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The Day That Changed The Free World: The Inauguration of President Donald Trump

The Day That Changed The Free World: The Inauguration of President Donald Trump

Eight years ago, on January 20, 2009, I sat trembling and nervous, about to watch history unfold. As suggested by our manager, we left the office and headed to a nearby bar to witness the televised showing of the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President of the United States. Our pride exploded in hugs and tears because to us, that day, our country symbolised something we had never truly thought it would. America had the world on her side – as solidarity celebrations commenced overseas – because this seemed like real change for the better.  

Fast-forward to today, January 20, 2017. This time, however, things couldn’t have been more different. This was the day that nobody had believed possible. Donald J. Trump was about to be sworn in as the 45th US President.

In the weeks leading up to his inauguration, The Donald and his camp hadn’t received the most welcoming reception or support from many individuals; even across party lines. Protests and other acts of civil disobedience were planned in efforts to reiterate that nearly half of this country still refuses to accept the outcome of the election. Superstars in the arts community engaged in acts of resistance by refusing to participate in the inaugural ceremony, leaving organisers desperate to find anyone who would.

“He’s going to have a lot of trouble his first year.” This was a fairly common sentiment overheard in a discussion between two neighbours in Brooklyn. The other continued: “Why does everyone but us, Americans, know about him [Trump]? The whole world knows about him. I fought for this country! America is not ready for an emperor”. The other nodded pessimistically and continued: “He has something going on with Russia. This shouldn’t have ever gotten this far! He should’ve been in handcuffs. For treason. Anyone else who’d done less would be in handcuffs. The rich shouldn’t have that much power. It didn’t work for the Romans. It won’t work for us. We have Russia, China and North Korea watching us.”

And like these two ordinary New Yorkers, the rest of New York City was watching Donald Trump.

My daily commute began as the city seemed to be eerily calm. It was uncharacteristically pleasant. There was a general sense of peacefulness; almost as if people were deliberately working up to it. It seemed that quite a few didn’t want to tune in, though. Several commuters were listening to music intently, reading books, and taking deep breaths, while for others, it was just business as usual. I did notice one gentleman reading about Trump in the paper, then he naturally moved on to reading other things. There appeared to be an overt lack of interest or response. At Fulton transit hub, a man on the phone asked the person on the other end, “What day is it again?”

At 10 am, over breakfast in Union Square, other patrons were discussing everything else but the presidency. I finished up my meal after eavesdropping on discussions of job offers, relationships and business plans. There was absolutely nothing political.

A subway ride to Trump Tower was likewise dramatically uneventful. There wasn’t any evidence of a sense of urgency anywhere I’d been thus far. I was on my way to attend a politically planned protest against the Trump presidency. Some New York City politicians had organised it to take place at his golden tower in Midtown East. Upon arrival, I stood in observance, taking in the crowd. A few people had signs displaying slogans such as, “Mourning America” and “Russia is waiting for you.” The event was also an opportunity for monetary gain, with others selling paraphernalia like badges.

It was early enough to really get a sense of whose side everyone was on, and the Trump side was extremely light. I’d identified three Trump supporters in total, and only two of them were openly displaying their support. A third was from a media outlet and had to appear unbiased. I took the opportunity to approach John, 60, a Trump supporter and native New Yorker, who now resides in New Jersey.

Upon asking him how he felt about being one of the few Trump supporters in attendance, he explained that it was why he had come in the first place. He’d expected it and wanted to be present for his selected candidate. “He’s not the same. He’s different. And we have to give him [Trump] a chance,” he said.

On his thoughts about the United States’ bipartisan political system and where he felt President Trump fits into it, he explained, “Donald Trump is neither Democrat nor Republican. He’s just his own person. And that’s what I like. He’s not a politician. He has this big building. He must be doing something right. He’s going to make America good.”

For the other Trump supporter, making America “good” inevitably touched upon poverty reduction and immigration, two issues that had been key in the election. “Taking care of here. There are people with no place to sleep here. They have homes infested with rats. We can’t have people coming here the wrong way [illegally], not standing in line to get the right paperwork sorted out. The money and jobs that go to supporting people who didn’t come here the right way, can go to citizens who are struggling.” I asked if he’d be prepared to back another candidate in 4 years if President Trump fell short. He said he “absolutely would”, but “we have to have hope.”

I’d left the protest with a lot to think about. Are our lives going to change? Have they changed dramatically under any other administration? The lesson I’ve learned from all of this so far is that we have to be the change we want to see. Those who are dissatisfied are seizing the opportunity to try to transform the situation. Those who are satisfied are staying true to their beliefs. This resilience lends them the courage to change what they can. That is the essence of New York City.

While waiting for the bus home, I’d also overheard a middle-aged man commenting. “So, it’s president Trump now”, he said. ” I hate to sound this way, but the nightmare is over.” He went on to express how no one at the protest had had a “not my president” attitude. How everyone he’d seen seemed a little afraid, but ultimately, hoped that the President would do a good job. And they were all Democrats, too.

I thought back to John. Upon parting with him, he’d said that maybe we’d run into each other again in a few months’ time. That maybe I’d tell him that everything was OK. That we’d both feel everything is OK. 

One can only hope. Because, here we are now.

 

Written by Keturah McCottry,

Contributor

Artwork by Todd Atticus for XXY Magazine

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