By Julia Wolf
The time has come to depart from Washington DC. As I sit here in the airport and write this, I can’t help but reflect on the final day of our trip.
The inauguration was the largest mass of organized chaos I have ever seen. And while many of the people who attended the event were there to support Trump, others were there just to watch democracy at work through the peaceful transfer of power.
Like DC itself, the crowd varied dramatically not only from one viewing section to the next, but within each section. The part of the section I was in chanted, but there seemed to be little inclination to violence. I happened to be standing next to a very vocal man who reminded his daughter and those around him that he had a right to his speech, as long as it was peaceful.
Other members of my class who were in different sections said the crowd around them became slightly more restless. Needless to say, the 21 gun salute scared everybody that wasn’t expecting it.
Despite the threat of an all-day rain, the inauguration went off well. Being in the crowd to experience it in person definitely was part of what made it special.
Trump’s speech spoke of unity. He reminded listeners that we are all Americans a few different times. It was an interesting end to the two-week seminar on elevated political discourse. The crowd seemed divided on how to accept those who did not support Trump 100 percent. While some clapped politely as Democrats entered to speak, quite a few others booed over them so no one could hear what they were saying. A chant of “lock her up” began when Hillary Clinton walked out.
The inauguration is not a great place to discuss politics, especially if you do not fully support the person being inaugurated. While I expected that, I was disappointed how quick some people were to scream at anyone who disagreed with them. As Barbara Lymans, a lady I talked to as I made my way to the exit after the ceremony, said, “It felt more like a political rally at times than a presidential inauguration.”
Even more interesting to me is the Women’s March happening today. Throngs of people were navigating the metro to meet up with groups in the protest here in DC. Others are meeting in cities around the world. I hope it goes peacefully. Peaceful protest is a great way to spur political discussions that can bring understanding. A violent protest has the potential to do the opposite.
My fear is not only that violence will reflect poorly on the causes of those protesting, but that it will stir even more hatred. Protests and rallies, like the inauguration, are not a great place to discuss politics. Disagreements can lead to confrontations where the two (or more) sides scream past each other, devoid of the understanding the first speaker at the Washington Center called for.
I feel my class navigated political discussions well during the time here. Hopefully those who support the new president’s policies and those who do not can come to an understanding of each other somehow. That is the first step to elevated political discourse.