“God may be in the details, but the goddess is in connections. We are linked, we are not ranked. This is a day that will change us forever.” Activist Gloria Steinem’s words meet with thunderous applause from the 500,000-plus crowds at the Women’s March in Washington. Headliners of different stripes sing and chant to wild cheering. The atmospherics is as thrilling as Obama’s historic Inauguration. (If you ignore Madonna’s comment on blowing up the White House.) My daughter, who worked for Planned Parenthood (now under GOP attack) on her college break, is moved by Scarlett Johansson’s speech about it.
The uteri have spoken. But men and kids are also part of this sea of pink. My retiring husband is shocked to be on display in a Washington Post picture inside the metro.
People sing “We Shall Overcome”. Some hold funny signs: “We Shall Overcomb”. The official ASL for “Trump” actually mimics wind on hair—it was the Swiss Deaf Association’s sign of the year. Peaceful signs (“Love Trumps Hate”) play off against edgy (“Fuck Trump’s Hate”) or silly ones (“Eat Cheetos, don’t vote for them”), urge Trump’s tweets to get out of their twats, and misspell “misogyny” every which way.
The DC march alone needed 1,000 more buses for out-of-towners than the entire Inauguration the previous day. In other cities nationwide and worldwide, protesters come out in the unlikeliest pockets—Syria, Antarctica—with a thundering show of hands and middle fingers.
At the small, exclusive Women’s March after-party, Gloria Steinem stands up on the table to egg us on. Katy Perry comes over to chat from the next table in rimless eye glasses, chic hat, pleated dress, pink faux fur-lined jacket (with peace sign) in honour of the “pussy hat” sorority. My daughter is thrilled. Back in school, it was her song, I Kissed A Girl, they played to shut up fundamentalist Westboro Church’s homophobic rants against Walt Whitman, after whom her school is named. I can see her activism recharge itself when actress Alison Judd tells her that her march performance poem, ‘Nasty Woman’, was written by a 19 year old.
Sinclair Lewis once said, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” Every day is a weary retread of the Beatles’ “I read the news today, oh boy” as we reel from climate change and identity denialism to “alternative facts”. Trump’s education secretary and Supreme Court judge picks are alarmingly ill-qualified. “The Monday Night Massacre” sees the unprecedented sacking of Sally Yates for declining to defend the travel ban, with a vindictively worded official release. The Wikipedia edit for “Attorney General” by an outraged liberal corrects that somewhat.
Expat talk this week is an exercise in my-visa-status-is more-endangered-than-yours competitive breast-beating. Trump now affects people outside US borders—his selective Muslim ban has left bewildered, sick octogenarians and five-year-olds in tears at airports filled with angry protesters; green card holders are interrogated on what they think of Trump; six men at a Quebec mosque are shot by a Trump follower; a leaked dossier on Trump’s blackmail by Putin leaves a KGB chief killed in Moscow. A terrified British spy is sure he’s next.
But defiance is the new mood du jour, not helpless outrage: nonstop calls to Senators, petitions signed. National Security’s Steve Bannon (ex-Breitbart) is seen as the sinister puppet-master, counselor Kellyanne Conway as the slimy side-villain. But new heroes emerge every minute: the Starbucks CEO pledges to hire 10,000 refugees, braving Trumpster boycotts, the LAPD chief defies the ban, Malia Obama joins Dakota Access pipeline protests, University Of Michigan refuses to divulge its students’ immigration status, Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik and Madeleine Albright say they’ll register as Muslims. Even Tea Party’s Koch network condemns the ban. The Uber CEO supporting the ban is scared off by the #DeleteUber campaign into offering a $3 million legal fund for immigrant drivers.
The only thing that keeps us going on is gallows humour. Somebody edits the “Invertebrate” Wikipedia entry with Paul Ryan’s description. Underground tweets from White House staff leak unflattering gossip about Trump. When Trump puts a gag order on the EPA and the National Parks Services, they taunt, “You can take our official Twitter, but you’ll never take our free time!” A dozen government organisations services go rogue with tweets against oppressive policies. There are memes about daily post-truth whoppers from all the resident Pinocchios.
The satirical Onion’s piece on Pence and the March is misunderstood as real news. The bungling press secretary Sean Spicer mistakes another Onion item poking fun at him for real news and real praise.
Here in the belly of the beast, the melting snow falls down with a “Drumpf”. My heart beats out a hollow “Drumpf, Drumpf.” Eventually, Drumpf will fall splat. There are too many of us now. Till then, if you need me, I’ll be in my room, reading a dystopic novel. Happy new 1984, people!
The author is a columnist based in Washington
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