It is truly difficult to reduce the events and outcomes of the 2016 Presidential Election to a single lesson, though many have tried.
For myself, clearly one of the top three lessons is that we as Americans have failed to listen to each other. Sure, we listen to those we agree with so that we can bolster our positions the next time we find ourselves at the water cooler or the moral abyss that is the comment section. And sometimes we even listen to opposing positions, so long as we find the weakest flaw in their position, leaving us a prime opportunity to object.
My opinion here is not all-inclusive, there are exceptions to everything, but generally this is what I have noticed, and in hindsight this failure pre-dates the events, debates, stories, and rallies of 2016.
Now it is 2017 and, in couple of days, we as a nation are about to usher in a new chief executive in our nation’s capital. This transition, while expected to remain peaceful, is not expected to be unanimously celebrated. While I understand the appeal to applaud and celebrate the inauguration of President-Elect Donald Trump, for those who believe in none of his publicized and debatable faults and believe in all of his promises regarding trade, immigration, healthcare, and national security, I cannot myself echoing those positions.
I’ll be joining the other crowd on Friday — the crowd without red hats; the crowd who represents those who have not felt represented by the newly-elected president.
Without question, this decision I made in November to travel to D.C. has been met with both skepticism and support. It is important to point out that I am not writing this in order to gather the latter, as I could have achieved that much more efficiently via a short post in my social media bubble. No, I am writing this because, among those skeptical of protesters, I believe there exists a significant portion of Americans who are genuinely curious as to why their friends, neighbors, and peers feel like protesting the inauguration is a worthy cause.
I’m writing this for those Trump supporters whom I believe are willing to listen, a cross-section that deserves to be spoken to, openly and honestly.
And so, in that vein, allow me to answer some of the more common questions I typically get when I tell people I’m headed to DC to protest the inauguration:
What exactly are you protesting?
This might be the fairest of questions.
No, I am not claiming the vote counts were rigged, and no, I am not protesting because Sec. Clinton won the popular vote. (If that were the case, I would have protested in 2000 but didn’t.)
Personally, I am in favor of the Electoral College’s original intent, just not as executed presently — but that is another piece for another time. And no, I am not refusing to acknowledge that the president-elect is in fact our president. Many protesters have adopted these positions, but not me.
I am protesting a campaign and a candidate that knew less and divided more than any candidate in my lifetime. He bullied and name-called throughout the primary and general elections, from “low-energy” Jeb Bush and “little Marco” Rubio to “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz and “Corrupt Hillary” Clinton. When he wasn’t name-calling he was driving wedges between races, classes, and nations.
These things upset me as an adult watching other adults campaign for the highest office in the land.
But that was just the beginning. That was when I believed that he meant what he said. Then came the transition. Mere moments into his transition, he claimed he was going to be a president for all Americans. That caused many Americans to simultaneously do a slow head tilt while watching the victory speech. It was entirely incongruent with the previous year. Days later, on his victory tour, he attempted to diffuse the vibrant and routine “LOCK! HER! UP!” chants by claiming that was only rhetoric and was never a serious goal of his.
Look, I am not trying to highlight Trump’s errors or political gaffes, because both candidates had them and, in many cases, the voters didn’t care. But what I am referencing is a temperament and strategy so unprofessional, and thereby, so unpresidential, that in my opinion cannot be met with unanimous applause on Friday, January 20th.
I am protesting the President Elect’s process of gaining the Office of the Presidency. This is not about Republican or Democrat. No other candidate in my lifetime was a catalyst who continued unsubstantiated controversy.
Beyond the continued questioning of a sitting president’s place of birth, he publicly blamed (without evidence) an opponent’s father for being a conspirator in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
I understand that, online, it’s fun to stir the pot, troll, and occasionally drop half of an argument or simplistic meme while leaving the caption, “I’m just gonna leave this right here…,” but this was and is a man that wants to lead America. Lead us. Lead me… And I take that very seriously.
I understand that some supporters are willing to reduce this to, “he just says mean things,” as a common defense, but I can’t categorize a call to investigate one’s opponent or opponent’s father in the same group of “mean things” as claims that certain news anchors bleed out of unspecified places or statements about opponents who in his opinion resemble horses. So I respectfully disagree that the President-Elect’s antics can be reduced to “saying mean things.”
He has said mean things, but he has also done much more.
Are you trying to convince other to join you?
No. Again, I am only trying to offer one perspective as to why someone might be so concerned that they feel it necessary to protest. I guess you could say I am trying to convince those who are anti-protest (president-elect supporters or not), that not all protesters want to watch the world burn. Some people believe their right to be heard extends beyond the Novembers we hold elections.
If you are indeed disappointed, disenfranchised, or frustrated, I would only try to convince you to react within your means. Follow President Obama’s lead and get offline, and get active. If that means getting tickets to D.C. this week, great. If that means joining rallies in your own city, that’s great too. Perhaps meeting with local union workers and listening to the people who trade affects the most?
I won’t list all of the ways here, just know that even time spent reflecting on what you believe is time well spent.
What does associating with protesters that flip cars, loot, riot, and burn the president-elect’s likeness in effigy achieve?
Not much. But the last six months has challenged me to not think that members of a group represent the worst behavior of that group. For example, I am friends with plenty of President-elect Trump’s supporters, and do not believe any of them have ever non-consensually grabbed women inappropriately.
So, I will be associating myself with protesters who peacefully assemble and exercise their right to free speech without harming others or their property. Furthermore, since I cannot guarantee some people will not take things too far, on either side, I plan to be a member of those doing the right thing, if for no other reason than to increase their numbers.
Don’t you think this is disrespectful?
First, I don’t feel the least guilty in disrespecting a man who, in the eyes of many, disrespected countless people throughout his campaign. However, I have immense respect for the Office, so if I am honest, finding a way to walk the line between being true to myself and appreciating the peaceful transfer of power has weighed heavily on my mind.
I do believe, however, that treating the election as the end of my opportunity to voice either opposition or support is disrespectful to the process. I believe and have been taught that an engaged, informed, and vocal citizenry is vital to America’s success and representative government.
If you don’t like what is going on here, why don’t you move to another country?
This might be my favorite. Some protesters don’t hate their country, and they don’t want to leave. They want to stay, but they want their country to be better.
I may not love where a significant number of people are on issues like women’s health, marriage equality, or race relations, but I love my country. I have served four combat tours serving my country and have invested too much at this point to quit on America.
As a veteran, there have been many years in which my own personal free speech has been chilled for the respect of the unit, tradition, or military law. But not this year. This year I get to fully exercise a right that I earned even though no American is required to earn it. Move? No thanks. We have to move forward together, even if that movement is not in unison. This is a movement I wish to be a part of.
I realize there are more questions and I realize that some people will feel the urge to dissuade me from my intentions, yet there are limits to articles, editorials, and most of all, attention spans. In the end, I hope you can see this for what it is; an opportunity for some to gain a clue about some people they believe “have no clue.”
May we all have a safe inauguration weekend, and a successful and prosperous four years, where no one is left behind or left unheard.