February 15, 2017
Story originally written and experienced: January 19th-January 20th, 2017
I told her I had to know everything.
And she promised she’d let me know.
Savanna began unpacking her belongings at the desk across from mine.
She was new to our team, and in an effort to learn more about her—I just asked. She smiled and said she had just transferred from another team, and also, she was going to be out of the office for a couple of days soon…
“Oh nice, are you going on vacation?” I inquired.
“Sort of…” She said. “Not really.” Then her voice lowered. “My husband is in politics…and he got free tickets to the presidential inauguration in D.C….and I…I was invited to go with him.”
Everyone looked up from their computers. Stunned.
For a couple of reasons:
1. At the opportunity.
2. At the pressing curiosity of…was she a supporter?
I didn’t blame her low tone.
She was in an environment saturated with democratic beliefs—my own included—and though she is an Independent, her announcement of attendance could have signaled otherwise.
Even if she was.
Would she have felt suddenly and emotionally judged and unsafe…if she did confess?
It seems like declarations of any sort these days are met with either extreme praise or pitchforks.
But I understand why.
It’s because of the insane influx of media that has turned into an absolute fReNzY. Every statement, tweet and public announcement is left up to us to decide what is and is not completely true, right or wrong, allowed or illegal.
That’s why I wanted to know everything.
The raw details of her experience—especially coming from a genuine spectator. Someone who would be >> i m m e r s e d << in the crowds, the chanting, and even the eventual applause. What did the nitty-gritty and unedited vibe feel like on this historical day?
The day the most controversial candidate of all time would be sworn in as the President of the United States.
I wanted to know everything—so I just asked her.
And she promised she’d let me know.
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Fast forward >>
II Play II
The minute Savanna was back back at her desk across the way there was already a lunch invitation waiting in her inbox. It read “Inauguration Catch Up?”. From: Me.
She accepted the invitation, and at noon on a Thursday, we ordered brisket Mac and Cheese and a massive salad and posted up in a conference room near our newly acquainted desks. She was ready to
And I was ready to listen.
“So on the day of the inauguration,” I started, laptop open with a blinking bar waiting on a Word doc ready for me to type, “we tried to live stream it in the office, but it was too emotional for some, so we had to shut it off—we wanted to be respectful.”
“Mmmhmm. And I wanted to watch it again later, but instead, I decided I wanted to hear it from you first.”
“Well I have a lot to tell you.”
“Amazing. That’s exactly what I hoped you say.”
“Where do you want me to start? The welcome concert, the actual inauguration, the inauguration ball?”
“You went to all three?!”
“Wow, okay. Let’s go in order then. The welcome concert…I know there was a lot of controversy on artists refusing to play. What were the vibe and fellow spectators like?”
“Well for the starters, the welcome concert was absolute chaos from beginning to end. It was at the Lincoln Memorial.
Security was insane, and there were these volunteers running around with ironically blue beanie caps that you could tell had no idea what they were doing. I don’t think it was their fault…Something tells me they were told 15 seconds ago where they were supposed to be. But because of that, everything was a mess.
Get this though.
While we were waiting in line to get into the concert, there was a group of ladies in front of us. And to preface this story, they were Trump supporters. One of the women made small talk with us from time to time and at one point told us that she was a principal, and she was all about order, and because of that, would make sure no one would cut us in line. She brought that up because people were pouring in from eVeRyWhErE. They were impatient. We had been waiting in line for over an hour and no one had moved a single step. So it started getting more chaotic, and people were trying to cut in line
<< left and right >>.
And eventually, this woman, this principal, had had enough.
She steps out of line and I kid you not, she said, “Fuck it, WE’RE GOING TO BUILD A WALL!” and she grabbed her group of friends and they linked arms and created a barricade so
“That almost feels too scripted to be true.”
“I can’t make this shit up.”
“So once you got in, where did you go? How was it set up?”
“We were lucky enough to have a seat, but there were two sections—GA and seated. As far as the performances go…it was weird. 3 Doors Down played, and there was also a segment where 3 country singers were singing each other’s songs and I wasn’t sure why. I didn’t know if that was the plan, or if it was because they couldn’t get their entire bands to participate. But what I remember most was this drummer and he had this…sphere of drums that he played on. DJ Ravidrums is what he goes by.
I felt like his main job was to fill the awkward moments, and there were a lot. It was either dead silent or people were talking amongst themselves and not paying attention. During his finale, this troop came out wearing these spandex silver onesies and space hats while playing clear drums. Everyone was instantaneously confused.
We may not have all had the same political beliefs, but one thing we did have in common was that we were all…really…confused.
