Memento Mori: President Donald Trump's Inauguration Weekend
As the rattle of police helicopters pulsed against the city’s white, pillared walls, it served as a reminder that this was no ordinary day. Red baseball caps lined Pennsylvania Ave. and much of the city on Friday morning in anticipation of the 45th President’s first march to the White House.
Reminiscent of the ancient pageantry of a Roman triumph, the city’s elegant streets were adorned in a procession of red, white, and blue that weaved between barricades and security checkpoints.
The crowds piled into place along the parade route in mixed collections of hand-drawn cardboard opposition signs and supporters who proudly displayed the Trump brand. Between the roadblocks and stationed members of the National Guard were makeshift souvenir stands which sold the promise to, “make America great” on the backs of t-shirts, ball-caps, and buttons. The carnival had begun.
But among the roadside merchants and urban preachers crying for redemption through a megaphone, there was a looming sense of discomfort that hung over every street corner and shop window.
“I’ve lived here all my life, and I have to say yesterday was strange,” a local business owner insisted. The celebration of a hard won victory appeared muted on the faces of Trump supporters who had come to Washington with soft grins and a silent curiosity. “It was too quiet,” he said; much too quiet for what ought to have been Donald Trump’s ultimate triumph.
In the tradition of a Roman triumph, the man who is honoured with the celebration is accompanied by a servant who is meant to repeat the words, “memento mori” — a reminder that while the crowds tempt his ego with their praise, he is still only human. In Trump’s case, his detractors might have served this role.
But, even those who had come to show their disapproval of the new President appeared to lack the stamina to sustain a chant in front of the Trump International Hotel. One defiant individual would raise their fist in an attempt to stir the crowd and within seconds their enthusiasm would give way to a solemn hush.
After a grueling campaign it seemed that voters of every background had gathered in the capital to agree that they had had enough. Not enough of President Trump or the waning hope of online forums that insist, “Here’s how Bernie could still win,” but an outward exhaustion with the entire process. Even the Senate’s Reflecting Pool had been reduced to a puddle as if to express the sense of fatigue the country has felt in the months following the election.
Though 230 protestors were arrested for setting fire to trash cans and a vehicle, several blocks away from Capitol Hill, the closer a crowd of protestors was to the center of the event the more it seemed that they had been absorbed by the tension of every awkward encounter with a supporter on the street. The resistance had finally resigned itself to its fate. Trump was President and there was nothing that could be done.
“We’re saving ourselves for tomorrow,.” one woman claimed, referring to the Women’s March on Washington which was planned for the next day.
Women from all around the world planned to make the trip to the capital or stage a protest in their home towns in the name of equal rights, progressive policies, and a wakeup call for the Trump Administration.
In the wake of a lackluster afternoon on Inauguration Day, there was little reason to expect the demonstration to be a success. After all, Trump’s first act as President was to sign an executive order designed to pave the road to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
But as a small group of women rounded the corner of New Jersey and Independence Ave. on Saturday morning, there was a sudden realization that I had been terribly wrong about their potential.
Thousands of women, children, and men swarmed the streets for blocks around Capitol Hill. Along the same road where Trump’s limo rolled along to the White House the day before, a slow moving sea of protesters now surrounded former Secretary of State John Kerry who had brought his dog Ben along to join the protesters like Michael Moore and Madonna.
As the headcount began to take shape it was estimated that DC alone had a crowd of 500,000 — three times more than what was expected according to The New York Times.
The following morning the war of numbers had begun when a picture circulated the internet which compared Trump’s inauguration attendance to Barrack Obama’s in 2008. The image shows a packed National Mall for the inauguration of Obama and a sparsely populated version of that same image for Trump.
But reporters and attendees of the inauguration have pointed out that the photo might not have accurately represented the true size of Trumps audience, as it was taken before the swearing in ceremony had even begun.
Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer fired back at the photo by telling reporters that, “This was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period,” fighting one piece of misinformation with another. However, the point was never to prove that crowd size matters, because the Presidency is never just about the individual who holds the office, but the country he serves.
In the spirit of a Roman triumph, the Inauguration is meant to be equally as humbling as it is celebratory. If Trump is willing to acknowledge the estimated two million who gathered around the country to be heard, the path forward could be one of least — rather than continued — resistance. As the Women’s March clearly displayed, the numbers are on their side, and as thousands rose up in DC, Seattle, New York, San Francisco, Montreal, Toronto, Paris, and many other cities around the world, the message was loud and clear:
“Memento mori, Mr. President.”