Monday, January 16, 2017

What to do about Trump's inauguration: Boycott? Quietly ignore? Attend -- quietly? or ostentatiously?

As with most important controversies, it boils down to a clash of two principles or two values.   In deciding whether to attend Donald Trump's inauguration as President of the United States, those two principles are:

1.  Peaceful transfer of power.   The inauguration -- the swearing-in ceremony, attended by political and civic leaders -- is an important symbol and indication of the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next.    Along with our elections, it is one of the most important quasi-sacred events in a democracy.  The support of former opponents by their attendance says to all that we respect the outcome of the election and acknowledge that this person being inaugurated is the legitimate leader of the country for the designated term.

Following this principle, all former presidents will attend, except Pres. George H. W. Bush, whose age and health are sufficient reasons for him not to attend a prolonged outdoor event in January.   This means that Bill and Hillary Clinton will be on the VIP platform.

It is expected that most members of Congress and important office-holders in the bureaucracy will attend.   But, breaking with that tradition, a number of them have announced that they will not be attending, which brings us to the other conflicting principle.

2.  Respect for the office of the president.  Attendance at the inauguration also indicates a respect for the office of the president, even when one may not respect the particular individual elected.  But one puts aside past fights, insults, and hurts to show respect for the highest office and for our democracy.

What to do then, when that lack of respect goes so deep;   when the grievances have been so character-driven, not just by partisan disagreements?   That is the problem this year.   While respecting the office in the abstract, many people feel that this president-elect has befouled the office already before he begins.

There is such opposition to Donald Trump as a man who lies, cheats, manipulates, scams, and stiffs people who have done work for him and not gotten paid.   He has repeatedly used tax and business law loopholes to his advantages, no matter who else it hurt.   Having declared bankruptcy six or seven times, and some times profiting from it personally while ruining others, he does not personify the character qualities that we want in our president.

Instead, we have a vulgar,  loud-mouthed bully, whose example has already encouraged bullying among middle school children in the country.    His treatment of women, his disdain for minorities, including desperate refugees, his arrogance and obvious narcissism, his recklessness and ignorance of what a president needs to know -- all make it difficult to feel good about acknowledging him as our 45th president.

What to do?   Every person will have to decide for themselves.    Hardest of all must have been for Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote by almost 3 million more votes cast;  and who, but for our antiquated electoral college system, would be the one being sworn in as president.

On top of that, we now have evidence that the Russian government hacked into her campaign's emails and leaked contents to Wikileaks, who subsequently published them.  We now know that the Russian's intent, initially, was to defeat Clinton;    but eventually the Russians were actually trying to help Trump win.   Putin had a personal vendetta against Clinton, blaming her as Secretary of State, for fomenting the political unrest that almost defeated him (Putin) in his presidential re-election in 2011.  But, once Trump was the nominee, Putin apparently saw him as someone who could be manipulated and therefore a useful asset for Russia.

How much this affected the final outcome is impossible to say.    But there is no doubt that it was one of several factors operating in the last months of the election, any one of which could have made the difference in several critical states that were close.

Beyond the effect on the electoral process itself, however, many people do not feel that Trump is fit to be president on broader grounds:   temperament, knowledge, judgment.   The thought of him representing the United States in international summit meetings is an embarrassment.  The thought of a man of his temperament and judgment being in charge of our nuclear arsenal is horrifying.    The disrespect he has shown for women and minorities and immigrants.   There are dozens of different reasons that people have for not wanting to celebrate Donald Trump's inauguration as the 45th United States President.

I am one of them.   I am a little less fearful of calamity than I was a month ago, because some of his cabinet choices have testified that they disagree with some of his most extreme -- and dangerous -- policy statements;   and several of the key appointees (Sec. of Defense, Sec. of State, Head of CIA) have all pledged that they could stand up to the president where they see him about to violate laws or do something dangerous.

But being just "a little less fearful of calamity" is not much comfort about the future.   I'm afraid we've lost the Supreme Court to a hard right majority for the next two or three decades.  This could include over-turning Roe v Wade, upholding unbridled money in politics, doing nothing to repair the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, and doing nothing to protect transgender individuals.

Besides all of these reasons for not wanting to "attend" the inauguration (via TV in my case), I just don't think I could stomach the tawdry aesthetics that I expect from a Donald Trump extravaganza.   The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the high-kicking Rockefeller Center Rockettes are good Middle Americana, I suppose.   But don't be surprised if that's as high-class as it gets.

We can't expect an inaugural poem written for the occasion and delivered by a Maya Angelou (Obama 2009) or  one by the young Hispanic, gay, immigrant poet Richard Blanco (Obama 2013) -- or the original elegant performers, Robert Frost and Pablo Casals (Kennedy 1961).   Or the epitome of soul, Aretha Franklin (Obama 2009) or of pop, Beyonce (Obama 2013).   No, attendees are more likely to be given a taste of  Duck Dynasty, TV evangelism, and NASCAR on the Mall.

I'll pass.


No comments:

Post a Comment