I even looked over at Trump and Melania and they had the exact same look on their faces.
Also, every time Trump would come up to the podium to speak he would have the crowd fill in the blank at the end of all of his speeches so it would be like ‘and we’re going to_______’
And the crowd would chant ‘Make America Great Again!’“
The weather was cold. All the streets were blocked off.
And this same vibe carried over to
The actual inauguration.
We woke up early to get in line. It, again, was a shit show. We were technically standing pretty close to the front, but because of how big the crowd was, we ended up pushed back and behind a tree.
It’s funny because we were technically really close, but the volume of people was so large we had to look at a big screen to see anything.”
“What were the people around you like?”
“Well we were sandwiched between both political groups actually. In front of us, there was a group of super gung-ho Trump supporters. Behind us, there were democrats holding “Love Trumps Hate” and “Not My President” signs. Some people actually tried to climb the tree in front of us so they could see it better. Even more dramatic, a majority of the crowd booed when Hillary came out:
So awkward. And every time they p a n n e d to her on the big screen, people booed even more. That saddest part was, all this booing went on right after the intro speech that ended with, ‘we need to reunite our nation.'”
“Oy, how did she look?”
“Uncomfortable…really uncomfortable. I mean, who wouldn’t when someone is booing your name?
“I don’t think anyone knew what to feel standing there. People were screaming the opposite things so loud that they canceled each other out.
One side was chanting ‘Trump!’
While the other side ‘Love Trumps Hate!’.
And every once in a while both sides would accidentally sync up with each other and the right-wingers would emphasize the ‘Trump’ in ‘Love Trumps Hate‘ and they panicked when they realized. It was actually kind of funny.”
“Oh man…I bet…Where did the chanters go afterwards?”
“Everywhere. The next day, passionate people were swarming the streets. Dancing while they protested:
And at one point I stood in Chinatown for a while amazed by a never-ending train of democrats screaming over and over again, ‘This is what democracy looks like!’
It was mesmerizing.”
“Was the crowd just as divided at the actual inauguration ball?”
“Not necessarily. I’d say most people there were supporters and 5% were there for the experience, like us.”
“Where was it held?”
“The Walter E. Washington convention center.”
“Tell me more about the decor.”
“Interestingly enough, there were hardly any decorations. And get this, there were no chairs or tables either.”
“What? So where did people sit or hang out?”
“It was a totally open space that people were just wandering around in. Nothing to lean on. Nowhere to comfortably congregate. It was interesting. At one point I saw bagpipers? I guess I imagined being a part of history would feel more a little more monumental, a little more epic.”
“How do you think the whole experience made you feel?”
“It was cool to be a part of history. But…somehow I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere.”
“What do you mean?”
“While I was there I just kept thinking ‘Okay, I’m here and this is happening and I get to be here and witness it live, regardless of if I agree with who’s in office or not.’ But then I realized, it just felt like uncomfortable chaos, and the entire city was affected by it…It was contagious. Thing is, I went there knowing what my political beliefs were, but while I was there, I was surprised to find I couldn’t comfortably stand on any side.”
“Why do you say that?”
“There just wasn’t a unified voice…anywhere. My heart broke when I saw all these signs about love at the women’s march, and then saw the people holding them screaming ‘fuck you’ in Trump supporters’ faces as they walked by. But then again, republicans are giving a speech about unity and booing at Hillary. Both sides believe in unity, just not in the same way. I guess that’s the problem—the reason polarization in our nation is the highest level it’s ever been in history.”
I appreciated what Savanna said, and I appreciate it a lot.
Because what she said were witnessed facts.
People are screaming outside, on newsfeeds, in articles, on T.V., and at each other loudly for what they believe in. And I appreciate the passion.
And I get it.
Emotionally, I’m very much a part of it.
I cried a lot on election night.
That I’ll completely admit.
But since then, a new reality has formed. We’ve found ourselves in this gruesome stale mate. People are unfriending others, internet trolls are out to play, and the definition of ‘unity’ is dicier than ever. One side is
claiming to make things great again, while the other side is terrified of losing the great fundamentals we already have.
Greatness is what we all want.
Unity is what we need.
But second definitions of each are something we just didn’t expect.
So what do we do?
Stay informed. Stay smart. Stay passionate. Behave with reason, act with reason, and listen with reason too—especially to opinions that rub yours the wrong way. It’ll fuel your passion and give you invaluable insight as to why you feel the way you do, and why others are also staying true to their beliefs. Invest in that willingness to understand—not necessarily agree—but to just understand, and let it be the one definition of unity and greatness that this nation can agree on.