I watched the inaugural parade yesterday, after watching a lackluster swearing-in ceremony with a speech from our new Prez that was... less than eloquent, rather alienating, and bordering on the bizarre for a president of a world power. (Then again, he followed after Obama, who was an excellent orator, and so the bar was set quite high. It was obviously true that he wrote it himself - no self-respecting speechwriter would have penned that. Still, I think the man believes what he says.) During the parade, watching on-camera live feeds of several different networks, I noted that the seating stands across from the Prez's viewing platform were all but empty. I guess security didn't want anyone to have clear line-of-sight access? (Understandable.) I saw one article online mention that tickets for those choice viewing seats had been made available via the Republican organization, but the author had no idea if there had been "a mix up" or not, as all the tickets were supposedly spoken for/paid for and the stands should have been full. The article seems to be AWOL now. There's no way for me to know more about any of it.
I don't know which of the aforementioned things is more unsettling.
Today I watched live an ABC network livestream of the women's march in Los Angeles on Roku - before the feed went dead. I remember the sixties. I have never seen that many people in downtown Los Angeles at noon, with numbers increasing as the day went on, not even with all the anger at Nixon and his war. Shoulder to shoulder, packed in like sardines, several city blocks wide in places, as far as the eye could see. Oakland. San Fran. Portland (well, you expect it from Portland), Denver, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Austin, DC... even Kansas City, MO, had a heck of a turnout. (Kansas City? That definitely says something.) To the best of my knowledge it was peaceful. Calm. People marching seemed good-natured and almost jovial at times. Which was encouraging. Democracy in action and all of that. Of course, foreign nationals trying to get across the Canadian border to join the marches were not allowed in, and told they'd have to have visas next time. Photographed and fingerprinted, I believe. Warned off.
That's not seeming good.
But I have never seen the streets and sidewalks of that much of downtown LA literally full. I worry about crowds, you know? People individually can be brilliant or stupid, stubborn or doormats, caring or vicious. But when you put enough people together into a crowd of any large size in a relatively small space, it becomes an animal of a sort - prone to insanity. Thankfully this one held on to their collective brain cells. It would have been tragic beyond words had they not, and undone completely anything they hoped to have achieved.
I'll tell you what, though, if the Prez thinks he can ignore those marchers, or blame them as "outside anarchists" (that sounds Nixonian, actually, but some WH wonk - maybe even the Prez himself, I've forgotten in the daze - actually did say that on live TV the other night, about the minor violence in some areas) I guess that would prove his mental state is what I've heard it suggested that it might be. Or prove that he's quite sane, but thinks we're all as incredibly stupid as he occasionally seems to indicate. Not sure which is worse.
(And those few violent twerps probably WERE anarchists. They're kind of like roaches, you can't ever really get rid of 'em.)
Even if half of the people who marched were just going to "be a part of something" and had no clue, or just went to say they'd done it (or have a nice afternoon out, as one conservative commentator suggested on-air), that leaves the other half. I expect that the other half are deadly serious. A lot of people seem to be very angry, and a lot of people seem to be generically frightened and/or seriously unsettled. (Why they didn't vote to keep this from happening if they disagreed so strongly, who knows? Four years is a long time to pay for being lazy, and undoing the damage that can happen in four years will take a lot longer, if things... run amok as they fear. We'll see. Then again, I can't really see the Prez making it four years - I wonder if he'll just up and quit, one day? Or snap and end up in a padded cell? That would leave us with the VP in power. Oh, dear... we'd best pray that doesn't happen.)
I remember right after 9-11, people were just sort of wandering around everywhere, with a kind of "we have to keep moving, though we don't know what to do" vibe. I sensed that everywhere I went the day after the elections. The shopping centers were uncharacteristically full at the wrong times of the day, and the people were too quiet, kind of glazed over. Wandering more or less aimlessly, going through the motions. The much fewer opposition supporters were very obvious in public places. Loud, happy, wearing Trump merch out the whazoo. I saw several instances of some of them being less than gracious about the outcome, particularly to persons of minority races and foreigners. A lot of the students at the nearby university just looked stunned, and many were crying. What do people expect, if they stand by and do nothing, don't even participate in the process? (sigh... It's going to take a lot to get all this mess cleaned up now.)
One difference, I think, between people after 9-11 and people now is that for many their perceived enemy is not on the other side of the planet. Not a faceless group of some alien cultural/religious "nutjobs" (not my words). He's identifiable as a specific person. They have someone to hate, rightly or wrongly. And the people who think that there just aren't that many people who think the Prez is the enemy are living in some other world. They can't quite get a handle on why everyone doesn't think he's wonderful and "America's Savior" who, single-handedly (he said he would) will return this country to "being great".
Things are going to get much weirder, I think, before they get better.
Tonight the Official White House media wonk announced that the number of people attending the swearing-in was "the largest in history" with a straight face - and that "the media" had doctored the aerial shots to make the crowd look smaller. The official stance appears to be that that the media is "waging war" on the Prez. Say what?
One wonders if "The Big Lie" tactics of certain other regimes in history can continue to work, given that there is now twitter? (There was only literal word-of-mouth back in-the-day, and now the whispers travel at light speed. Some will always get through.) Seems to, for at least a time. Of course, one can't be sure precisely where the truth is, given that every media outlet puts the slant on it that their corporate headquarters wants broadcast/published.
Dear Lord, someone's making money off of all this misery. How sad is that?
Ah, paranoia. I have to admit, when the direct video feed from Los Angeles was dropped, we went straight to twitter to see if "things" were happening. Because that's what we did when there was the rioting in George Square after the referendum in Scotland and the web cams of George Square suddenly became unavailable. And that's how we knew that what we were reading/hearing in the commentary by the BBC was ...somewhat distorted, let us say, in some cases.
That's a lot more paranoid than I ever thought I'd end up being as an old lady -- running to twitter when they take a video feed down. I am seriously disturbed (besides that other meaning) by what's going down in this country. It's a free-for-all in the media, with both "sides" just laying it on thick, as it suits them, and regardless of the actual facts. I'm tired of "liberals" harping and I'm tired of "conservatives" grandstanding - they've all got the same damned song going, just in different keys. It brings to mind that if a group with an agenda keeps the public busy enough with blatant propaganda wars, they can do whatever they like (at least for a while).
You know, I used to be an amateur student of history - my particular focus was was 1910-1940 Europe. I wouldn't draw any parallels with Hitler here, that's just too over the top, although I'm starting to hear some people trot him out from whatever his level of hell for comparisons. But, watching the speech, the Prez definitely reminded me rather eerily of someone else from that period. Watch the body language, the gesturing, the saying something that says nothing. The jutting jaw. The arrogance. Maybe they are right, about reincarnation?
Ok, so that's not a good feeling, either.
So, seriously, in all my time, through the Cold War Stuff, Vietnam protests, Nixon, all of that, I have ~never~ seen that many people turn out in one place to make a statement in this country. Thankfully, also, unlike then there were not police clubbings, teargasings, or attack dogs or water cannons unleashed on the marchers. I'd like to think that's progress. One can hope that the new Prez is smart enough to not try to pretend the hundreds of thousands of people who marched today did not do so, though. And for Gods' sake, that he'll listen to the message beneath the message.
I'm not a religious person, but I can understand why someone might be, lately.
And that is all the political chatter you will ever hear me do. The problem with being "the fly on the wall, watching" is that there are fly swatters, bug zappers, and insect foggers easily available. And, as I said, I used to be a student of history.
Let us pray that sanity reigns... we should be able to get in a lot of prayers in four years.