The Inauguration, the Women’s March, and some other things:
1) I went to D.C. with many others to protest the incoming administration and the incoming Congress. On Inauguration Day, a friend and I waited in a line near the Navy Memorial for about four hours to get through security to join a peaceful protest organized by the Answer Coalition. The protest was loud, energetic, and very opposed not just to the incoming administration, but to injustices in general (i.e. mass incarceration, Palestinian oppression, wealth inequality, gender equality issues, climate change, etc.). I didn’t agree with them on every issue, but did agree with them on an overwhelming number of them. Sadly, this administration will likely not do much to address any of these pressing issues that affect hundreds of millions of people, and will likely exacerbate them (I’m always holding out hope for a surprise here, but very reluctantly). I met small business owners, workers, doctors, an accountant, and other professionals at this protest. I’ve seen a lot made of the very small number of destructive and violent protestors. They were not representative of any organized protest, nor of the shear number of protestors in general. There were tens of thousands of us, if not more, who protested the incoming government in a very peaceful manner. The Women’s March was the next day. There was much less security, many more people, and an overall lighter and more pleasant atmosphere.
2) Some common tropes regarding protestors follow (and this is not in response to any single post or conversation I’ve had. These views are probably held by millions, and all of them have been all over social media): a) Violence and destruction should never happen at protests. b) Respect the office of the president. c) why get so worked up, politics never changes my (or your) life.
First a), protesting is a form of political speech. The goal is to express a belief in something you view as a public/political issue. There should always be a goal of being nonviolent in protest. However, as much as we would all like it to be, nonviolence is not an absolute principle. Protests are inherently political, and violence is part of politics. If someone believes their only recourse is violent or destructive means to get their message across, they will become violent. A common argument made by protestors who argue against using violence is that it is the language of the state. If you use it, the state will just use more of it, so what’s the point? Again, this is not a justification for the use of violence in protest, but there are many vulnerable populations in the US and around the world who view violence as the only recourse against perceived injustices or view it as the only way to have their political voice heard. The use of violence does not automatically disqualify someone as being a legitimate protestor. It’s just an ill-advised, and I believe a very stupid, method of protesting.
Second b), the idea that just because a person is the president they deserve any respect of the entire public is just baseless idea: it’s dangerous. Donald Trump is the President of the United States. This is just a fact. Donald Trump ran one of the most vicious campaigns in modern history, attacking Muslims, Mexicans/Hispanics/Latinos, African Americans/Black People, Immigrants and Refugees as a whole, and the list goes on and on. These are also facts. His campaign exploited a deep-seated racism held by some of his supporters (“some,” not all — i.e. the “alt-right” and those sympathetic to those ideals). Many Trump supporters have legit economic reasons as to why they voted for him. Trade has killed millions of jobs in the US over the last two decades, but rabidly attacking immigrants and minorities will not bring back jobs. Immigrants and minorities didn’t write the laws creating the conditions for factories to leave the US en masse. Honestly, most in the incoming administration did or are direct beneficiaries of those trade laws. The irony of Trumps promise to drastically alter trade policies in the US, even if he follows through with it — which is doubtful, will not lessen the impact felt by millions to date and millions more to come. The job killing force of today and the future won’t be shipping US jobs to Canada, Mexico, or China: It will be automation via AI, digitization, and automation. The status quo’s inability or refusal to form policies to relieve the pain and angst felt throughout the deindustrialized US (as well as the UK, France, Germany, etc.) in part created the opening for a guy like Trump to rise. With greater economic security in all places, immigration would not be the inflammatory issue it is today. The paradox is that he will likely not fix the problems with his policies of a renegotiating trade deals, building a wall, mass deportations, etc. (again, holding out hope here). I am very skeptical that a billionaire president with a billionaire cabinet cares about the woes of working people. I will be glad to eat these words if proven wrong. This is essentially why Trump must earn any respect he gets while in office: His campaign put him in a respect deficit with tens of millions and the burden is on him to dig out, not on the groups he targeted with divisive rhetoric to blindly bow down to his authority.
And c), the “politics doesn’t change anything” argument. If you and your family are currently economically secure today, there is a good possibility the same will be true at the end of 4 or 8 years. However, there were roughly 500K Iraqis that were alive in 2000 that didn’t make it to 2008 due to the US invasion under the Bush Administration — a decision that has generally been viewed as disastrous by most. In that same vein, there are thousands of US military personnel who perished in that ill-conceived war too, either in battle or by suicide in the years after the battles. Also, there are millions who are living in dire poverty in the US who rely on the ACA, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security who could die as a result of significant changes to those programs — there have been studies that suggest that republican governors refusal to expand Medicaid under ACA played a heavy hand in the deaths of tens of thousands due to inability to access care. US politics, especially federal politics, affects most of the world. And if Trump’s second day in office address to the CIA in indicative of how he plans to move forward — his foreign policy could result in the deaths of a tremendous number of civilians and massive destruction abroad. Obama killed a ton civilians with a much more reserved view of foreign policy than Trump has outlined. The “backing” he is guaranteeing the CIA, the attempts to delegitimize the US media (which has problems, but still serves a valuable purpose), “eradicating” a very undefined “radical Islamic terrorism,” are all problematic. The rhetoric just opens the door to a brutal foreign policy that you might not even be able to get a straight answer as to how or when it’s operating — and this was somewhat true under Obama too, but Obama’s rhetoric was always much more restrained and his vision of FP was very different than Trumps. It’s like Obama’s ostensible policy of “Don’t do stupid sh*t” is being replaced with “F**k sh*t up.”
3) On the idea that protest is pointless. It’s not. One, the Women’s March is one reason that this admin started talking about crowd size of the inauguration on the first day in office. A series of events that led Press Sec. Spicer to blatantly lied to the press corp and the American public and led Kellyanne Conway to create the term “alternative facts.” Trump and his admin’s ability to blatantly lie should bother everyone. All administrations work to operate in secret — this is not new. This administration is different in the sense that they will work to actively deceive the American public and boldly lie when necessary. Again, the crowd size debate is silly. The fact that two high-level government officials lied so easily about something so stupid is a bad omen for things to come. That was just one small partial outcome of the Women’s March, and many other factors. Protests generally never result in direct government action, but do have long-term impact. What they hope to do over time is change hearts and minds. Create connections for people who attend them. Act as a focal point for organization, future activism, and create a certain optic. Protests and demonstrations gave us universal suffrage, workers rights, expanded disability rights, have put pressure on the US government to end or alter the course of wars, and the list goes on. What becomes of the Women’s March and other similar causes remains to be seen. But if this administration strips millions of healthcare or launches the US into an ill advised war or pursues any number of bad policies — there will be protests and organizing to try influence those decisions or future elections in order to reverse those decisions. Change is constant — and everything affects it — that includes protests, marches, sit-ins, demonstrations, and dissent — along with campaigns and elections.
(Side note: We also did quite a bit of touristy stuff too. Site seeing: Washington’s Mr. Vernon, the Dirksen Senate building — my friend really wanted to see Cory Booker:), visited my cousin in Maryland, and had an overall enjoyable time during the trip out. Even in our very serious, and possibly catastrophic times, gotta continue to have a little fun:))