Last week, our community gathered to watch the inauguration of a new president. I didn’t attend because I could not imagine sitting there and watching Donald Trump be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States as if this was just a normal changing of the guard, as if there was anything normal about Trump’s campaign, his refusal to condemn white supremacists, the religious and racial intolerance he encouraged, his attacks on a free and open press, his incitement of violence at his rallies, his admission of sexual assault caught on tape. I could go on.
While I recognize that the inauguration has been required in the past, and that attendance at the inauguration would have been required whether the incoming president was Republican or Democrat, sitting in a Deerfield auditorium and watching the swearing in was, for me, equivalent to accepting the normalization of a self-confessed pussy-grabber. (Stop there for a moment. Is it jolting to see the word “pussy” in the Scroll? Will I be asked to remove it? If the President of the United States can use the word, why can’t I? If the President of the United States can get away with such behavior, then what’s to stop anyone else from trying it? See what I mean about normalizing?) This administration is not normal, and I can’t — I won’t — go on business-as-usual and forget that we are watching a terrifying moment in American history. Let’s not pretend that a bankrupt-businessman-turned-reality-TV-show-host who brags about sexually assaulting women and mocks a disabled reporter is an acceptable president.
Historically, the inauguration is a celebration of the incoming president. We all gather together to appreciate America’s peaceful transfer of power. Many people have argued that we all need to support a Trump presidency because Trump’s success in the Oval Office translates into success for the entire country. But Trump’s version of “success” is one that is so far removed from our American values that it is an embarrassment, regardless of political beliefs. Like other writers have pointed out, I believe that a failure for Trump is not synonymous with failure for this country. Let him fail to build a wall that will cost American taxpayers one billion dollars and send a message of intolerance to the world. Let him fail to create a Muslim registry that will marginalize patriotic Americans. Let him fail to defund Planned Parenthood, which would leave thousands of poor women without the health care they need.
Just let him fail.
If any other Republican had been elected — Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, or any one of the countless more-qualified, non-pussy-grabbing Republicans — I would not be writing this article right now. I would have attended the inauguration respectfully regardless of my personal feelings about abortion rights, gun control, and so on.
I am not the first to see similarities between pre-war Germany and what is happening in America right now: the demonization of a single religious group, the appeal to one’s patriotism (“Make America Great Again”), the promise of mass deportation, the suppression of the media, the fostering of racism. Allowing someone whom you know is dangerous into power so easily and quietly is the very definition of complacency, and complacency equals complicity.
When I thought about boycotting the Deerfield live-streaming of the inauguration, I thought about future generations and how they would look back on 2016/2017. I wanted them to see we were not fully asleep, that there were people of conscience who boycotted the inauguration (as about 70 of our Representatives did), that people turned off their TVs and marched on Washington, that some students at a small boarding school in New England refused to attend a required viewing of the inauguration—that people rose up in both small and big ways.
And the country did just that. The Women’s March on Washington is considered the largest protest in U.S. history. So many women in their pink pussy hats flooded into the nation’s capital that friends reported being unable to move even a step. Similar protests occurred around the globe–women in pink pussy hats in Boston, New York, San Francisco, Austin, etc., showing up to say that a man who has been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual assault should not be president.
But that didn’t happen here at Deerfield. I had hoped and expected that friends would report a half-full auditorium, that students whom I knew to be as worried about the dangerous and dictatorial leanings of a Trump administration as I am would refuse to attend. What does this say about Deerfield students? Is it a sign of our privilege? The vast majority of us will still have health insurance even if Trump guts the Affordable Care Act; we don’t have to fear deportation; we don’t depend on the quality of a public school education. If you stay silent because you feel as though you can survive four years of this administration without resistance, check your privilege. And fight for those without that privilege.
While I know that by skipping the inauguration I haven’t changed anything, I have at least followed my conscience. My decision to boycott the Deerfield screening of the inauguration was a tiny reminder to myself that I will not stay silent for the next four years, that I will not be complacent, that I will continue to speak up and speak out and say this is not normal.