It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
It was two days in January where two worlds threatened to collide.
Alternative lifestyles and alternative truths co-mingled. But the two worlds didn’t so much clash as coexist. Inauguration weekend 2017 in Washington DC was a tale of two cities.
It was a weekend of light and it was a weekend of darkness.
A Tale of Two Hats
Inauguration weekend pussyhats and trucker hats co-mingled. Patriots both, red hatted “America First” Americans walked among progressive, pink pussyhatted marchers. Even without talking, they knew which team they were on.
I arrived by design in D.C. late Friday afternoon. I would miss the inauguration of Donald Trump, sealed in the bubble of my Greyhound bus surrounded in solidarity by other marchers headed down from N.Y. to the Capitol to protest.
Departing the bus at a bustling Union Station, my friend Karen Gutfreund and I walked out into a red sea of Make America Great Again hats. Streets vendors were busy hawking the de’ rigor red caps along with T-shirts and buttons that screamed “Bitch, I’m President.”
On card tables on nearly every street corner, the newly elected president’s face looked out from just about everything that could stay still. All-American, patriotic mugs, T-shirts, tote bags, posters, calendars, buttons and hats all made in Bangladesh or Vietnam, all vied for attention.
I was surrounded by a crush of ebullient Trump supporters here for the inauguration, a cheerful celebratory bunch of pasty-faced people decked out in Trump merchandise head to toe.
These believers, in their polyester fleece pullovers emblazoned with the official Trump inaugural logo and the USA! Tees all brought from the official Trump Store (and why not? Donald Trump was offering 25% off merchandise for his first 100 days) all believed in their hearts America was on the wrong track and only Mr. Trump alone could make America Great Again; they had no doubt that this billionaire with the beautiful family had the best interest of the country at heart.
They had bought Mr. Trump’s sales pitch for himself as easily as they bought his tacky merchandise.
Along with the masses of travel-weary women departing incoming trains and buses with the military precision of an invading army, were the droves of Trump loving women already here for the inauguration.
The diversity of black, white and brown women arriving for Saturday’s March, made their way through the crowds juggling their rolled up protest signs while maneuvering their American Tourist wheelies packed with their pink pussyhats, as they jostled with doughy white women in mom jeans and American flag sweatshirts.
Carrying their official tote bags with the gold seal of the 45th president close to their sides, their obligatory made in China red caps perched on their permed hairs, these were the same women who had only hours earlier cheered our new president who called for us to “Buy American and Hire American”
Among all the tacky merchandise, irony was in short supply.
I looked on with curiosity. These women were part of the 53% of white women who had voted for Trump.
These were the same women who were now high fiving one another who had only hours before cheered on a sexual predator as President. They had most likely spent the day at the National Mall watching and applauding the very inauguration I had purposely avoided acknowledging.
At high noon as Donald Trump placed his tiny hands on Lincoln’s bible, the mood in my Greyhound bus was still.
There were no cheers, just sighs and bitter silence. I sat in solitude with a group of once upon a time strangers now connected in solidarity who were simarly fed up with the Trump agenda that threatened the welfare of women, immigration LGBTQ rights, and through his climate denia,l the very health of the planet itself.
There was, at high noon, mainly deep determined silence.
But here now in D.C. was another group of women decked out in their $16.95 Trump red caps. These were women who saw a successful business man as savior, a strong man who would fix what was broken.
These women looked past the threat Trump poses to women, past the pussy grabbing past, his call to punish women who have abortions, past his misogynist name calling, the body shaming. The racism. The xenophobia.
Did they look past it I wondered, or welcome it? It was hard to say.
With pink pussyhats packed away for tomorrow, we walked peacefully among the others.
Tomorrow was our chance to be heard.
Nasty Women Infiltrate
As the daytime ballyhoo dispersed, the celebration continued through the evening with a decidedly better heeled crowd, exchanging Sketchers for Manolo Blaniks. By nightfall the limousines were out in full force as the dozens of official and unofficial inaugural parties began in hotel ballrooms across the city. A day of despair for me was a day of triumph and celebration for the billionaires’ supporters.
Prowling the streets with my friend Karen we watched with curiosity as the spectacle unfolded before us. Tuxedoed men and bedazzled women scurried their way through mazes of concrete barriers to reach their prize for an evening of 3rd rate entertainment and red, white and blue cupcakes served on plastic plates.
As the evening wore on we marveled at the legion of Trump supporters in the throes of their victory lap, limping in their tight Jimmy Choos, staggering through darkened D.C. streets in Carolina Herrera ball gowns, their men folk in well-cut Tom Ford Tuxedos all in search of GOP comradery and one last round of drinks.
Watching the spectacle of late night revelers wobble into the W Hotel for one last party, it became irresistible to not participate. Karen and I glanced at one another with scheming looks. We two socially progressive artist activists decided it was time to go under cover as card-carrying Trump supporters and infiltrate the other side. For one evening we would enter an alternative universe.
