Once the inauguration ceremony ended, I moved away from the speaker and sat on the ledge across from the barricades to eat my lunch. The area soon filled with protestors, and I stood on the ledge with them to secure my place to watch the parade.
I would stand there for the next 3 hours:
During that time, Trump supporters trickled by. Those who had made it to the National Mall entered the stands set up on the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue, but those who had never made it past the barricades walked on the north side where they had no choice but to mingle with the rest of us.
As sociology experiments go, I could not have set this up better myself. Here are my findings. The interactions fell into 3 categories:
- Reasonably pleasant
While most Trump supporters walked past us like they had wondered into the lion’s den, uncertain the bars on the cages were secured tightly enough, a few actually stopped to enjoy the signs. I saw several requests for photos, and the protestors always complied with good cheer. The man holding the (somewhat doctored) photo of a shirtless Putin and Trump snuggled together on horseback was particularly popular.
This is the sort of thing that gives one hope for the fate of humanity. That is, of course, only if you ignore the other two categories.
- Combative but not horrible
A Trump supporter came up to a group of protestors to express his views on the Affordable Care Act (the ACA, soon-to-be-formerly known as Obamacare). Eventually, one of the protestors stepped off the ledge and these two debated the issue for a solid half hour. See if you can guess which man supported which side. You might be surprised.
Okay, I’m kidding. You won’t be surprised. The large gentleman on the left, the one with morbid obesity putting him at high risk for diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, stroke, heart attack, sleep apnea, and multiple cancers, argued against universal health care. The young, fit guy on the right argued for it.
Watching this debate was like reading the comments section after any political article on the internet: mind-numbingly pointless. I will give these two some credit. Unlike most comments sections, their discussion avoided yelling or personal insults. Like most comments sections, their discussion changed nobody’s position in the slightest and didn’t end until long after it should have.
- Combative and absolutely horrible
I only saw two examples that fit this category. Considering I stood there for three hours, I suppose this really isn’t that bad. Right? I suppose it helps to have low expectations.
First, a group of 3 young, white, male Trump supporters who looked like they had stumbled out of a bar (this was at approximately two in the afternoon) passed us bearing angry scowls. One guy held up his fingers in an L shape and shook it at us. I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to put the L on your forehead if you want to sign “Loser” but given his coordination difficulties, I may be expecting too much.
We all ignored them.
A short while later a group of 4 young, white, male Trump supporters stormed past with looks of absolute horror and disgust. Here’s a smattering of the offending signs they had passed:
Their agitation reached a fever pitch by the time they came to the part of the ledge where I stood. One loudly declared to the others, “All the anti-Americans.”
I think this is the most important fallacy of the day and certainly one worth discussing. It’s facile but common to declare anyone with opposing views as not truly American. During the George W. Bush presidency, Fox News accused anyone who opposed to the Iraq War as working against America. During the Barack Obama presidency, the left often dismissed the Tea Party as racist crazies and, therefore, not relevant to America.
Sadly, that was equally untrue. No one knew at the time where a movement sporting agitated older white folks with a disturbingly poor grasp of reality holding racist anti-Obama signs would end up. But now we do. They would elect President Donald J. Trump.
Okay, that just depressed me. Here’s my antidote: a man holding a papier-mâché Donald Trump devil.
And a woman with one of the more hopeful signs of the afternoon.
Is it wrong that I think that Trump fish is adorable? Don’t tell Melania. Kind of makes you want to buy a tank and feed that thing truth pellets, right? If only.
At around 3:30, the first marching band reached us, and I realized there was no way I was going to see the actual parade thanks to the abundance of protest signs. I gave up my spot and mingled with the crowd.
Sometime later, the speakers announced the arrival of our new president.
I saw footage the next day that showed President Trump walking in the parade past supporters and half-empty stands. This must have been early in the parade route. By the time he made it to the National Archives Building, just under a mile from the Capitol, he was safely ensconced in his limo, racing past the angry crowd of shouting protestors like he was being smuggled out of East Germany.
Boos alternated with cheers. And I mean that literally – this was a gospel call and response: “Boo!” “Yay!” “Boo!” “Yay!” We were calling out to each other as much as to the blur of limos. There were so many opportunities for violence among passionate individuals, but none occurred. We coexisted. I take solace in that.
By executive order, President Trump would proclaim January 20, 2017 as A Day of Patriotic Devotion. I’m not comfortable with the word Devotion – that makes Donald Trump sound a bit too much like Kim Jong-un for my tastes – but the rest of it is true. I saw patriots on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue. Cheering or booing, we made our opinions known, and this is crucial to any functioning democracy.
It’s easy and understandable for the majority of the country (and, let’s face it, the majority of the world) to despair, but it’s better and more useful for us to rise up instead and make our voices heard.
I’ll let the former president and current icon of hope have the last word. Thanks for reading this, everybody!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my 6-part series on Scenes from the Trump Inauguration: Sad! Weak! Pathetic! Clown! Terrible! Loser! How remarkable that our president’s childish Twitter insults so perfectly define him…
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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.