I woke up in Washington, DC, the morning of January 20, 2017, to the sound of screaming sirens, and I found myself thinking the unthinkable: Maybe it won’t happen. Maybe President Obama has found a way to stop the inauguration of Donald Trump. The Russia story was on fire, with reports of Trump’s national-security adviser, Michael Flynn, communicating with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, not to mention the lurid (but increasingly well-founded) “dossier” published by Buzzfeed. There were still questions about voting irregularities in Michigan and Wisconsin. What if the Obama administration had found clear evidence that the election had been rigged, whether by the American right or Russia (or perhaps both)? Wouldn’t it be right to hit the pause button before acceding to that injustice?
That’s right: I momentarily preferred the thought of waking up to a civil emergency, or maybe worse, than to the Trump presidency. I immediately despised myself: Buck up, get out of bed, go report the news. What kind of small-d democrat are you, that you just might prefer an intervention by the outgoing president, undoing an election, however flawed or possibly rigged it was (see, I’m still making excuses for myself), to living under President Trump? I realized that I was terrified of losing something profound—a sense that, at heart, this is a good country—and grieving over all the hard work to make it better that was about to be undone. But I got out of bed anyway and walked into the maelstrom.
I joined the millions of Americans who snubbed the inauguration ceremony and walked instead, in a grim drizzle, to the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. I needed to be reminded of how many wrong turns the arc of the moral universe takes before it bends towards justice. As I walked, I saw them: the pink hats. Women were already streaming into Washington for the Women’s March the next day, their pink hats vivid against the dull grey sky, and it was glorious.
The next morning, I walked out into the bright sunshine of the actual march, and my despair almost immediately evaporated, like an emotional vampire vanquished by sunlight and righteous women. We walked and sang and chanted and wrapped crime-scene police tape around the Trump Hotel. My contingent of happy strangers stopped the arrest of a young, black anti-Trump protester. The seemingly never-ending march wound up walking me all the way home, to the apartment where I’d awakened in grief and rescue fantasies just 36 hours before. I had dinner with a group of feminists I love and felt better than I had since November 7. We women would prevail—without extra-legal intervention by anybody.
I am here to deliver the sad news that one year in, this presidency is even worse than I had imagined. On the bright side: The woman-powered resistance is more vital and brilliant and powerful than I ever dreamed. Yet I’m still not sure which side will prevail.
The first week of his presidency, The Nation made a list of all the horrible things Trump had done in just seven days. We kept it up for a while, but we didn’t have the staff power to continue. (I’m grateful for this Washington Post list of Trump’s lies.) Also, it’s just been so hard to know what matters most.