My incredible journey from a long-standing Democrat to Trumpland has taken me down many paths. Along the way I have met some incredible people and faced lots of adversity. I could have never imagined that those paths would finally meet in Washington D.C. on January 20, 2017. After all the hard work, I would finally be standing at the forefront of history to witness President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
I arrived in D.C. a few days prior to the inauguration. I had never been to the nation’s capital before, so you could imagine the excitement as the plane prepared for landing and the majestic twilight view of the Capitol was in sight. Standing tall as a beacon of our democracy, the Washington monument and the U.S. Capitol building painted the night sky.
As I stepped off the plane an overwhelming sense of pride began to swell over me. It was a pride of country and the freedoms it had bestowed upon me. I eagerly rushed over to claim my baggage full of Trump gear. As I stood there, MAGA hat crowned upon my head anxiously awaiting, I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. I turned and a Hispanic gentleman and his wife stood smiling. He leaned forward and whispered “Nice hat!” I smiled and with a strong southern drawl I replied, “Thank You.”
We proceeded to have a conversation. It turned out the couple was from Los Angeles. The man described to me his experiences of ridicule and hatred he received in California for wearing his hat. His wife leaned forward and reiterated her fear of even showing their support for Trump in D.C. We exchanged a few more stories and wished each other a safe a joyous time.
The trip was off to a good start. It was now off to the hotel for some much needed rest. Tomorrow would begin an itinerary of events with historical significance. Little did I know that the next few days would be a time of both celebration and persecution.
Stretched between the Capitol Dome and the Lincoln Memorial is an array of monuments. I made a point to visit the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. Each site had a unique way of portraying our illustrious democracy. The impact felt by each memorial was immense, but none as powerful as Arlington National Cemetery.
As I looked out over the vast fields of white marble headstones, the stones glistening like a crisp winter snow, an overwhelming appreciation for the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms pressed over me. It is difficult to translate the full impact the site has on an individual, but I assure you it is cumbersome.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier lies within these hallowed grounds. If the rolling fields of white gravestones does not move you, this memorial surely will. A lone soldier, pristinely dressed and razor sharp, patrols along the tomb. He is a symbol of our nation’s gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifices made by our military men and women.
The Changing of the Guard, a ceremony to replace the patrolling soldier, is one of military precision. Each step, each gesture, and each word of every soldier involved is meticulously planned and executed. Every detail undergoes a microscopic inspection to ensure that the integrity of the sight is not disturbed. It was truly an honor to have been able to witness such a heartfelt ceremony in memory of our soldiers’ sacrifices for democracy.
My week continued with the first event held at the Lincoln Memorial. The Welcome Celebration scheduled for the night before the inauguration went off without a hitch. Thousands gathered to listen to music, share stories, and catch a glimpse of President-Elect Donald Trump. The atmosphere was one of optimism for our country’s future. The concert closed with a masterful display of fireworks- with each burst of color, one could not help but feel a sense of patriotism. I will say I did have to chuckle a couple of times as I thought to myself, “did Trump get those fireworks for pennies on the dollar from the Hillary celebration?”
Unfortunately, the feeling of celebration did not last long that evening. On my way to a gala, DeploraBall, I was met with hate and violence. A group of anarchists known as DisruptJ20 had organized a protest in the streets outside of the event’s location. By the time my friend and I arrived at the party the protests had already turned violent. As we exited the subway onto the streets, we were met with screams of “Nazis!” and “fascists!”. People cursed at us and threw bottles. The police had corralled an intersection, but left a small portion of the street leading to the National Press Club clear. It would be along that path that the group would pounce.
I noticed that a group of about 8 rioters, dressed in all black with a mask covering their identity, started to follow us along the street. They stalked us like prey, pacing and circling in wait to attack. Suddenly, one of the members of the group charged toward my friend. The protester attempted to punch him in the face. He tried to grab his MAGA hat off his head and rip his American flag bowtie from his neck. I immediately went to the aid of my friend now under full attack. A short scuffle ensued between myself and the attacker until he finally decided to retreat back to the group still stalking us.
We continued up the street, trying to safely reach our destination as the group continued to follow. They were yelling threats and continuing to call for our bodily harm. I then noticed through the glare of the street lamps a large object sailing through the night sky. I lurched to my side just in time to miss a large ceramic planter soaring towards my head. I watched it narrowly miss me and shatter into a million tiny pieces against a building.
I knew we had to make it up the street to the National Press Club in order to guarantee our safety. Once we reached the police line, with the group following us to that point, I informed the officers of our attackers, but they had no interest in justice. Luckily, neither I nor my friend suffered any injuries, but our freedom and safety was truly being tested that night.
After a long night of celebration and literally fighting for our right to be in D.C., I found I was operating on two hours of sleep. I had arrived at the inauguration ceremony at around 4am in order to get a good vantage point. A crowd of people had already gathered at the security gates awaiting their opportunity to witness this pinnacle of our democracy.
