WASHINGTON—You go to the presidential inauguration expecting to catch a glimpse of the new Commander–in–Chief, or at the very least his presidential motorcade along the parade route down Pennsylvania Avenue. But then life happens, and you’re sandwiched between a metal barricade and a mass of protestors in front of the Hard Rock Café. You find yourself sitting at the much more spacious Asia Nine bar and restaurant in downtown D.C., watching the events on a poorly–synced television where the audio is ahead of the visuals.
Asia Nine is quiet. Dimly lit, the only real light a fluorescent yellow casting its gaze on bottles of expensive Japanese whiskey. Suntory, to be precise. At the bar sits a group of Trump supporters. One woman, short, frizzy–haired with glasses, bows her head and clasps her hands together, as if in prayer, when now–official President Trump recites the oath of office at noon. Behind her, a man wearing a blue sweater and a simple gold necklace encourages an act of treason, muttering semi–audibly, “Take the shot, take the shot!” His friends, two women, glance at him embarrassingly, not wishing to make a scene.
The speech begins. The Trump supporters at the bar have now removed their phones and are recording. The quality may not be as good as if they were witnessing the speech in person, but at least there are no protestors with signs like “Not my Fuhrer” and “Cheeto in Chief” inside Asia Nine. One man yells “You’re a fraud!” from the opposite side of the restaurant, the only bit of audible dissent. The woman who sat in silent prayer earlier has now awakened, shouting and gesticulating wildly in utter adulation, “Go boss go! Go boss go!”
Asia Nine is louder now. It’s around 2 p.m. and a cohort of leather–jacket clad bikers from Harrisburg have entered the restaurant, seeming intent upon engaging with a group of reporters who are trying their best to maintain a veneer of objectivity. The most garrulous biker is a middle–aged man whose leather jacket bears both a Confederate and “Don’t Tread on Me” flag patch. A member of the Teamsters union, he works in trucking and voted for Trump. Earlier, before engaging the reporters, he joked to his friends, “Bill Clinton’s a sexual predator. I like him!”
Among his main concerns is immigration. “They don’t want to be Americans,” he says of illegal immigrants. “If they wanted to be Americans, why wouldn’t they do it legally?” His great–grandfather came to America from Germany. Legally. “He wanted to be an American.” After some conversation, he concedes that he would be open to providing illegal immigrants with a path toward citizenship. “But not amnesty,” he insists. He is unaware that this was precisely President Obama’s policy; “Obama wanted to keep the borders open,” he says.
Back at the bar, people are fighting over which channel the television is tuned to. A man in a New York Giants jacket asks a waitress to change the channel from CSPAN to Fox News. The two young liberal women, who came to D.C. from Seattle, tell him to go sit by the TV on the other side of the bar, which is already tuned to Fox News. Their faces are flushed, shooting nasty glares toward the man, who has still not moved. He attempts to diffuse the situation by introducing himself. “Don’t touch me,” one woman sneers as he recoils his outstretched hand.
“Tolerance is a virtue, ladies,” he says.
“I can tolerate alcohol, not you.”
They each order a shot of Grey Goose, raise their glasses in mock salute, down the shot, then leave.
Asia Nine is quiet once more.
The next morning, a procession of knitted pink hats descended upon the Capitol building. Their owners carried signs like “My grandma marches with me!!” and “Without immigrants Trump would have no wives.” They passed street–preachers with megaphones who had their own signs —“BLM are racist thugs” and “Idolatry is spiritual whoredom against the lord”— but paid them little heed.
Mark Reilly, a Postal Service worker and stand–up comedian in his forties, came from Maine to attend the inauguration. He walked along the Mall, among the throngs of women, keeping to himself in his bright red Make America Great Again hat and thick tie showing an American flag and the text of the Constitution. He felt that on Friday, many of the protestors attempted to block inauguration–goers like himself from attending the event.
“It seems to me a lot of these people talk about freedom of expression, freedom of choice and stuff like that,” he said. “But a lot of people that agree with their dislike of the president were not allowing people to express themselves yesterday and express their support for the president.”
The Washington Monument was a sanctuary for Trump supporters on Saturday, one of the few places where you could see at least a few more red hats, fewer pink beanies. 51–year–old Rick Carriger from Oklahoma was there, snapping pictures on this cold, overcast day. He supported the protesters’ right to protest, but not their attitude.
"It just appears that they kind of have a chip on their shoulder, are being a little bit nasty to people that are wearing a Trump shirt,” he said. “I don’t care what they’re wearing, so why should they care what I’m wearing?” (He was wearing a shirt emblazoned with the word “Trumplican,” which depicted a somewhat eerie–looking red–white–and–blue elephant sporting a Donald Trump hairdo.)
Amidst the protestors, ever–increasing in size as they passed the Monument, Carriger felt uncomfortable. A few people had made rude gestures passing by him and muttered words that were “probably not proper” to repeat. “You kind of feel like you’re not welcome, not wanted,” he said. “So you’ve gotta keep your guard up with things that go on today. One wrong person walks by and punches you or does something, you know…”
Women who supported Trump were no more sympathetic to their fellow women marching. Susan Stewart, who came to the inauguration with a high school history class from Donalsonville, Georgia, thought the spectacle was “totally unnecessary.”
“I think women have plenty of rights,” she said.
Mary Albritton, who also hails from the 3,000–person town, harbored no concern over her candidate’s treatment of women. She found Trump’s “grab her by the pussy” remark to be “rude and ugly,” but ultimately not reflective of how he viewed women. “Women talk the same way when they’re in private and don’t know they’re being recorded,” she reasoned. “You know, there’s girl talk, there’s guy talk.”
Albritton herself stayed far from the actual march, unable to hear the chants of “Hey hey! Ho ho! The patriarchy has got to go!,” or the spontaneous waves of cheering that cascaded over protestors. She supports the right to protest, so long as it is peaceful, but finds the march to be overkill.
“I think we fought this war already,” she said.
Photo credit: Creative Commons