Unexpected!        Inauguration Day in DC

Inauguration Day didn’t turn out at all as I expected. I had a ticket for the Museum of African American History and Culture that morning. I hitched a ride with my daughter-in-law, Amanda, to a Metro station and knew I would be on foot until late that night as we were attending the UnNaugural Concert in Maryland that evening. No possibility of going home in between. As it turned out, I walked more than 34,000 steps that day. Love my trusty FitBit!

After an interesting ride, filled with Trump supporters, I discovered that all the close-in Metro stops were closed and the streets were blocked in every direction so, after doing my best, and hitting dead end after dead end, I gave up on finding my way to the museum. I decided instead to spend the day meeting people and observing non-inaugural events as they unfolded. For a progressive Oregonian it was a little like being in a foreign country – all that Trump swag. Almost all older people but also some very dressed-up middle agers. Few were smiling. Everybody seemed tense and kind of angry. Why were they angry – they won, didn’t they? 

Where, I wondered, were all the young people? They didn’t seem to be with the Trump crows.  I eventually found a bunch – protesting loudly and joining arms as they tried to keep people from accessing sidewalks on the way to the inauguration. “Go the other way!”  and they shouted at anyone who attempted to get through. Several sat in the middle of a blocked off street. “My body. My choice!” So angry, so passionate, so determined. I stood and chanted with them for awhile. They weren’t friendly but they accepted me, pink pussy hat and all.

About that hat! It took an act of courage on my part to pull that hat out and wear it in that environment. I didn’t see another one in my first couple of hours but I perservered. Hungry, I wandered into Harry’s, a hotel restaurant offering brunch. It wasn’t good but it was filling. I invited a young woman sitting at a table nearby to sit with me when she, recognizing my hat, confessed quietly that she was there for the march and that she, too, had a pink hat. Pulling it out of her pack, she put it on her head and a friendship was born. She was a fellow northwesterner, from Bellingham, Washington and she, too, was on her own. She was distressed because she’d heard some male Trump supporters at the bar area harassing the Latina waitresses. I watched as one very loud and dramatic woman watched the TV and shouted “Yes! I’ve been waiting eight years for this!” as Trump took the oath of office. She jumped up, grabbed the waitress and hugged her tightly. That poor waitress looked crushed and crestfallen. The hugger was oblivious to it all. She just didn’t have a clue what a Trump presidency could mean to a Latina waitress, most likely making minimum wage, in the only area of the country where the citizens have no representation in Congress and no local autonomy. Feeling helpless to really do much, we spoke reassuringly and left big tips

My new friend, Chris, and I decided to spend the day together. She hadn’t been to the Capitol before and was interested in seeing the memorials. She works with veterans and was eager to see the Vietnam memorial wall for a friend. We walked and talked. A lot. We met other “pink hat” women along the way. It became a symbol we all recognized. Yes, we understood, there are women who are like us in some essential way. Women who care enough to come to Washington to register their protest, to make connections, to march. The hats recieved mostly positive comments. A small group of young men wearing Trump t-shirts yelled some ugliness and a couple of middle-aged women spat invectives, but other than that we were greeted positively and, as the day progressed, more and more women were walking among the memorials in “pink pussy hats.” Oddly, there were few Trump supporters there. Where were all those people who wrap themselves in the flag and claim they want to “make America great?” Certainly NOT at the memorials honoring those fallen heroes who actually gave their lives in that pursuit.

I know it sounds a little silly and kind of naive, but Chris and I made it a point to try to say positive things and offer help whenever we could. We gave directions, helped a woman in a book store, held doors, smiled a lot and felt we were kind of goodwill ambassadors for the Women’s March. I guess that, at a time when you are feeling as if you you have no real control, being nice is a good way to try to make a difference. Paying kindness forward. An interesting contrast to my earlier participation in the protesting. I have both those sides in me and am passionate about both: protesting injustice and offering kindness. 

Our wanderings took us to the Vietnam, Korean, World War II, Martin Luther King, Jr. and FDR memorials. What a contrast, on a day a new, troubling and unpopular President spoke of division and restriction, to read the words of Dr. King and President Roosevelt. King’s memorial is titled “Out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”  Appropriate to the day. The quote that spoke to me the most that day was: “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” The temporariness of specific evil and the importance of standing up against evil  is a common theme among these memorials. One I would hear more about that evening at the UnNaugural Concert and the next day at the Women’s March. Both stories for another post.

Chris and I ended our day together as we parted company at the Metro. We friended each other on Facebook and I am looking forward to hearing more about her life in Bellingham. She was a warm, soothing and fun presence on a particularly difficult day.

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