I felt the impact of the 2016 presidential election with more anxiety and anger than I have had for any other in my life. I’m talking now about election results over a long span of time. I was disappointed when Nixon and Reagan and George W. Bush were elected for the first time, but I was not frightened. I distrusted them, but I thought of them as the usual American politicians. They might be too sly, or too slick or too paternalistic and arrogant, but they were those things within the context of political processes and behaviors to which I and my fellow citizens were accustomed.
I have read that other progressive liberal citizens had a bad visceral reaction to No. 45’s election, and that it bothered a number of men and women, not just me. I know I am not alone when I confess that when the results were announced on television, I felt a shock similar to the kind of pit-of-the-stomach feeling we get when we hear that someone has died. Through the following weeks, I not only had my rage and disappointment to deal with but a dull sorrow as if I were waiting out the days leading up to a funeral.
I need to explain that I was not a Clinton supporter. I voted for her as a no vote to No. 45 rather than as a pro vote for her. She did not convince me that she would firmly address issues I thought were most important, and I do not believe she ran a campaign in 2016 that convinced me to vote for her either. I supported her in 2008, which I thought truly was her time, and I was sorry Obama defeated her, but it was as obvious to me as to everyone else that he ran a near-perfect primary campaign and then a near-perfect presidential one that year. Clinton repeated some 2008 mistakes in 2016 of which I think the costliest were her again taking districts for granted that she must have been warned were not securely hers. There are also the Russian hacking and FBI interference to take into consideration. It is a shame, but I think there are a few too many people out there who hate her, whether it is reasonable or not, and she does not seem to have the type of personality that is able to overcome such relentless bad feeling. I think she would have made a conscientious, decent president, but her weak campaign strategy and lackluster message did not bring it home in 2008 or 2016. Yes, yes, in 2016 she won the popular vote, but she did not win the electoral, and that is the one that counts. Obama and his people took nothing for granted, did the math and kept their eyes on the electoral. They did that twice, which is one reason why Obama won twice. We know now that No. 45’s strategy relied on the electoral calculation as well.
As it did for others, Inauguration Day loomed like a doom day in my mind. When I was a kid, I can remember anticipating painful, difficult medical procedures or some sort of discipline and punishment that engendered a dread matching what I now was feeling. Along with others I knew online, we planned not to watch the ceremonies. We chose to tell our friends that we were seeing movies, or reading, or getting outside, or doing just anything else we could think of but not watching the television, not checking news status, and for me, not wanting to stumble across anything showing No. 45 enjoying his triumph.
In particular, I did not want to hear that man speak. I think he has an ugly, unmusical voice. He aspirates his “p’s,” so when he speaks it sounds like he is punching the microphone. His speeches seem clearly to illustrate his perceivable character. Through them, he gives the impression of being impatient, cruel, ill-natured, inhumane and indifferent to suffering (I guess he thinks showing compassion would make him seem weak). I sense no empathy, generosity, kindness or tolerance in him, other than to his grown children who seem to trust him. In later internet posts, I saw some video footage of how rudely he treated his wife in public at the Inaugural, and she appeared to have a kind of deer in the headlights look that made me uneasy.
I felt like there had been a death in my family and somehow I too was awaiting execution. So I was relieved when my niece sent me a message on Facebook to invite me to go to the Womxn’s March in Seattle on the day after No. 45’s inauguration. Women in our area wanted to march in support of the big Women’s March in Washington D.C. which I read in the paper was the bright idea of a retired lawyer who put it out in the aether, and everyone jumped on it. I let my niece know I was interested in going to walk, and I hoped we could walk together.
On January 21, I went to meet my niece Wandee down at the Bainbridge Island ferry. There was a huge line waiting to walk on the boat. I actually wondered if I might not get on, but I did, and Wandee was already on, and we met up and greeted each other. I heard later that our particular ferry carried huge payload of 2,500 walk-on passengers and full car levels. Despite being loaded to the gunnels, the boat made its way successfully across the sound to Seattle. The Washington Ferry personnel all were cheerful and polite and took good care of us. I went to check the line for the ladies’ room (too long) and saw Governor Inslee talking to the boat manager who must have put him on the PA system, because the Governor made a short announcement a few minutes later to the entire boatload of us declaring that day to be Seattle’s pink day in honor of the march and wishing us all good luck.
Some of us were allowed to disembark through the car level after the vehicles left. Everyone everywhere, including the little kids in strollers, husbands, brothers, wives, sisters, grandmas, everyone was cheerful, no pushing, no squabbles. There were a lot of people, but we all were on our best behavior.
After we walked off the ferry, we looked up and my other niece, Val, was standing on the overhead walkway filming us on her smartphone. We shouted and waved, and then she came down and we walked together over to a corner where Val called for an Uber car. We had twenty minutes to wait and spent part of it listening to a homeless man who ranted at us happily about how awful No. 45 was. He didn’t make much sense, but we agreed with him in spirit if not in fact. The speeches were starting at Judkins Park at ten a.m. We resigned ourselves to being late for the speeches.
