I followed my own advice last week, and so I quite forcefully stayed away from media of any sort. If anything came up around the inauguration, even as little as an image, I did my best to shut it down, to let it intrude in my consciousness as little as possible. One result of that was that I wasn't aware of how much energy had developed around the protest marches that occurred the following day. Estimates of the attendance in Denver alone were in the range of 100,000 people. That's impressive.
Wow, I thought. The guy has only been president for a day. He hasn't even done anything yet. Well, except for saying all those shitty things, which is definitely more than nothing. But still, I wondered: what exactly are people saying with their protests, and what do they hope to achieve?
There's a tightrope the protests have to walk. If the protest energy is nothing more than a mirror of the right wing's approach of the last eight years--an assertion of the lack of legitimacy of everything the administration does, along with a concomitant sweeping up of the president's voters into a them that's in opposition to us--then the protests are only fueling dysfunction. The level of dysfunction in our system long ago became toxic, but fueling it will only make things radically worse.
On the other hand, the protests could serve as a line in the sand toward Trump himself--that people aren't going to stand for his racism, his sexism, and above all the chilling Orwellian pounded-fist
demand to control all discourse--while at the same time trying to create conversation with Trump supporters, to bring in rather than push away. If that's the case, then the protests are doing good, important, constructive work.
It's not clear which way it's going to fall. In fact, right now, it's probably both. But the goal has to be the creation of greater and greater unity, not greater and greater division. Division is a form of destruction. For the past eight years (at least), we've watched destruction win. It's time for that to change.