Respect, like Pennsylvania Avenue, is a two-way street.
—Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas)
Inauguration should be a celebration. But we have nothing to celebrate on Jan 20. Instead of attending, I will be organizing.
—Representative Barbara Lee (D-California)
Remember, tomorrow we are not crowning a king, or bowing down to a dictator. Tomorrow our new employee starts his temp job. We’re the boss. —Audra McDonald
Today will be a tough day, but we can’t throw up our hands in despair. We have to fight back. We are not giving up.
—Senator Bernie Sanders
I wasn’t going to watch the inauguration for many reasons.
- I don’t want to normalize the election of an unscrupulous, self-serving bully—a travesty made possible by the selfish acts of people over centuries
- I don’t want to watch others normalize his presidency—it’s crazymaking
- I don’t want to reward his thuggish behavior with polite ceremony (I’m not the only one)
- I don’t want to feed his bottomless ego by boosting his inauguration viewership
- I certainly don’t want to celebrate the official start of a very dark era in American politics
And I’m not. I didn’t listen to any of the speeches or performances given to honor this dangerous fraud. I didn’t smile at the relatively small but enthusiastic crowds of Americans who descended on Washington to cheer their self-proclaimed champion. I harbor no illusions that today marks a promising new beginning for our country.
However, my pain and grief won’t subside in the dark. I can’t pretend we didn’t inaugurate a new president today. Anyway, ignorance isn’t bliss. So instead of ignoring reality, I watched Donald Trump take the oath of office. I watched to bear witness to this sad, frightening time in history. I watched to confirm that it happened. I watched to remind myself what we’re up against.
I watched Donald Trump—a smug, predatory narcissist—parrot the lines that mark the beginning of each new presidency. I watched Michelle Obama struggle to stay composed in the face of this sickening transition. I watched the comments of countless Twitter users roll in: some delighted, some disgusted, some despairing. I watched myself watching the horror unfold.
And I listened. I listened to Trump’s vile
campaign inauguration speech. I listened to him echo the sentiments of millions of people while gaslighting millions more. I listened to which lies lines elicited cheers from the gathered crowds. I listened to PBS pundits dissect the proceedings while trying to remain somewhat objective.
And I’m glad I did. Protecting our personal comfort at the expense of collective wellbeing is a slippery slope. It’s important to take care of ourselves—avoiding gratuitous political coverage can be healthy, especially when politicians’ lies are triggering. But knowledge is power, and courageous engagement is the only way to overcome the considerable challenges we face. Whenever possible, I hope you’ll brave the discomfort and join me.