After the Uber car arrived, it took us another half hour to get near enough to Judkins Park to leave the Uber and walk up the rest of the way. We were among many people at that point, and when we actually arrived at the park, many many more than that. There was a huge crowd, so big that I had no chance to get the scope of how many people were there. We were at the southern end of the park, and the walk itself started from somewhere in the middle of the park. We inched forward with the rest of the crowd until we came out on twenty-third street where we were able to stop and start, moving forward for another quarter hour or so.
Because this is Seattle, rain had been predicted to fall on this day, but overhead it was sunny and bright with occasional clouds drifting by, nothing like the wet slog for which we had prepared ourselves. I carried my poncho over my arm and did not need it even once during the hours I was there. My nieces and I all were dressed warmly in the kind of clothes you could peel off and tie around your waist if you needed. All three of us had lived both in California and Washington state, and we understood the concept of being prepared for bone-chilling cold and then removing layers as the sun rose higher.
The three of us all spent our time reading signs while inching forward. We saw
anti-No. 45 signs, pro-women signs, and pro-peace signs. My favorite slogans out of many were “Get Your Tiny Hands Off My Rights” and “Tiny Hands, Russian Fingers.” There were more depictions of Putin that I expected, and none of them were complimentary. There were various messages carrying humane themes, and pro-Muslim themes.
In the crowd itself a great many of us, carrying signs or not, wore pussy hats of one kind or another. I had found myself a black billed cap that had cat ears. I did not have time to knit myself a pussy hat, so I hoped this hat, which would shade my face as well as covering my head, would serve as a political message as well. My hat drew a few compliments, and my nieces both were amused by it. Neither of them wore a pussy hat. They both are very busy working women, and I’m sure they had no time to sit down and knit a hat. I love them with all my heart and I enjoyed spending time with them, especially on this day.
We finally got far enough on twenty-third street to turn onto Jackson. We did not walk the entire parade route, but as I recall, Jackson was going to turn off onto 4th and head north and then the route would head further west somewhere. The walk was supposed to terminate at a rally up at the Space Needle, but my nieces and I would not be attending. One of us had to drive back down to Olympia to go to work, and the other had to attend a charity auction, and I had to go back over the water, so at one p.m. we were going to peel off on 4th and then head back down the hill and over to the ferry where we would part company.
For the moment, we finally were walking rather than inching down Jackson. I got a sense of how big the parade was, and it was huge. We walkers filled the street and along the sides were lines of well-wishers everywhere along our route. People were smiling, they had their kids out to watch us, just as we paraders had kids walking with us and babies in strollers. I took a few cell-phone pictures including a rare selfie (I hate them, but it seemed appropriate that day) with my two nieces. I also got a shot looking downhill at the crowd. That is when I realized we were probably not tens of thousands but closer to at least a hundred thousand. The organizers had been hoping for fifty thousand. I heard on the news later that they estimated one hundred twenty-five thousand actually came out to walk.
In my life, I have only been in one larger crowd, and that was the attendance at Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington D.C. in 2010. The estimated crowd size there was more than two hundred thousand people. For reasons I still cannot explain, I went to that rally, flying in from California alone. I attended with my friend Kathy McCabe. I don’t know if it was a perfect moment and day for her, but in many ways it was for me. The rally was held on October 30, shortly before the 2010 election where the Republicans regained control of the House. The rally itself was a lovely event, very much like the walk I was now on in 2017 on the other side of the country. Everyone was civil and well-behaved. Remembering Jon Stewart’s rally speech, I’m amused and depressed now at how much civil discourse has deteriorated in this country since 2010.
As my nieces and I walked downhill, people around us were talking and pointing up to the sky. I looked up with the others and saw two bald eagles flying overhead. We could plainly see their white heads and tails. They circled high and stayed above us for about a quarter hour. I can imagine they looked down at our huge flow of humans below and wondered what the hell we all were doing. Then they flew off, no doubt to try to find a place to hunt lunch and then hunker down and enjoy the daylight for a while.
I thought the eagles were lovely. Since they are the national bird of the U.S., they embodied my hope to myself that somehow we would prevail as a nation and not surrender to the awful temptations that No. 45 and his adherents are tendering to us — the invitations to chaos, provincialism, xenophobia, repression of free exchange of ideas, hatred and bigotry as well as their re-identifying our national ideals to reflect these things. I hoped the eagles represented some kind of blessing for our march, since we were all together wearing out shoe leather for a common good positive purpose. It was a march of resistance, but I thought it was a march of hopeful resistance. It was a very good day for me to go, be with beloveds, wear myself out, dissipate anger and fear for a while, just take in the sun, and smile.