By Erica Thorpe | Special Contributor
Washington is a city that I know well. I’ve worked here many summers in a row and fell in love with the architecture, history, and the ever-present action and potential that comes along with being in the nation’s capitol. Coming to Washington for the inauguration has snapped me out of my enchantment. This morning I walked the streets of the National Mall, and they were not the streets that I know and love. Protesters followed the crowds from gate to gate, shutting each one down as they went and forcing ticket holders to lose their chance at viewing the historical event. I stood in line with thousands of people, trying to keep my mouth shut as I watched them yell out of excitement for Trump. I also watched as they forced their views and their hate onto peaceful individuals who were simply holding signs. I watched a man bring a young protester to tears as he screamed in his face for holding a sign that read “Muslim. Gay. Unafraid.” I watched, and I began to worry.
Being a naturally nosy (politely read, observant) person, I found myself reading everyone’s buttons, shirts, and hats. There were multiple people wearing buttons that read “Trump wins. REVENGE OF THE DEPLORABLES,” in a reference to a comment Clinton made in her campaign. I heard a woman wearing the button tell someone that the turning point of the election was when Hillary insulted America and proved she was a racist. It was in that moment that I realized, despite all of the education, media coverage, and resources available to voters, most will stop reading after they hear what they want.
The deplorables quote was said in September, which is directly in the middle of the campaign timeline. I found it hard to believe how many times I heard people say that Trump had the race in his pocket all along, when he didn’t even win the popular vote, which I heard refuted multiple times as well.
All in all, the sights and sounds of a city that I once longed to return to are no longer. I witnessed strong hate and intense love today, and it makes it hard to decide how to feel about the political future of America. There were some Trump supporters that I had a good laugh with while waiting in line and some who I desperately wanted to yell obscenities at. I worry that the latter will dominate the attitudes of most non-supporters over the next four years. There is a difference between expressing political views intellectually and deviating from decent social conduct to get your point across. Only time will tell, but I will always remember how I felt watching people be attacked for their individuality and their political alignment, and that will influence me for the rest of my life.