Friday, January 20th, 2017.
Here we are in Washington D.C. A vast swamp, figuratively and in reality, resting along the side of the mighty Potomac River, the East Coast’s fourth largest river. The site was chosen to be the final resting spot for the United States of America’s capitol by the prestigious General and then-first President of the fledgling nation, George Washington. Maybe you’ve heard of him. Alongside his fellow Masonic Temple brothers, Thomas Jefferson and French General Pierre Charles L’Enfant–who was a key player in the American Revolution–the three would have a major role in how D.C. was designed and the aesthetics of the new government’s buildings. With its curiously straight and diagonal streets that aligned many of the main areas and soon-to-be-built-monuments, many claim symbols hidden in plain sight can be seen in the city’s layout. But while Masons and the upper class may have designed the city, it was built on the backs of the poor, commoners and, of course–the blight on America’s face since it’s birth–slavery.
For such a youthful country it is an older city, with ghosts haunting every corner and alleyway. It’s the city of Abraham Lincoln during his tumultuous four years and would end up killing him. It’s where Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his “Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself” speech that ignited a generation and has been carved into the pillars of history. Where–in 1812–it was pillaged and burned by the British and the Constitution and Declaration of Independence had to be briefly moved to Leesburg, Virgina, which became the temporary capitol. It’s the home to the world’s largest museum–the Smithsonian, founded in 1846. And it’s the yearly destination for roughly 17 million Americans to connect with our country’s past. To reflect on it’s monumental achievements, many faults and to rekindle the uniquely individual flame that burns inside every one us.
It is also the city where in less than 24 hours an unscrupulous con man–who could’ve been a used cars salesman if he had been born to a less wealthy family–will be inaugurated as the 45th President and leader of the Free World.
As I type this in my hotel room, my three comrades are catching what little sleep they can. Our alarms are set for 5:45am but it’s already 5:30 and I’m still going off roughly 6 hours of sleep in the past 48. I’m too charged on coffee, cigarettes and the pure adrenaline running through my veins, triggered by the electricity in the air.
My close friend and photographer for this trip, Michael Rork, and I meant to arrive in the afternoon on Thursday, but our first delay was sleeping through our alarms (only 4 hours for me due to work, packing and traveling the day before). Then we hit traffic and had to make the usual stops for food, gas and the occasional bathroom break as we traveled the 512 miles from Burlington, Vermont.
For those who didn’t pay attention in the last year, the quaint, New England city is the home of the man who could’ve become our 45th Commander-in-Chief (if it had not been for collusion and conspiracy within the Democratic Party), Bernie Sanders. As the snowy hills slowly changed into industrial cities, I couldn’t help but think what a different world we would be living–and the opposite, celebratory context our drive would take–had he won the nomination.
By the time we reached Baltimore we realized our friends from our teenage years–Marc and Eric who decided to fly to the East Coast on a whim the night before–would be arriving at the city’s airport within the hour. We decided to stay and wait for their flight, smoking a joint in the airport parking garage as we watched the police below us. I quickly scoured the news and discovered police had already begun deploying tear gas at protesters gathered at the anti-Trump “DeploraBall” event. Mike and I glanced at one another, with a concerned look not even the THC could cover-up.
After gathering Eric and Marc we made it to our hotel in Lanham, a suburb of the Capitol, stopping at a nearby IHOP for some much needed coffee, food and catching-up.
This is going to be a savage and brutal trip into the depths of the American soul. Appropriate for a candidate who regularly incited bigotry, hate and violence on the campaign trail. Who continues to divide citizens, journalists, politicians and the country every step of the way. The level of pre-inauguration scandal he has wrought is ludicrously unheard of in generations and hardly matched in our country’s history.
Today we face a brave, new world with quickly diminishing boundaries for the rich and powerful. A new America, where science and the truth are ignored and corporations will laughingly be carried to new heights of wealth on the broken backs of the poor and the Presidential Cabinet will quickly disembowel the very federal agencies they are supposed to captain.
Yes, Trump will make America great again for the real Americans by showing the majority of us that we are not them.
This weekend will be powerful. This weekend will be inspiring. And this weekend will be as goddamned frightening as staring into the mouth of Hell and seeing an orange-faced, self-righteous bigot staring back.
Fuck you, Cheeto Voldemort.