The Post-Inauguration Weekend 2017

Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for our country. – John F. Kennedy.

Thank you to Barack Obama for your service and your efforts. Thank you to Michelle Obama, and to Joe Biden and to Jill Biden.

For the sake of the country, I hope for the best.

Friday, January 20, 2017 – Donald Trump, the president-elect who had lost the popular vote, officially became president. He’s hardly comparable to Kennedy, at least for the moment, anyway (at minimum: JFK served the country before he became president – serving in war and in the Senate; Trump was a private sector person his entire career, and avoided the Vietnam War, the war of his generation).

There have been other presidents from the City of New York and the state of New York, but I would not compare the new president to Theodore or Franklin D. Roosevelt. The new president isn’t even comparable to former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, a former New York Governor who was a wealthy liberal or progressive Republican (the old-fashioned kind, who switched back and forth between the public and private sectors) and one who was a major philanthropist.

I had nostalgia for 2009,  the days when Obama came in and there was so much hope.  I have to keep hoping; is it so wrong?

I watched the inaugural speech by the new president, making myself do it as a student/witness of history.  I can’t say that I liked it at all.  There were words, but devoid of real hope or – to me – sincerity.  Slate’s Jamelle Bouie noted that by saying “America First,” the new president was really identifying what he thinks is “American” and some kind of domination by that kind of America.

Slate’s Will Saletan noted about the inaugural speech: “On Friday, a morally empty man gave a morally empty speech. There was no talk of humility, no acknowledgment of enduring prejudice, no plea for decency.”  Saletan wouldn’t compare Trump to the last Republican president, George W. Bush, stating, “This is why Trump is unworthy of your respect. It’s not because he didn’t win the popular vote. It’s not because of his party or his policies. It’s not because of Russia. It’s because of who he is. For all his faults, even those that turned out to be disastrous, Bush was a decent man. He believed in something greater than himself. Trump doesn’t.”

I thought that this article by Paul Waldman in the Washington Post, “A Liberal’s to Conservatives on the Occasion of Trump’s Inauguration,” was a worthwhile read.  Waldman, identifying as a liberal who received conservatives’ letters  of “You lost; shut up,” has the following response:

Please, don’t tell us liberals that when we criticize Trump we’re doing terrible damage to the convivial spirit that would otherwise prevail were we not so rude. We’ve heard that baloney before, and it’s pretty rich coming from people who spent the last eight years saying that Barack Obama was a foreign socialist tyrant carrying out a secret plan to destroy America.

So spare us your hypocritical talk of unity, because your champion sure doesn’t believe it. We’ve seen it clearly since the election: once he goes off his teleprompter, we get not even the pretense of unity from Donald Trump. Quite the contrary; he communicates again and again that he has nothing but contempt for those who don’t pay him proper tribute. [….]

You don’t like it when we get angry? Deal with it. We’re angry now, and we’ll stay angry. We’ll be angry when this president and this Congress try to take health coverage from tens of millions and health security from hundreds of millions. We’ll be angry when they try to cut off women’s access to health care, and cut taxes for the wealthy, and slash the safety net. We’ll be angry when they gut environmental regulations, and promote discrimination, and attack voting rights, and remove restraints on Wall Street misbehavior.

I know many liberals who believe this is the end of America as we know it, that Trump is such an authoritarian and so imbalanced that the damage he will inflict on our nation and our world will be impossible to undo. People speak of an unprecedented era of corruption, of a withering attack on all the institutions of democracy, even of a nuclear war brought on by Trump’s unique combination of ignorance and impulsiveness.

I try not to be quite so pessimistic, to keep my fear in check. But only time will tell. And if these next years turn out the way we fear, understand this: We will never allow you to forget what you have countenanced and joined with. The stain of 2016 and everything that is about to follow is on you. You fell behind this man and assented to everything he is. Your hands will never be clean.

And we will fight. We may not win most of the time — with control of the White House and Congress, there is a great deal Republicans will be able to do no matter how much the Democrats or the public object. But we will fight, precisely because we love our country and care about its future. We liberals know well that you like to think that you alone are the “real” Americans and you alone have the country’s true interests at heart. But we stopped submitting to that calumny some time ago.

So I say to my conservative friends: You want liberals to pipe down and get behind our new president? Too damn bad.

I liked Waldman’s points, and I agree.  Honestly, I’m all for unity and consensus, but bottom line is that I don’t care for the language of “you lost, shut up, get over it.” That’s not saying “let’s come together” or “we disagree, but we’re still one country”; that’s shutting down dialog and asserting domination. Disagreement from the party that lost – that’s about loyal dissent – the right to speak up when it sure doesn’t look right. The opposition to the new administration will still need to figure out how to be opposition, but the party that one should not expect easy deference. I have empathy and acknowledgment of others; it’d be nice if they do the same for me.

And, “loyal opposition” is defined as the following, according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary: “a minority party especially in a legislative body whose opposition to the party in power is constructive, responsible, and bounded by loyalty to fundamental interests and principles.” It’s not exactly an idea that’s well-thought of in this country, because it’s more of a British/Commonwealth parliamentary idea.  According to Wikipedia (granted, not the best of resources, but close enough for my purposes), loyal opposition is:

intended to illustrate that Members of Parliament in a country’s legislature may oppose the policies of the incumbent government—typically comprising parliamentarians from the party with the most seats in the elected legislative chamber—while maintaining deference to the higher authority of the state and the larger framework within which democracy operates. The concept thus permits the dissent necessary for a functioning democracy without fear of being accused of treason.

I think that we need to appreciate “loyal opposition” – this is not about people whose patriotism or intentions should be questioned; it’s about people whose views are to be heard and considered, even if we disagree.  It’s tough for everyone to be kind to each other, when things are tough. But, a little respect or empathy or acknowledgement of each other could go a long way.  See here for NPR’s Scott Simon’s asking for Americans to find respect of each other – and if the new president could make that possible.  It’s a lot to ask, but it’s nice to hope for this.

Greg Popovich, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs (and former intelligence officer of the US military, said, on Saturday, January 21, 2017, “I just wish [the new president] was more … had the ability to be mature enough to do something that really is inclusive, rather than just talking and saying, ‘I’m going to include everyone.'”

Inclusion. Unity. Optimism. Hope – it sounds a little crazy, but “hope” is a word that says a lot.  On Saturday, January 21, 2017, I saw hope when I watched on the news, including on Gothamist, or through Facebook the Women’s Marches all over the world and in New York City – and Washington DC. Here’s a link to the NY Times’ coverage, including what was going on in New York City, on what happens next.

See here for more photos of the march in New York City from Gothamist.

See here from NPR on the story of the pussyhats. I remembered catching a story about women making the pussyhats on tv. It was really nice to see such positive spirit over a word that might not have been that comfortable a word to employ… language being what it is (and no thanks to a new president, that is). Regarding the marches, NPR also had photos from DC and the world.

Slate has some photos on the great signs from the marches.

I might be a little overboard with my attempt at resistance by referring to Trump as “president-elect” or “the new president” – but I guess that I’ve been trying to process what has been going on in American politics, and will bear the brunt of this (let alone Facebook).  I’ll go back to my usual pop culture/whatever stuff soon enough, and go back to trying to keep away from politics. But, hope is where we can find it.  Keep hope alive.


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