I Went to Both the Inauguration & the Women’s March. This is What I Learned.
History is a tricky thing. It’s rare that you can perceive the exact moment a cultural shift occurs while it’s actually happening. Usually the slow, steady, relentlessness of time obscures the importance of events, and it’s not until you look back that you realize “That! That was the moment everything changed”. What happened last weekend was the opposite of that. The impact of what went down was so immediately felt that anyone who knew about it (which was pretty much the entire world) understood that everything was now different.
As I walked out of Donald Trump’s inauguration there was a gaping chasm in my stomach because I had the stark realization that something monumental had just taken place. While I was right, this was the start of a cultural shift, what I didn’t know was that the real monumental moment had yet to occur.
To be honest, it was ridiculous that I was even in D.C. in the first place. Back around Christmas my cousin Barbara had invited to me to meet her for the Women’s March, “Come stir shit up with me we’ll march together and get arrested together and it will be amazing,” she told me over the phone. All I had to do was cover my plane ticket. But when I looked them up, they were all in the $400 range, which was too much considering my stupid fine from the Ethics Commission and the fact that I was also getting audited by the IRS. So I decided not to go.
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About a week into the new year I got a text from SF Examiner reporter and columnist Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez (aka Joe Fitz) that said “I just got word that me and a friend officially got 10 tickets…maybe 30…to the inauguration. We also have a hotel room. Wanna come? Or recommend some Trump rebels who want to stir up the pot?” Suddenly it became opportunity I couldn’t say no to. The tickets were coming from Congresspeople and Senators so we were guaranteed good seats. I’d be close enough to pull some kind of shenanigans, at the actual inauguration. I just had to figure out what that would be…and of course figure out how the hell to get out there.
A few days later I was on Ryan Scott’s radio show on KGO and telling him about my predicament. Ryan being the solid cat that he is said, “Well you’ve gotta go there man! I’ll give you airline miles.” Suddenly, within a few days I had plane tickets, a place to crash, and a ticket to the inauguration. How could I say no to that?
Our crew of people “willing to stir the pot” was amazing. There was Joe Fitz, myself, Captain Katie, Lee Houskeeper, and his son James. Lee is a legendary press agent and man about town in San Francisco who secured our tickets, our hotel room, and kept us fed. He and James (a film producer and martial arts expert) had a tradition of going to inaugurations and Lee being Lee, he wanted to figure out ways to prank some shit (he visited the offices of representatives like Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris and dropped off naked Trump bobble head dolls). Captain Katie was one of the badass veterans who went to support the Water Protectors at Standing Rock. All around our crew was solid as fuck.
The thing about going to the inauguration one day and the Women’s March the next was having the sudden and immense understanding that we actually live in two different Americas. One was mostly white and excited to have a president who they felt was looking out for them because, they too were white and had been left behind in this new economic reality. They were trying desperately to grasp on to whatever was left of their American dream. If they couldn’t go back to when America was “great” at least they could hold on to what they had. These folks were smiling, cheering, and smug, feeling safe in the fact that they thought they won a major victory for all the people who were just like them. They couldn’t see Trump for the lying sociopath that he is and most won’t realize it until its far too late…if they even realize it at all.
The other was diverse, multicultural, and fighting not for a backwards looking America or even one that was holding on to the present. They were looking to the future with hopes of changing this country for the better – though they had different visions as to what that might exactly be. From full blown socialists to moderate Democrats, nearly all the factions on the left finally had a common enemy and a place to direct their anger. Nothing unifies people like hatred, even when that hatred comes from a place of wanting to protect and defend everyone, not just the people who look like you.
Other than Captain Katie (she went to a different protest later in the day) we all arrived at the lawn in front of the Capitol Building around 6am and added to our group was photojournalist Amanda Andrade-Rhoades. We had to get their early; Lee had been to many inaugurations and said they fill up fast. So we got there and waited…and then waited some more. Lee told us that for the Obama inauguration the place had been packed by like 7:30am. For Trump, people didn’t start showing up en masse until 9:30 or 10am. The turn out was weak, trust me, I was there.
