Memorial Day 2017. KELLEY KIDD. This is my first posting since before the Trump inauguration on January 20. On the inauguration day I travelled from South Georgia through the capitol on the way to a memorial service for a friend in Baltimore. I hit the D.C. boundary about an hour before the swearing in of the new president, and was moving up the highway during the speech.
Now you would think that nothing in that speech could surprise me. I am 74 years old and have been studying politics since my civics course in the eighth grade. Sixty six years of watching American politicians, including some very colorful presidential candidates and presidents. But I admit I was taken off guard by this speech by a man whose utterances and books I have followed since TIME TO GET TOUGH came out in 2012. Even earlier I had seen a few of his performance as the demanding chief executive who fired almost everybody as the regular entertainment of his TV show. But I am accustomed to presidential speeches which sound presidential, that is the speaker uses “we” and “us” language that purports to embrace the people he now has the task of leading. This was very different. It damned government and politicians and past presidents and foreign nations and cities and everyone except the idealized suffering real Americans the speaker purported to embody in his own person. His tone was not presidential, but monarchical. The future and the present were being transformed by his will, and only he had the ability, the vision and the power to transform. It was the kind of authoritarian that any dictator would appreciate, and only those who needed a dictator would enjoy. It was chilling. My mind kept turning to memories of drill sergeants and school yard bullies. Misplaced manhood and testosterone poisoning were recurring phrases in my thoughts. This was a man asserting the invincibility of his manhood, the potency of his sexual prowess, the dominance of his masculine determination and will.
After the speech I drove into Baltimore, where I was met almost immediately by beggars approaching cars as they slowed for the downtown traffic lights. After the bleak description of the country Trump had given, the presence of these sad desperate people seemed to fit. As a former resident of downtown Baltimore for two decades I was not a bit surprised by beggars. That night I watched Trump lead of his celebration balls by dancing to “I Did It My Way”. Before I retired I turned off the lights in my room at a luxury hotel. Across the street homeless people tried to bed down in the doorways of shops. I knew that these homeless folks would have to move on before the shopkeepers arrived in the morning. And I knew that in four more years there would be more such forlorn echoes of the futility of tyrants suffering from misplaced manhood.
The next morning I drove back through D.C. as the crowds were gathering to respond to Trump’s coronation. Unlike the relatively modest traffic of the day before, the morning after saw huge throngs of buses filled with people. A tide was beginning to rise, led by and mostly composed of women. I had not slept but now I was not afraid or despondent. On Mother’s Day 2017 we had survived more than 100 days of truly insanely insensitive power posturing by the president and his allies. The proposals of the new administration matched the militarism and opulence of the President’s selections for cabinet. But women had begun to stand up to him. Sally Yates and Maxine Waters had led the opposition. Unconstitutional orders had been nixed by courts and off season elections had begun to show that the American people were already tired of the Trump bullying of the poor and the stranger. January 20 just might be the beginning of the end of the same era it symbolizes.