When I left Shenkman Hall on Friday the streets were deserted, trucks blocked off roads and helicopters flew overhead. Something out of a post-apocalyptic horror film, the day was not destined to be a day of celebration. We left early to ensure we had a good spot, however, upon arrival we realised how unnecessary it was when we had a clear view extending the length of the National Mall. The majority of GW students did not attend the inauguration out of protest, some went out of curiosity but few went in support. As both an exchange student and history student I was not going to miss the opportunity to witness the inauguration of President Trump.
Men, women and children donned t-shirts and hats all hoping to ‘make America great again’, with complete faith that Trump was the man that was going to achieve this ‘greatness’. I had never met a Trump supporter in the flesh and suddenly I was surrounded by thousands of them. Observing the election campaign from a distance I could not comprehend how Donald Trump managed to become President. Coming to the US I hoped to gain some insight into this and the inauguration provided the perfect opportunity to do so.
I was aware of the stereotype of a Trump supporter but believed it to be a caricature created by the media and not representative of 46% of voters. The first man I encountered was a man in his 60s with tattoos on his forehead and neck, handing out flyers on how simple it is to be saved. One of the most extreme in the crowd, his main concerns were abortion and Israel. He believed that CNN and NBC are lying to the public and the only genuine source of information is Fox News. Stereotypes aside the man proved to be genuinely friendly and polite towards me.
As an exchange student in America, I feel extremely welcomed by students, staff and strangers. In a country so historically diverse and inclusive the events of the past year have been disturbing. Listening to Trump’s inaugural address with my fellow exchange students it was concerning to see how his presidency will affect us. As Britons, Australians and Koreans we were automatically excluded from Trump’s ‘America first’ narrative. The atmosphere at the inauguration was a celebration, however, it was not a constructive one. The crowd booed as Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton and Obama arrived on stage. They booed when Chuck Schumer mentioned the exceptional quality of all Americans, including those of different sexual orientation or gender identity.
The contrast between the inauguration and the Women’s March could not have been greater. The march may have been in response to the election result but people marched not because of Trump but in spite of him. The streets were jammed pack with nasty women and bad hombre’s protesting for their rights as women and Americans. The atmosphere was not filled with negativity towards immigration, LGBTQ or planned parenthood but rather positivity over the resilience of the American people. A sense of unification filled the air as hundreds of thousands of people march down Independence Avenue and towards the White House chanting ‘this is what democracy looks like’ and ‘love trumps hate’.
I am extremely fortunate to not just observe the events of this weekend but participate in them. Being a part of history with so many others both in the US and over the globe is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The inauguration and the Women’s March provided me with a greater understanding of the election and the contrast between the two events highlights the challenges of the next four years. The Women’s March gives me with the hope that whatever Trump tries to achieve he will have to face the fight of the American people.