And I was there to do one thing. I wanted all the Trump supporters to know that no matter where they went for the next four years, there would be dissent. Once Trump arrived and the ceremony began, I stood up, put my fist in the air, held Shepard Fairey’s “We the People” print from that day’s Washington Post, and stared silently out into a sea of red hats. I got heckled and yelled at and told to sit down but since I really wasn’t doing anything but silently standing there, security didn’t do anything to kick me out. After a few minutes of this I sat back down and once Trump started to speak I left. I couldn’t stomach the rest.
As I left, I put my fist back in the air, held the poster again, and walked through the masses on my way out of the inauguration. I got some stares and some heckling, but the most poignant thing was seeing members of the military and the Secret Service who were people of color, give me knowing looks that said, “I would be with you if I could.” One African-American Secret Service member looked me right in the eyes and nodded at me sending as much solidarity as he was possibly allowed to do.
I ran into my friend Aviva on the walk out and we went to a nearby place to get a bite and a much needed drink. The restaurant was filled with red faced people wearing red hats. As everyone watched the Obamas get on a helicopter and leave DC the woman sitting behind me said, “Sheesh! I wonder which one of their three houses they’re going to. I mean how did they get so wealthy? I bet they’re going to their house in Kenya.”
At that point, after spending hours surrounded by people who were excited about sending America backwards in time by 50 years, I was exhausted and deflated. I didn’t have the energy to ask the woman if she realized how ironic it was that she voted for someone who was born a multimillionaire. I left there dejected, thinking that I had witnessed a crucial turning point in the history of the world and it was a dark and ominous one.
It wasn’t until the next day, when I was at the Women’s March, that I realized I was indeed witnessing a cultural shift, but not the one towards evil that I had first thought. I was witnessing a cultural sea change that might actually save our country and the world.
I don’t have to tell you how incredible the Women’s March was, there’s a very good chance you were at one yourself. We marched and chanted and listened to brilliant speakers. We came out to support not just women but our brothers and sisters who are queer, Muslim, black, brown, disabled, or marginalized in a multitude of other ways. We were in the streets fighting for healthcare and women’s reproductive rights. We were there to struggle against everything Trump stood for. And not only was the world watching and listening, they were marching along beside us. It was magnificent and beautiful and truly gave me hope.
I realized that a cultural shift was happening, right there at that very moment. There were three or four generations of Americans out in the streets in numbers no one had ever seen before. I recognized that Trump and his evil cronies were single handedly going to be responsible for creating some of the most badass artists and activists that had ever existed. A change was actually coming but it wouldn’t come easily. There was a lot of work ahead of us to do, but for the first time in my years of activism, it felt like we might have the numbers and the conviction to actually achieve it.
The funny thing is that almost exactly 24 hours after being in the restaurant full of people in Trump hats, I was in the Thai spot directly next door and it was full of women in Pink Pussy Power hats. Up until that moment I knew that people lived within their own echo chambers and bubbles, but it wasn’t until then that I fully understood that there are really two Americas. On Friday Washington D.C. had been Trump’s town. On Saturday it was ours.
In the past few days since Trump was inaugurated have seen some really dark shit. He’s gunning for women’s rights, immigrants, Muslims, healthcare, and even our National Parks. He’s keeping his word on all the insidious campaign promises he made and not doing any of the ones that might actually do good. The man who claimed he was campaigning for working people turned around and put together a cabinet full of billionaires. He’s a liar, a thief, a sexual predator, a narcissist, and a sociopath. Things are going to get darker and more fucked before they get better, but please know this, they will get better.
Often times when people are dying from a terminal illness, they get a two or three day reprieve right before they die. Their body feels healthy again and it feels like they are bouncing back and recovering. Then shortly afterwards they die. This moment, right now, this is White Supremacy’s bounce back. But what they don’t realize is that this is their last hurrah and soon it will be gone. If the Women’s march showed us anything it’s that there are far more of us than there are of them. The future is ours as long as we stay in this fight and keep on pushing.
Welcome to the Resistance.
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