Back on the main road, I arrived at the police checkpoint for non-ticketed spectators and joined one of the slow-moving lines. I would stand on this line for 80 minutes. Surrounded almost entirely by Trump supporters.
I spent most of the time pretending to be fascinated by my phone. This is truly the greatest invention in human history: the portable antisocial device. I’m trying to remember what we did before iPhones. Did we talk to people? That can’t be right. Anyway, the tedium was broken up by 3 bizarre events:
- An interview of a German woman by a German TV station.
For reasons I can’t explain, the entire interview was in English with thick German accents. They began with a friendly discussion about the towns they grew up in. This exchange followed:
“Are you excited about today?” asked the reporter.
“Oh, yes,” the interviewee answered. “I am so happy Donald Trump is going to be our next president.”
“And why are you so happy about that?”
“He’s going to make everything better.”
“How, um, how do you think he will make everything better?”
The woman beamed. “I am so happy about today. Everything will finally get better.”
“Right, no, right, but I’m asking how. How do you think will he make everything better?” The reporter held out the microphone.
Enunciating for the reporter, the woman said, “Donald Trump will make America great again.”
I took a few steps away as a precaution in case the reporter’s brain exploded.
- A couple of Christians agree that Islam is a false religion and wonder why Muslims don’t like it when they reveal “the truth” about the prophet Muhammad.
This was a fairly hateful conversation and I’ve already repressed most of it, but I remember the conversation ended with this line:
“I know if I had false beliefs that I based my entire life on, I’d want someone to tell me.”
No, dear. I don’t believe you would.
- Greta Van Susteren gives the crowd a box of donuts.
The Trump supporters in front of me went absolutely wild when she did this. You’d have thought she was Oprah giving out cars. They kept calling out “Thanks, Greta!” whenever she came near. This happened repeatedly for well over ten minutes.
“Thanks, Greta!” “Thanks, Greta!” “Hey, thanks, Greta!”
Greta, for her part, completely ignored them. Seriously, not even a wave. I thought the crowd might turn on her, but the more she refused to acknowledge their existence, the gushier they got.
“I love her. Greta’s so great. Thanks, Greta!” “Greta, over here. Thanks, Greta!”
At first I found Greta’s behavior horrible because I generally view dickishness that way, but after some thoughtful consideration I’ve changed my mind. She’s the cool girl everyone wants to take to the prom. The more she ignored the boys, the more they wanted her. And repeatedly embarrassed themselves.
Well played, Greta.
After I made it past the metal detectors and a seemingly endless row of porta potties, I turned south in search of a passage to the National Mall. On the way I caught the end of a confrontation between a red-hatted Trump supporter and a yellow-boarded protestor. The Trump supporter towered over her and flailed one hand while he held his phone in the other to record the exchange. The petite protestor refused to back down, sparring back verbally until the man turned away with an angry laugh.
While I was too far away to hear the conversation, this did not strike me as a respectful exchange of ideas. I wound up following the guy, although not intentionally. Pennsylvania Avenue was barricaded, and we only had one direction to go toward the inauguration.
On the way, I passed by the one group of people that always brings liberals and conservatives together in joint contempt: the Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas. They were barricaded in, most likely for their own protection. Each member carried 4 signs each because, let’s face it, 2 or 3 signs couldn’t possibly communicate a sufficient level of hate.
I made it to the barricade on 6th St and stood at the corner with several other people. We asked the police when we could pass and they admitted that they had no idea.
“We opened the street for 10 minutes a little while ago. We’ll let you know when we have the okay again.”
A guy came out of Capital Grille holding five pizzas. He told everyone that he was at the Newseum when his buddies sent him out for lunch and now he was trapped here with the rest of us. He tried to get the police to let him pass, but they did not view cold pizza as a sufficiently high priority.
I settled against a barricade and took what would be my only photo of the actual inauguration, one hour before it started (look all the way to the left):
I waited for another twenty minutes as an irritated crowd expanded and compressed behind me. Only then did I recognize the man standing next to me in a khaki camo jacket as the red-hatted Trump supporter from the altercation earlier. He took out his phone and posted the video of his exchange with the yellow-boarded protestor on Facebook. Then he typed out this caption:
“What a cuntbag.”
That was the last straw for me. I came here to witness the peaceful transfer of power, an event that truly makes America great, one of many defining moments in the mostly successful American experiment. Instead, I had witnessed dogmatic ignorance, smug intolerance, and hostile sexism. This was my own fault, I suppose. I had wandered too close to the epicenter of bigotry and hate.
I bolted the hell out of there.
Next post: Clown! Scenes from the Trump Inauguration
To read the series from the beginning, go to Blog posts
About me: I am a Maryland-based physician that writes under the pen name David Z Hirsch. Check out my YouTube channel for videos on common medical conditions
and my best-selling novel, Didn’t Get Frazzled, an entertaining and provocative story about life and love in medical school.