I attended the 58th Presidential Inauguration today. I have spent the last three weeks preparing for today and I have spent the last two years grappling with the election. Gearing up for the inauguration was a more thoughtful and emotional process than I first expected.
Donald Trump was elected President of the United States on November 8, 2016. Riots broke out all over the country the night he was elected, some of the worst of which were in Portland, my home town. The riots in Portland were particularly harmful and dangerous. Cars were bashed in, windows were broken, and rioters marched through the city clogging up traffic.
I struggled understanding the presidential riots. On one hand, I was glad citizens could freely express their opinions. The First Amendment provides a platform to share opinions. It is a privilege to live in a country where citizens can praise or criticize the government. On the other hand, it was pointless to destroy a city to protest a president who one fears may destroy the country. The protestors were giving the president a head start. I also found the destructive Portland riots to be of no avail as Portland voted for Hillary.
Months passed since the Portland riots, but I figured the feelings would resurface at the inauguration.
I was right. DC filled up with visitors as the inauguration approached. Trump supporters and anti-Trump supporters alike flocked to the city. Nightly protests took place in town squares, some featuring prominent political figures like third-party candidate, Jill Stein.
Walking into the inauguration confirmed my fears. While standing in line for security, Trump supporters surrounded us, all excited to see the president-elect be sworn into his new position. Behind the line of folks in line for security, anti-Trump protestors approached chanting their desires for no fascist regimes and no Ku Klux Klan.
The Trump supporters around me chanted back, “Build the wall! Build the wall!”
Thankfully, the chanting ended quickly and tension lessened as we ventured further into the mall. The mall was filled mostly with Trump supporters.
I do not know what I was expecting out of the inauguration, but it was quiet and calm. Obama, Biden, Trump, Pence, and their families walked in ceremoniously. Choirs sang, priests prayed, and officials were sworn in. By noon, Trump was officially the President of the United States. The procession occurred in one hour—it all seemed so quick.
The inauguration ended and everyone was quiet. I distinctly recall how odd the silence was. I expected hooting and hollering from the crowds or at the least a buzz of excitement, but I was wrong. People spoke quietly amongst themselves as they left the mall.
Silence, indeed, comes before the storm.
Riots broke out in downtown DC, some only a block or two from our hotel. Rioters shouting, “Not my president!” filled the streets, casting rocks at windows and policemen, and, on occasion, burning objects. SWAT teams armed with tear gas formed to tame rioters. Sirens cried under the whipping of helicopters.
I have never seen such commotion. Stirred by real emotions and sincere feelings of injustice, people had taken to the streets to protest the presidency. While I respect the ability to share opinions of distaste for the president, I did not find the protests to be appropriate.
Regardless of opinion, Trump is president. The president will not always be someone you like. Even if you like the president, they are bound to perform actions you disagree with. This country was founded on disagreement.
Disagreement is powerful. We cannot learn anything by discussing topics with like-minded peers. We can only learn by challenging ourselves. Freedom of speech allows different opinions to state their positions and work toward an effective process or course of action. It is a beautiful process.
Instead of embracing differences of opinions, I saw a lot of hatred today. I saw hatred for Obama and Trump alike as well as for republicans and democrats. The division appeared so severe that there seemed to be no way to bridge the gap between the two sides.
There is a bridge and that bridge is loyalty. We are all citizens of the same country and it is our duty to serve the country. Rioting in the streets and destroying public property does not serve the country, it takes away from public resources. Hating the other side of the political spectrum does not serve the country, it creates an obstacle in our ability to cooperate.
As of today, Trump is president. Claims that he is not your president are false unless you are not a citizen of the United States. To best serve our country, support our leader in making good decisions. No, you may not agree with Trump’s ideologies, his policies, or choices for cabinet, but he is our leader and we should wish him well in his position.
Wishing harm upon our nation’s leaders is wishing harm upon yourself. I remained fairly neutral between Clinton and Trump during the past election season. While I was not necessarily a fan of either, I knew that I would wish the best upon whoever became president because the president runs my country. I want my country to succeed.
Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, this is a time for unity rather than divisiveness. Both sides used hurtful words and performed hurtful actions. Retaliation, though, is not the solution. Let us love our fellow Americans and work together to serve our country. Our country is what we make of it and it always has been. Let us serve our country with zeal and wish success upon our leaders guiding the country so they may benefit all citizens.