January 20th, 2017 was truly a historic date, as our forty-fifth president, Donald J. Trump was officially inaugurated as president of the United States. In attendance were previous presidents Carter, Clinton, Bush and Obama, as well as scores of Americans wearing the Trump administration’s iconic trucker hat emblazoned with his slogan, “Make America Great Again”.
Despite President Trump’s statement that this was a “peaceful” exchange of power, the political landscape across America remained far from peaceful surrounding the inauguration.
The largest organized protest, “Women’s March” protested in several major cities across the nation against President Trump’s conservative campaign policies, as well as his promise to crack down on illegal immigration and Islamic terrorism. They took to the streets to speak their mind following the inauguration ceremony, leaving scores of signs behind at their areas of protest.
Simultaneously, other black-garbed protesters bearing the red and black iconography of anarcho-communists or anarcho-syndicalists took to the streets of Washington D.C. as well, vandalizing public and private property. These riots further escalated to conflict with police, who attempted to quell the riot, leading to over 200 rioters arrested and six injured police officers.
Sally Kohn’s (a prominent LGBT political commentator) statement early in the presidential electoral season, that “if Trump wins, Hillary supporters will be sad” and “If Hillary wins Trump supporters will be angry” has proven itself to be incorrect. At this point, if either candidate had lost, their supporters would have been angry.
The country remains as divided as ever. It’s quite telling when protesters are bearing a banner embroidered with the phrase “NO PEACEFUL TRANSITION.” We’ve entered a political climate where an “Alternative Right” (a far-right political movement) speaker Richard Spencer can be physically assaulted on the streets during an interview. People have found this behavior to be acceptable because Richard Spencer has been labeled a “Nazi”, even if he insists that he does not consider himself to be one. It deeply disturbs me that we have entered a climate where it has become publicly acceptable to apply the label of “fascism”, regardless of accuracy, to one’s political opponents and resort to violence against them instead of engaging in peaceful political discourse.
Some have argued that it is perfectly fine to vandalize private and public property as well as assault far-right ideologists, citing the Boston Tea party and anti-fascist sentiments in America’s history. What they fail to realize is that the contexts of both excuses are far different than this. Colonists were protesting a newly enacted tax on tea and a state granted monopoly given to a British trading company conducted the Boston tea party. The colonists had no say in the enactment of the tax/monopoly, and thus lashed out.
The protesters had a non-violent way to vocalize their opposition: vote against Trump. However, that failed. That does not give them the right to vandalize their fellow Americans’ property. They aren’t vandalizing some large corporation’s latest asset, but stores owned by everyday Americans. We live in a democracy that did not exist at the time of the colonists, and it speaks volumes to the rioters’ immaturity that they cannot accept that they lost a democratic election. As to the anti-fascist sentiments of WW2, one must remember that at that time, such advocating was seditious. It often called for the subjugation of America to the ideals of Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy. Today, this is merely the far-right political ideals of an American, who is in no way advocating for the dissolution or subjugation of the United States. Therefore, he/she retains the right to hold and express his/her political opinion just the same as the self-proclaimed communist who took to the streets with violence and vandalism. By their logic, it should be perfectly acceptable to assault self-proclaimed communists because the Cold War happened, and it was acceptable to despise communists back then.
It is times like these that my mind is boggled by how far we’ve come. In the recent past, liberals were a fast-growing movement that advocated for peace and understanding while the conservatives were deeply entrenched in their ideals. Now, “liberals” advocate for strong-armed censorship of ideologies that do not conform to the mainstream, all in the name of peace and understanding, while the conservatives remain deeply entrenched in its ideals.
I can only hope that the tensions wrought from the election season will settle in the coming months of the Trump presidency and we can unite once more as Americans, partaking in peaceful political discourse where disputes and debates are won by skillfully crafted arguments, backed by statistics and facts, instead of by physical force or censor. I can only hope.