The celebration at the W’s rooftop lounge was less official but no less Republican. Bravely we weaved our way through the red velvet ropes in the hotel lobby as we headed for the rooftop crawling with Trump supporters. Undeterred by being woefully underdressed among these other gussied up GOP guests, we waltzed in with a brazen air of confidence, admitted into this rarefied world of Republicans by the mere privilege that blonde hair and blue eyes bestow.
We were ready to Make America Great Again.
Quickly snagging some signature red caps that were strewn about, we insinuated ourselves into the crowd. Approving nods soon followed along with, high fives and thumbs up all by virtue of wearing this cheap red hat made in Vietnam.
“Nasty Women” had successfully penetrated a Republican party.
It’s Trump Time Baby!
The room reeked of entitlement. The very personification of the kind of elitism Trump vowed to eradicate from Washington.
Some revelers were refugees of the official ball fortresses, some from state sponsored parties, a diverse crowd of rich white people mingling with richer white people, all taking selfies and proudly posting pictures of earlier encounters with Caitlyn Jenner at the Liberty Ball. The only real celebrity of the night, it did not spare her from the cruel mocking jokes I would overhear later.
Trump Boys Will Be Boys
With the Russian vodka flowing, these red-blooded men in red trucker hats topping off their satin peaked lapel Hugo Boss tuxedos were on the prowl, licking their chops in victory and entitlement like a Superpac of wolves.
Like heat seeking missiles looking to score it didn’t take long before some happy warriors zeroed in on our own red caps and obvious availability.
Grab Em By The Pussy!
The groping would have made our “grab em by the pussy” new president proud as a peacock.
Never taking no for an answer…It’s Trump time baby...they unabashedly and freely fondled us amongst cheers erupting around thru the room.
Don’t You Want Me Baby
The music was at ear-splitting decibels and in a burst of Reagan era nostalgia, the electronic sound of Human League’s 1981 hit started blaring and the room burst into dancing and singing.
It wasn’t long before an overweight county supervisor from upstate N.Y. grabbed me to the dance floor. Pressing his oversized and unwelcome pelvis into mine, he sang along boisterously yet plaintively “Don’t You Want Me” the song eerily foreshadowing the oversize insecurities of our newly elected president whose gaping, wounded ego would be on full display the next day, begging us to like him.
You know I don’t believe you. When you say that you don’t need me.
You’d better change it back or we will both be sorry. Don’t you want me baby.
After embraces were rebuffed and sexual advances repeatedly declined, my dance partner whose tender ego mimicked our new Presidents, sneered at me derisively and spit out what he thought would be a cruel retort: “You look like a liberal!” and stormed away.
My integrity intact, it was time for this “Nasty Woman” to leave.
This is What Democracy Looks Like
On Saturday I stepped into another America and we embraced one another. The Woman’s March was democracy at its best.
Walking into the crammed National Mall filled with hundreds of thousands of people who simply rejected the racist, sexist, xenophobic Trump agenda was an instant balm to the despair that had been my new normal for the past several months.
As far as the eye could see, I was enveloped by a vast blanket of pink and brown, black and white, a sea of diversity and solidarity, one voice with many issues.
A massive expanse of women and men and children, their pink pussyhats bobbing in a sea of protest choosing freedom over fear.
Saturday we became a red white and pink nation at the Woman’s March.
These pink pussyhats made right here in American homes in kitchen and living rooms and dens across the entire country by grandmothers and mothers and daughters, the colors of the hats ranging from mauve to powder pink, as diverse as the women who would wear them. These pink woolen hats a part of the Pussyhat project were a product of good ol’ American ingenuity made right here in the USA with American know how and a bundle of pink yarn, a set of knitting needles and women who wanted to be heard.
Across the country women came hundreds and thousands of them, by planes and trains and automobiles. All showing up to drown out Trump and have their voices heard. Some driving straight through the night from the heartland for 18 hours straight, with no sleep arriving blurry eyed but energized; they came by the boatload on crowded buses and trains of solidarity among strangers who quickly became sisters.
There were no walls that day, no boundaries between gender or class, color, or creed. There was comradery and compassion so that a Trans tax attorney from Brooklyn peacefully mingled with a meat packer from Kansas, war-weary veterans of marches past thier spirits ignited once again, their sparkling eyes wise and knowing, rubbed shoulders with wide-eyed millennials in their first ever march. They were all there as a repudiation of what Trump is about, walking boldly together, as together we enter dangerous territory.
The march was a show of force, proof that for however many people are happy about Trump’s inauguration and that number is far smaller than he or his press secretary would have you believe, many more are unhappy.
At the same time I marched in Washington it was empowering to know that across the country and around the globe people were showing up to drown out Trump too.
I was so proud to be part of this patriotic crowd of unified voices and diverse agendas, melded, supported and enhanced by one another.
We will be watching. We will continue to make and keep America great.
Keep your hands off our democracy!
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2017.