USA to­day: Suzanne McFad­den re­ports from the US dur­ing the lead-up to Don­ald Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion

On the eve of the in­au­gu­ra­tion of Don­ald Trump, The Aus­tralian Women’s Weekly’s award-win­ning jour­nal­ist Suzanne McFad­den was in Ore­gon, Amer­ica. She re­ports on the feel­ing among lo­cals about their fu­ture.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

In a week when an overnight snow­storm al­most brought Port­land, Ore­gon, to a shud­der­ing halt, the city was also deal­ing with a short­age of pink wool. It wasn’t, un­for­tu­nately, brought on by a rush of peo­ple mak­ing socks and scarves for the city’s 3800 freez­ing home­less. The sud­den de­mand for yarn was for an­other press­ing cause – those knit­ting “pussy­hats”, the pink cat-eared head­wear to be worn by women in Port­land, and Wash­ing­ton DC, in protest marches the day af­ter the in­au­gu­ra­tion of the 45th pres­i­dent of the United States, Don­ald Trump.

The idea of the Women’s March was to bring at­ten­tion to civil and hu­man rights is­sues amidst a sea of pink; the cat ears a sub­tle ref­er­ence to Trump’s in­fa­mous “Grab them by the pussy” re­mark made in 2005, and dragged up dur­ing his elec­tion cam­paign.

Port­land, on the US west coast, is a lib­eral town. It em­braces med­i­cal mar­i­juana, as­sisted dy­ing and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues; it was a na­tional leader in push­ing for same-sex mar­riages. Ore­gon has favoured Democrats in every pres­i­den­tial elec­tion since 1988, and in the lat­est, the ma­jor­ity of vot­ers put their weight be­hind Hil­lary Clin­ton (50 per cent to Trump’s 39 per cent).

So it’s no sur­prise that talk­ing to peo­ple on the snowy streets of Port­land, there was a sense of un­cer­tainty and dread about what the 70-year-old bil­lion­aire’s term in of­fice might hold for Amer­i­cans.

A shop as­sis­tant at the his­toric depart­ment store Macy’s was about to lose his job of nine years. The re­tail gi­ant de­cided to close 68 of its stores na­tion­wide be­cause of de­clin­ing sales, and its glazed ter­ra­cotta Port­land store – a city icon since 1909 – was one of them. He was told the news the day af­ter Trump was elected. “It was the worst 24 hours,” he said. “It was tough get­ting out of bed the next day, not know­ing what the fu­ture held.”

Of course, the clo­sures had noth­ing to do with the pres­i­dent-elect, and the store as­sis­tant

It was tough get­ting out of bed the next day.

is feel­ing more op­ti­mistic about it now, look­ing at a new ca­reer in credit unions.

At a bar­ber­shop in the hip Pearl District – where cus­tomers en­joy a cof­fee or whisky while wait­ing for a trim – a fe­male bar­ber re­called the anti-Trump protests that erupted into ter­ri­fy­ing ri­ots in the nor­mally suave neigh­bour­hood im­me­di­ately af­ter the elec­tion. She was dis­turbed by the vi­o­lence that spilled onto the streets; 71 peo­ple were ar­rested on the fifth night of protests, when bot­tles and fire­works were hurled at po­lice, and cars and store win­dows were smashed.

“The vi­o­lence took away from the mes­sage of the protest. It be­came the story,” she said. She was hop­ing the same wouldn’t hap­pen again af­ter the Jan­uary 20 in­au­gu­ra­tion.

North of Port­land, in the Wash­ing­ton city of Seat­tle, my friend David Volk – a writer and fa­ther of two young chil­dren – con­sid­ered the dif­fer­ences be­tween this in­au­gu­ra­tion and the swear­ing-in of Barack Obama eight years be­fore.

“As Obama pre­pared to take the oath of of­fice, we were op­ti­mistic, we were hope­ful. For many, ‘Yes we can’ was more than a slo­gan. We had elected the coun­try’s first African Amer­i­can pres­i­dent and we were in­spired by what we had done. We be­lieved in hope and change, and that we could all work to­gether to ac­com­plish amaz­ing things be­cause the pres­i­dent, our ac­tivistin-chief, told us we could,” he said.

“As Trump en­ters of­fice, the mantra is a darker, dic­ta­to­rial ‘I alone can fix that’. He some­how man­aged to con­vince many that we were in sad shape, on the verge of fi­nan­cial chaos; that ter­ror­ists were knock­ing at our door; that we had lost our pres­tige; that we were weak. And that he was go­ing to ‘Make Amer­ica Great Again’, even though he never ex­plained why it was no longer great, or how he was ac­tu­ally go­ing to fix it.”

David talked about a feel­ing of fear in his city – among a va­ri­ety of peo­ple, from the work­ing poor and women, to Mus­lims and mi­nori­ties. As a Jew, he was ner­vous about white su­prem­a­cist groups who en­dorsed Trump, and now “ex­pect to be re­warded for their as­sis­tance”.

But he also un­der­stood there is a large swathe of Amer­ica want­ing the change that Trump has promised to bring. “In Seat­tle, we tend to for­get that the rest of the coun­try isn’t like us. There are parts of the coun­try that are not as pros­per­ous, and where the prospects aren’t as good,” he said.

You sim­ply can’t ig­nore the wave of ex­cite­ment among Trump sup­port­ers (re­mem­ber there were 61.9 mil­lion of them). They just haven’t been so vo­cif­er­ous, be­cause they have noth­ing to ob­ject to – their man is now in charge.

They are adamant that he will de­liver on his long string of elec­tion prom­ises.

As Obama’s reign ended, some US po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors ques­tioned whether the out­go­ing pres­i­dent, while a good man and a re­spected leader, was the cre­ator of the Trump rev­o­lu­tion; that the coun­try’s slow eco­nomic growth, and Amer­ica’s on­go­ing in­volve­ment in wars abroad, had done lit­tle to as­suage the fears of many Amer­i­cans.

In Obama’s laid-back home state, Hawaii, a young beauty ther­a­pist named Lucy sums up a dif­fer­ent feel­ing, re­flected in a Gallup poll that showed three-quar­ters of Amer­i­cans are di­vided over the most im­por­tant val­ues and al­most half have no faith in Trump bring­ing the coun­try to­gether. “None of my friends voted. We don’t be­lieve in pol­i­tics, and we don’t trust politi­cians. We don’t know if pres­i­dents can truly make a dif­fer­ence – the only way to make change is to change your­self.”

ABOVE: The Pussy­hat project united women and their knit­ting nee­dles as they pre­pared to march in protest against Don­ald Trump.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.