Monday, January 23, 2017

Yes, We Watched Trump's Inauguration. Here's What I Thought about It

Even with a full school-day on Friday, we still made time for this:

Frankly, I'm surprised at how many people have said that they boycotted the inauguration, or purposefully kept it from their children. Do as you wish, but I think it's a mistake to abdicate your responsibility to serve as a witness to current events. Not only do the unbiased news sources (here, we're watching the inauguration on PBS,  although we listened to the pre-inauguration pomp and circumstance on NPR) need us to rely on them, lest Trump use our inattention as one more piece of evidence when he pretends that all of the news media that criticize him are unreliable, but whenever possible, we need to see these events for ourselves, unfiltered. That's how you learn your critical thinking skills. You listen and you watch.

So yes, we listened to and watched the inauguration, and then we listened to and watched Trump's horrifying speech immediately afterwards. Well, I listened in horror; the kids lost interest and mostly played with the dog: 

I'm going to begin discussing Trump's speech now. If you boycotted it, do consider reading the annotated transcript from NPR here.

Watching the speech, I was reminded of a conversation that I had with a friend years ago, about her partner's experience with Alcoholics Anonymous. "Everyone has their own bottom," she said, as she explained that each person's lowest point, the point at which they finally decide that they have to make a change, is personal to them. Only they know when they've suffered enough from their struggle that struggling, instead, to make a change is worth it.

America's struggle is with civil rights. You'd think that its bottom would have been just before the Civil War, but I'd argue that instead it was after. Perhaps it was when Americans witnessed their fellow citizens having to send black children to school with soldiers to guard them, to get them to class safely as crowds of Americans screamed death threats at those children, day after day after day. Watching their fellow citizens terrorize children on their way to school would, I hope, be the bottom that people would need to see to know that the struggle for change is worth it.

I've been so happy with the social rights and freedoms that have been steadily increasing over the decades. I want consenting adults to be free to marry the other consenting adult of their choice, regardless of the race, religion, sexual identity, or gender identity of these adults. I want children to be free to identify themselves outside of contemporary social constructs of gender and sexuality. I want everyone to be free to worship, or not worship, as their conscience dictates to them. I want everyone to have health care sufficient to allow them to keep their bodies healthy, and I want that health care not to be a financial burden to anyone.

I don't want more factories, unless people really, really want to work in them. I want everyone to have gainful employment in a field that interests them, not just in a factory because that's the work they can get. I don't want factories to stay in America OR go overseas--I want robots to do all of the factory work, and let people do something more interesting.

I don't necessarily want more bridges and roads and tunnels. I want more nature. I want more protected species. I want a clean environment, and industry that's non-polluting, and I want someone to finally start figuring out how to build a rocket ship big enough to get us all off the planet in 5 billion years when our sun begins to die. And I want to keep our planet as nice as possible until then.

I don't want to put America first. I want to put people first, then all the other living creatures, then the health of the planet as a whole. I want to put the babies dying in Syria before the adult Americans who just want their own particular moral compass to dictate how other Americans act. I want all of the children in group homes and overseas orphanages and the sex trade and in situations where they're being abused to be thriving in happy families, to have healthy bodies with ample health care, to have clean water to drink and nourishing food to eat, and to have bright futures before we even think about criticizing women with unwanted pregnancies who choose abortion.

I do want to make America great, but not "again," because I don't think that it's lost anything by outlawing slavery, establishing freedom of speech and religion, and increasing the social and political freedoms of its citizens. I want America to be great in the sense that I want the world to be great, as in a great place for everyone to live, no matter where they live. In that sense, I am hopeful after listening to Trump's negative, fearful inauguration speech, not because I'm happy to think that this is the direction that America is turning towards, because I am NOT, but in the sense that maybe America has to hit bottom again in the next four years. Maybe Americans have to experience having civil rights threatened, having the rich get even richer and the poor get even poorer, having racism and sexism and religious bigotry become daily facts for most, having those factories and bridges and roads and having to deal with the economic and environmental ramifications of them, before we can realize once again that the struggle to make real changes that make everyone's lives really better is worth it.


mamaraby said...

We took a family field trip and watched "Hidden Figures" at the movie theater, went to the used bookstore, did some grocery shopping, and otherwise had a pleasant day together. There was also plenty of really good conversation post-movie.

There were plenty of ways to know what was said at the inauguration without also lending any additional "support" to the individual in question. I can read the text of the inaugural speech and the kids can see bits of the inauguration via plenty of sources. Knowing what I know now (the whole "most watched" bit), I'm glad I didn't add to it by watching in any form.

julie said...

Ooh, I want to see Hidden Figures! I'm hoping to take the kids with a homeschool group to see it next week, but Matt has also randomly scheduled a dishwasher repairperson to come that same day. On the one hand, I may explain to him that I'm home to educate the children, not wait for dishwasher repair, but on the other hand, I *do* want a working dishwasher...