The river has taught me to listen; you will learn from it, too.”
Herman Hesse’s line is about an actual mass of water droplets, but it certainly could apply to a stream of people – the one that flowed through the nation’s capital Saturday, and in state capitals, and in cities overseas – all connected: one river.
Listen to it.
Was it 2.5 million people gathered worldwide to peacefully make a statement the day after Inaugural Day? Hard to say. Hard to count.
Exact numbers aside, what a sight.
And what dignity: protest in the greatest American tradition – peaceful, solemn, stoic. On decorum alone, the new president could learn much from the marchers.
Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, who said 7,500 people arrived from her state of Michigan in 100 buses, saluted them, then offered words more conciliatory than may be permitted in Donald Trump’s DNA.
Trump, she told CNN, is “a man who listens to how people feel. I think he’s a smart man, and I think he will see a movement. He will see women scared about what’s going to happen to the country.”
We can all imagine that, and that alpacas will take wing.
In an inaugural speech sounding like a TV commercial for an ambulance-chasing lawyer (“the most dreadful inaugural speech in history,” said George Will) Trump didn’t sound like a conciliator. He sounded like Alexander Haig right after Ronald Reagan got shot, announcing, “I’m in charge here.”
The remarkable thing about Trump’s speech is that he deigned to mention anyone else at all. The word “people” appears only 10 times in 1,450 words.
Trump said “we” a lot, though listeners were left to wonder who “we” are. The Trump family? Trump Organization?
While millions marched in the streets the next day, Trump dispatched his spokesman to dispute media depictions of the crowds at his coming-out.
You can be certain that Breitbart and Russian fakesters are doctoring images as I type these words to prove otherwise, but the pictures shared by CNN and the nation’s networks did not lie.
Sad. Trump’s big day was stepped upon by a whole bunch of little people.
Oh, oh – there goes the lying media mentioning people.
Test my theory as to why Trump’s inaugural had a relatively paltry turnout: By and large, his supporters don’t think of governing as involving “the people.” They think of governing as something that is contracted out, as one does with cable service.
That’s the way Dick Cheney saw it, and they liked it.
Once again, unless those fleece-bearers take flight, hopes are not high that millions of marchers will be heard.
However, here are some things, Mr. President, that you might ascertain, were you to listen to the river:
Don’t yank health insurance away from tens of millions of Americans, as congressional Republicans are dying to do.
You said the other day that under your leadership, a plan would emanate that would mean “insurance for everybody.”
(Make that happen, and I guarantee some Republican lawmakers will die – though not from lack of health care.)
Don’t empower state legislatures to enact the wishes of the religious right regarding reproductive rights, gay and transgendered rights and more.
(We know you’ve posed with and glad-handed a bunch of right-wing preachers, but let’s acknowledge – nudge, nudge – that when it comes to a spiritual adviser, Billy Bush is far closer to you than Billy Graham.)
Take a deep breath, then make good on what you said in the inauguration: “What truly matters is not which party controls our government.” What matters, you said, is that the “people rule.”
Though your campaign reaped fewer votes than your opponent’s, Republicans in Congress and many of your supporters think this is about them right now.
Listen to the river, Mr. President. Make this governing thing about people.
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young now lives in Colorado.