, will be front and center in the world’s gaze for the next four years. [caption id="attachment_18260" align="alignright" width="225"]Author Patrick Hudson at the Inauguraton Author Patrick Hudson at the Inauguraton[/caption] I remember my optimism in 2009—I was fourteen and malleable. I enjoyed listening to Obama speak, but was raised in a household at odds with his message. I covertly hid my admiration for him, enjoying his rhetoric that spoke to me and to so much of our country. Eight years later, Obama’s presidency has been viewed by most to be fruitful despite its unprecedented backlash from Republicans. A strong economic recovery, the support of healthcare as a human right, and marriage equality, among other significant achievements, reinforced the belief that my sentiments were right. In contrast, Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” appealed to voters who yearn for the era when “their people” were dominant, and they have come to view equality as oppression. Where Obama looked to America’s potential and future, Trump looks for halcyon days that appeal to a small minority. And so, I looked upon January 20, 2017, as a dark day in our nation’s history. A flurry of white nationalists under the pseudonym of the “alt-right” arrived in DC, holding lamentable events like the “DeploraBall,” which featuring Milo Yiannopoulos and Richard Spencer. While Trump has not overtly supported white nationalism, he’s normalized it, and taken far too long to denounce it. [caption id="attachment_18261" align="alignleft" width="225"]Donald Trump takes the podium (photo by Patrick Hudson) Donald Trump takes the podium (photo by Patrick Hudson)[/caption] I attended the inauguration ceremony on Friday, where many donned “Make America Great Again” caps and Trump shirts, cheering as their leader espoused hatred on the steps of the US Capitol. They pledged their fealty to a self-deity who, in a totalitarian tone, warned of the “Washington elites” who have “reaped the rewards of government while people have borne the cost,” forgetting that he has benefited from government subsidies more than the majority of Washington elites. The religious re-encroachment into politics was also on clear display with Paula White, a surrogate and close friend to Trump who, despite her sham past, enjoyed a lofty slot at the podium. Trump himself invoked religion on several occasions in his speech, asserting that we will “be protected by God.” But make no mistake—this was not an occasion for the common American. Lining the rows of seats in the ticketed area where I sat were fur coats, leather gloves, slicked-back hair and "proper" southern accents. I definitely felt like I was among “the establishment.” Women – dressed in fashion’s finest and who assert they don't feel their rights are being infringed upon – were accompanied by orderly gentlemen who openly wished to make America a country that places them at the head of the table once again. A man two rows in front of me asked aloud where the minorities were, and a young man behind me asked to take a picture with an African American attendee as a “novelty.” Roars of “lock her up!” rang around the mall at any mention or sighting of Hillary Clinton, and the war hero Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was roundly booed and labelled a “traitor” by many. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was booed as well, presumably for being a Democrat, and his mention of sexual orientation and gender identity received the loudest uproar of discontent. The booing continued as he recited a letter written by Civil War solider Sullivan Ballou, which has become a symbol for the sacrifices made during that conflict. Chants of “drain the swamp!” drowned out the letter’s moving words. And they wonder why they’re labelled “deplorable.” Friday’s rain provided perhaps the most appropriate arrival at the inauguration ceremony, descending the moment Trump started to speak. His tone echoed that of his campaign: divisive, exclusive, and angry. He pandered to those who elected him, and who in turn showed zero respect for American heroes, political opponents, and minorities. As I made my way home, protests continued around the city on the eve of what would be a worldwide condemnation of Trump’s agenda and behavior. Day one was nearly done, and the resistance to a wholly unhumanistic movement had begun.Tags: ,