On Saturday, January 21, 2017, I sat on the foggy banks of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, far from the crowds of New York and DC and LA and cities across the country and around the world, where women—and men, of course—marched. In those crowds was a significant number of family members—Cathy, Jeannie, Janessa, Erin, Barbara, Fran, Tricia, Shannon, Morgan, Rachel, Suzanna, and many more—and those are just some of the women (it’s a big family).
Also on that day my Facebook feed was filled with comments from Republican friends urging everyone to get along. “It is time to gather behind our president and see what he can do.” You get the idea; comments common from both parties at the start of a new administration. They are normal, supportive words urging unity. I have never had a problem with the sentiment, until now.
Many of us who do not bend to the right did, in fact, give a chance to presidents in the past, like Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and even his son, though to a lesser degree the first time because of the nature of the decision in 2000. But again in 2004, despite disappointment, Democrats pulled it together and did their best to move forward. The same can be said of most Republicans after both Clinton wins and both Obama wins. Respect for the winner has always been a mainstay of the American public, albeit coupled with dissent.
But this time is different. The new president has proven through action and words that he disrespects women. He thinks he can “grab them by the pussy” because he is famous; he made fun of a former beauty contestant because she gained weight; he wondered who would vote for a particular female opponent “with a face like that”; and he made dangerous, unprofessional, and immature statements, such as, “We will bomb the shit out of them,” and “Tell them to get the fuck out.” His behavior is not acceptable in a classroom, an office meeting, or at a dinner table. Despite the political differences of both parties during the administrations of previous presidents, it wasn’t difficult to respect them as men. President Donald J. Trump is not, in the eyes of a majority of Americans as well as leaders of many nations throughout the world, including leaders of the Republican party, a person one can respect or trust.
Many people questioned the march. They do not understand that this was not an Anti-Trump march; it was an effort to expose unity among the women of the world to be recognized as equal. But how telling it is that people immediately associated the Women’s March as anti-Trump; when women did the same thing in March of 2015 during the Obama administration, no one claimed it was an anti-Obama demonstration. Perhaps because Mr. Trump has from his youth established himself as anti-women, disrespecting and degrading them at every turn. So, yes, in part this particular march exposed the lack of support for Mr. Trump. A real leader would have supported the efforts of everyone who marched.
I urge my right wing friends to understand that our lack of ability to quickly gather our crumbled hopes and stand behind the president has much less to do with policy than it does character—he has none. And if anyone suggests character is not necessary or even secondary for such a powerful position, he or she should study the art of nuance, of subtly, and quickly take a crash course in international relations. I cannot stand behind a man or support someone who is little more than a street punk. Quick observation: if Barack Obama made any of the comments about women and minorities that Mr. Trump has, he would have been eliminated very early on; laughed off the stage. And I would have been at the front of the mob—that behavior is unacceptable, and everyone—everyone—knows it. Mr. Trump is a bad human being and the people who marched and the tens of millions more who support them simply do not respect the man. If this were simply a matter of policy differences, anger and fear would be replaced by profound disappointment with a “try again in four years” mentality. But policy has little to do with this: he is unpredictable, crass, and too antagonistic to converse with world leaders who are frankly far more intelligent.
I understand the reaction to such rhetoric is for me to “leave the country if you don’t like it.” On the contrary, I’ve traveled extensively throughout the globe and I know first hand this has the potential to be the best country in the world, and I certainly love my homeland. So I will do what real leaders from the early days of this republic guaranteed I can do through their foresight: Protest.
Some people march, like my sister and others did this past Saturday. Some will write their congressional leaders, some will even run for office. We do what we do best for our individual contributions to this Great American Experiment. As for me, I can open a dialogue at the university to insure that at least some small groups learn how to become well informed. And while I am no Thomas Paine, I do have some common sense when it comes to writing, and I will do so. I will not attempt to challenge Mr. Trump’s policies—I do not have enough political savvy, almost as little as him. I will not attempt to suggest particular actions. And I will most certainly respect the Office of the President, while I do not respect the current occupant of that office. No, I aim to remind as many people as I can that how he acts, how he treats women, how he disrespects people of color, how he lacks decorum, grace, and character, is unacceptable, and he does not represent what Americans are like.
When he ran his own company he rightfully could act however he wished. This is the first time in this man’s life he has ever applied for a job and works for someone else—us. Yes, my Republican friends, we will, of course, honor the Electoral College and recognize Mr. Trump as president. But we will do so the same way I should hope our counterparts do so during Democratic administrations—by exposing every possible violation of ethics, character, and morality. And if anyone suggests I should not throw stones but instead I should look in a mirror and hold myself to the same standard, I have two responses. One, I try to everyday, and while I am desperately far from canonization, surpassing Mr. Trump in those areas is not difficult—the man shows no sign of humility or self-restraint and that combination is both dangerous and insulting to the forty-four who came before him.
And two, I did not choose to run for office, he did.
We are going to watch what he does every single day, Democrats and Republicans alike. We have to; it’s in all of our best interests. But he has already proven he is not up to the task of common decency. And if anyone believes his repulsive remarks and disgusting attacks on women and minorities is acceptable or excusable, then you’ve completely misunderstood the role of the president on the world stage.
I agree, my Republican BFF’s: we should all get along; we should have unity and we should see what he can do. But ask yourself this: Would you accept his behavior in anyone close to you? At the office? At home? This might be the first time in electoral history the President of the United States was held to a lower standard than just about any decent-acting human being in the most menial of jobs.
Yes, we are giving him a chance, of course. But we will march on; some on the streets of New York and DC and Houston and Seattle.
And some on the back of the First Amendment.