Several weeks ago, just as I was heading out of town for the next leg of my trip, I met a few friends for brunch in Philadelphia. It was there, in between one of us accidentally smearing butter across the front of her coat and another admitting that she once hoped a fellow bridesmaid would stuck in an elevator at a mid-range hotel in New Jersey, that our conversation turned to politics.
The four of us were on the same page. The president elect spouted policies that we found troubling; his core supporters were, at times, equal parts vicious and delusional; and that bridesmaid really did deserve to wait it out between floors while the rest of us drank a bottle of rose. Where my friends and I disagreed, however, was our approach – namely that some of us wanted to talk through our opinions, while others were more inclined to shout.
This past election was one of the rare occasions that I chose to tread lightly –not because I didn’t have a strong opinion, but because it was a particularly polarizing situation. I didn’t want to anger half of my family and a handful of friends who voted for Trump and applauded his every move. Let’s not forget, I’m from Pennsylvania.
Besides, I also had the dim hope that once he took office, he would walk back his campaign promises and take a more moderate approach. “We don’t really know how it’s going to be,” is how I phrased it that morning and countless other times before.
My friend did not ascribe to this rhetoric. For weeks following the election, she had been posting profanity-laden messages on social media sites that not only slammed our president elect, but also openly criticized those who voted for him. While many of us were encouraging each other to find the middle ground, she was imploring us to pick sides.
I had to give her credit: she got right to the point. She had something to say and she wasn’t going to complicate the message with eloquence. She was unapologetic and unrelenting and I admired her commitment even if I didn’t quite care for her methods.
“I agree with you,” I said to her. “But I think the way you’re going about it can be… alienating.”
“You’re right,” she said. “It is alienating.”
“I just wonder if you might be more productive if you phrased it differently,” I added.
“Yes,” she nodded. “This is totally unproductive.”
It was the most agreeable exchange two people could have had without actually getting anywhere.
“And I worry that the internet trolls are going to come after you,” I said. “It’s easier than you think to track someone down. Some of these people really scare me.”
“My accounts are private,” she replied. Clearly she had thought through her position as much as she did her strategy and its ramifications.
We left the conversation at that. And that was where things might have stayed had it not been for a whirlwind first ten days of President Trump’s term. In that short time, we saw an executive order that reversed the office’s position on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline; an inexplicable gag order on the EPA and Department of Agriculture; a temporary ban on the entry of immigrants from seven countries and an indefinite halt to our refugee program. The past week has proven unequivocally that this President is every bit as diabolical and ruthless as his campaign suggested he would be. Now we know.
If there’s any silver lining to this situation it’s that suddenly my friend is in very good company. Half the country, it seems, turned up to demonstrate their resistance in one way or another. And that makes me happy because if ever there was a time to get shouty, it’s now. I’m finally ready to admit that.
In fact, I owe my friend an apology – for telling her to tone it down a few weeks ago when I was in denial how terrible our circumstances really were. For letting her voice our joint concerns alone. And for personally contributing to the normalization of a true madman.
And I’m also sorry to lay all that out here, on a travel blog. I know most of you visit this site for stories about water slides and jet boating, not political discourse. This blog is not the proper forum for such a discussion – but it’s the one I have and, imperfect as it may be, it’s the one I’ll use. If you don’t like it, I understand. It must be tiring to be confronted yet again by someone telling you that the line has been drawn. I no longer care about hurting someone’s feelings when everyone’s rights are at stake.
"I would have loved to be in DC yesterday…" is a phrase I never thought I'd say. But it's true. This is also true: a statue of Napoleon was once at the top of this column. It was later knocked down and melted to make a statue of King Henry IV. I don't know anything about him but Google tells me he was also known as "Good King Henry," and that's enough to convince me that he's better than Napoleon. History! Thanks to all who went out and made your voices heard yesterday. I'm so sad I couldn't join you. #womensmarch #paris #france #travel #traveling #travelgram #travelblog #blog #blogger #travelblogger #vendome
Since I’m no longer living in the U.S., I can’t exactly take my message to the streets. This post will have to do. Should you also want to do something, here are some options to consider:
Donate to the ACLU. Over the past weekend, the organization received a record $24 million which they will use to help protect the rights and liberties of Americans and those affected by the President’s recent executive order.
Donate to Planned Parenthood (preferably in the name of Mike Pence). You know what they do – unless you think they only perform abortions, in which case get it together already.
Join a resistance march. Go ahead, get “hysterical.”
Buy a newspaper subscription to a reputable news outlet and help ensure they don’t become “a failing pile of garbage.”
And if you’re a little late to the party, as I am, please say thank you to all the people who spoke up while you sat comfortably on the sidelines. And then say you’re sorry for not doing more sooner. Better yet, SHOUT IT.