Saturday, January 21, 2017

America. The Day After

They filled the downtown square here in this little New Mexico city, and they spilled over into the nearby streets and a big parking lot.

The people.

It was windy as only the southwest can be windy and there was a cold edge to the wind.

“Thank you for coming,” said the first speaker.  “Thank you for braving the weather.”

“Dump Trump!” cried a voice in the crowd.  It became a chant.  “Dump Trump.  Dump Trump.”

The people.

It was, officially, a women’s march of protest against the misogyny and lewdness of the the billionaire’s campaign and against his cabinet of repulsive rich people opposed to the very ideas their agencies were supposed to advance and protect.  Here in the southwest, and in many of the pictures from around the world, there seemed to be as many men as women.

A fireman carried a placard supporting Planned Parenthood.  A guy with a thick black beard applauded when an elderly woman passed him carrying a sign, “Pussy Grabs Back.”  Everywhere there were pink hats with little cats’ ears knitted into them.  

The town’s top environmental scientist said, “I've been attending events like this for 28 years in this town, and this is the biggest and best one yet.”

The people.

The People in the city squre
Word circulated that the rally in Denver was so big they had to cancel the march because people had packed the entire route.  In Los Angeles they clogged the streets despite a severe rainstorm.  In Washington the women’s protest drew larger crowds than the previous day’s inauguration ceremony. “Nothing can quite replace your first love, or your first march,” Gloria Steinem told them. In New York they turned fifth Avenue into “a river of people.” A sign said: "Make America Think Again." Huge turnouts were reported in cities around the world where women organized demonstrations against the new leader of the United States.

The people.

The Rally in Sacramento
Singers.  A chorus of men and women from the Social Justice Center sang protest songs, winding up with a rousing “We Shall Overcome” in a new arrangement written especially for the occasion.  The city’s self-described “first openly transgender male” called on us to protect the gains the LGBT movement made during the Obama administration.  “We will not give up,” he shouted and the crowd roared its approval.

The people.

A native American leader called for solidarity with Standing Rock and the movements for tribal rights.  “Stop the DAPL” signs waved.  A tall old guy asked if he could hug a woman waving a “We Are All Immigrants” sign.  An environmental activist warned that “extinction is not an episode.  Extinction is forever.”

The people.

A Latina’s placard urged Peace and Resistance.  No Wall! her companion shouted.  “Love Trumps Hate” signs were everywhere.  A young hispanic man read his poem, “Who Am I.”  He is every man, every woman, every child, crying out for justice. “Small Hands Cannot Hold Us Back,” a placard said.

The people.

Our friend Steve, the folk singer and gifted lyricist, performed with his partner, Kathy.  Guitar, mouth harp, tambourine — the age old weapons of the civil rights movement, the peace movement, of Occupy and Black Lives Matter.  He sang:

Standing Rock, our conscience stands with you
protectors all united for a cause we know is true

The people applauded.

He sang:

I will not waver in my path
I will not fear the tyrant’s wrath
I will not close my heart to love
Abandon hope or slay the dove
I will not close my heart to love
Renounce the world we’re dreaming of

And the people cheered.

And Now There Is No Road

In 2004 when he was seeking a second term, Dubyuh came to our town for a speech and local party big-shots took him to dinner at one of our better restaurants.  I had kind of liked the place but for years afterward I refused to eat there, because it hadn’t been properly fumigated.

Today I’m thinking the same way about the White House.  What if, four years from now, the other side has come up with a decent candidate, someone truly fit for the office, and that someone wins the election and has to move into a place that has been occupied for four years by this new guy?  Could the place ever be properly fumigated after having been occupied that long?  Will the country have to tear down the historic executive mansion and build a new one in order to have a fit residence for a president fit for the office?

Indeed, will this country ever again have a president fit for the office once occupied by Lincoln, Jefferson, FDR. . .? 

Will there even be a country such as we once knew, a democratic republic of, by and for the people?

An acquaintance who voted for him explained, somewhat sheepishly I thought, “maybe he’ll do something, anything, just one thing.”

He did two things, actually, in his very first hour in office.  Two anti-people things.  First he made health care less accessible, less affordable, for thousands.  Then he made home ownership impossible for thousands more. 

First steps only.  Soon millions will be without health care.  Millions swill be without homes.  Driving poor people out of their homes is the specialty of one of his cabinet nominees.  Another Big Lie: those nominees, he said, have the highest collective IQ in history.  Pure fiction, made up on the spur of the momen, like so much of what he utters, tweets or even thinks. The man even lies to himself.

I say again:  there is no man so dangerous as a stupid man who thinks he is intelligent.

There was blood on the streets of the nation’s capital the day he took office. Rubber bullets, shock bombs, more than 200 protesters arrested.  More protests are scheduled today, his second in office.  Five states governed by his followers have already passed laws in effect repealing the First Amendment to the United States constitution.  In one of them, motorists have been given license to run over protesters who attempt to block a road.

Raised fists . . . military parades . . . police cruelty . . . bullying . . . insults . . . sneering authoritarianism . . . white supremacy . . . contempt for the poor , , , lies, deceit, exaggeration . . . false patriotism . . . misogyny . . .  American carnage . . . 

Once we were exhorted to heed our better angels.  Now we are called upon to tilt at windmills.  Once we were told the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. Now we are told we must slay imaginary daemons,  disguised as people of color or followers of a different god. Once we were called upon to act as a people “with malice toward none, with charity for all.”

“America First!  America First!” he cried, echoing the rallying cry of anti-Semitic Nazi sympathizers in the United States before World War II.

Far to the west in this land, a hiker wrote yesterday of watching “a promising sunrise at one of my favorite places on public land. My soul needs the beauty this morning. My prayer is that it will still be public land for my grandchildren.

But in Washington yesterday, “At last we have a LEADER!” someone tweeted.

Hitler, too, was a “leader.” 

But what of us, the followers, the people?  He says we are newly empowered even as he enfeebles us, but this is his way.  He says one thing, then does another.  Like many dictators in the past, he rules by whim, by impulse, by an overarching need for self-aggrandisement.  And so what of us?

"There is no ship for you," C.V.Cavafy wrote nearly a century ago. "There is no road. As you have ruined your life here in this little corner, you have destroyed it in the whole world.”