The sight of the Capitol Building against the morning light was absolutely breathtaking. It dawned in red, white and blue. It provided a perfect backdrop for this historic inauguration. I had an opportunity to meet so many different people awaiting the ceremony’s start. People from Oregon to Virginia, people from the United Kingdom and Germany, and people from all walks of people came to be a part of our American democracy.
As the ceremonies began the huge crowd that had gathered started to come to life. The atmosphere was one of immense respect for the significance of the inauguration, but it managed to keep that spark one might expect at a Trump rally. The tired and anxious crowd began to chant “TRUMP!” and “USA!” once the hour neared when the President-Elect would take the oath of office. Dignitaries such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emerged onto the steps of the Capitol, and chants of “Lock Her Up” and a hiss of boos began to fill the air.
As Senator Chuck Schumer began to speak, you could hear a rumble of “boos” from the back of the crowd growing. It came forward like a wave until it reached the podium; it started out low and became deafening. Those in attendance had drowned out the attempts of the Senator to undermine the voice of the American people.
As Trump rose to the podium to be administered the oath, the crowd began a thunderous cheer. The man leading our movement was about to be sworn in and the excitement of the moment was beyond intense. The oath ended with Trump uttering the words “So help me God.” At that exact moment you could feel the sense of accomplishment washing over the crowd- the people had finally taken back their government, and country. I knew that with the closing of this chapter, a new one one would begin for us all. Our fight to Make America Great Again was now a responsibility incumbent upon us all.
The day was capped with an inaugural parade that proudly displayed the diversity of our great nation. Our farmers, schools, children, police and firemen, culture, and military was on full display. I met two very unique individuals at the parade. The first, a Vietnamese man from Alabama who had jumped on an early morning train to witness the inauguration. His patriotism alone was enough to make up for the entire crowd. He told me that he had waited his entire life to be a part of something this historic. He described how Trump had inspired him to witness, first hand, the greatness that this country had to offer to him and his family.
The second was a Cuban American from New York who also stood alongside me to view the parade. Like everyone else, he was moved by Donald Trump’s campaign and when I asked why he supported Trump he replied, “as an immigrant, it was important to him to respect our laws.” He was grateful for the opportunities that this country had provided him. He believed that Trump would continue to fight to provide more opportunity for all.
These men were examples of the diversity of Trump’s appeal and were welcomed by everyone in attendance.
Just a few blocks away from the parade celebration a different kind of crowd had gathered. We had gotten reports from social media about the events unfolding around us. Rioters had began to smash out the windows of businesses. Trash cans and newspaper stands were being thrown and lit on fire. A limousine was ablaze just blocks away, destroyed by rioters seeking violence.
The tolerant liberal Democrats were now terrorizing the nation’s capital, a symbol of our great democracy, in an attempt to silence those who disagreed with them. I watched as S.W.A.T teams and police in riot gear stormed the streets. Trump supporters fearing for their lives tried desperately to get their families to safety. You could see the concern of parents for their children as they tried to find the safest way out of the city. It was a sad occasion to witness such terror on a day that should have been a celebration of what makes our country incredible- the peaceful transfer of power from one leader to the next.
The remainder of my trip was met with continued hatred. People wearing “I’m with Her” buttons stopped me in the streets. They made a personal effort to confront me at every turn of my trip. Members of the Women’s March called me a nazi from across the street. One woman approached me and told me that I made her sick, and that she hoped I would die. Others gave me evil looks, stared, or gave me the middle finger. People took pictures from a distance as if I was some animal on display.
On the subway, a guy rushed down the escalator and jumped in front of me. He turned to me and asked me, “What is it like being a member of the KKK?” He kept harassing me as I explained to him that I did not want to talk politics with him; his ignorance of the issues proved to me that there was no thoughtful conversation that could occur between us. Yet, he followed me and continued to accuse me of being a KKK member.
In museums, a couple of young teenage women came up to me (having seen my MAGA hat) and stated they were scared. They had been attacked by members of the Women’s March just a few minutes earlier. Visibly shaken, they asked if they could accompany us until they felt safe again. I reassured them and graciously invited them to join our group.
Throughout the trip, I had to watch over my shoulder to ensure my safety. At one point I remember thinking to myself, “Is this really America?” I felt like I was in a foreign country under communist rule, and my safety was in jeopardy thanks to mobs of individuals filled with violence and hatred. The freedom to express my political views was being deprived from me.
My freedoms would not be seized by threats. I had endured so much during this journey and I would stand tall in the face of adversity. I had an opportunity to witness the grandest display of our democracy, and no group could take that away from me. I got to meet so many different people on my journey. Gay and straight, black, white, and Asian. Young and old. We had all endured hatred and violence in order to have our voices heard.
My visit showed me the strength of our great democracy and the resilience of its people. I am reminded of a quote from John F. Kennedy:
“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
What an amazing journey this has been for me, but I know it is not over. The next chapter has begun, and it is now the responsibility of each of us to aid in fostering a prosperous nation. It starts in our communities and states across our land. We must ensure that we hold our officials accountable and that our desires are met. We must support and elect local and state candidates that will dedicate their service to Making America Great Again.