Tomorrow, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, some famous women will descend on Washington to march on it. In addition to Cher, about 200,000 other people are expected to participate in the Women’s March on Washington, with “sister marches” planned in more than 300 other cities, all united in their discontent and their confusion over what to do about it.
The only problem is the timing. Protesting Trump’s inauguration after his inauguration is like preparing for Y2K in 2002, or converting to Christianity after the Second Coming—noticeably behind schedule. Given that Trump’s inauguration cannot be rescinded by protest, what is the point of protesting it?
The point, according to the march’s communications director, Cassady Fendlay, is “to speak to all levels of government.”
And say what?
Officially, this (from the group’s mission statement):
“HEAR OUR VOICE.”
More specifically: “The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their [sic] first day in office, and to the world, that women’s rights are human rights.”
The march isn’t just about women, though. It’s also about “immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault.” I can’t help but wonder if Bill Cosby, a survivor of (his own) (alleged) sexual assaults, would qualify.
Inclusivity is key. Gloria Steinem, honorary co-chairwoman of the march, said, “It’s about knowing each other.” Getting to know 200,000 people in a single day sounds grueling, however noble.
The anti-inauguration is both too late and too early: too late to prevent Trump’s inauguration, and too early in Trump’s presidency to be “about” anything. So it’s about the participants instead.
“It is my duty as an American citizen to exercise my rights, make my voice heard and stand up for what I believe in,” said actress Scarlett Johansson, who neglected to say what she believes in.
Actress America Ferrera, who is chairing the march’s “Artists’ Table,” said, “Since the election, so many fear that their voices will go unheard.”
Jean Harris, who is not an actress but a political historian at the University of Scranton, said, “Having this march right now is important to say we’re not going to take this.” Of course, “right now” is actually tomorrow, by which time Trump will be president and we will have already taken it.
Nonetheless, Trump’s critics need a venue in which to vent, and they need it now. “There is no more urgent time than now to raise our voices and be heard,” actress Debra Messing said.
Trump will hear their voices, all right. He always listens to his adversaries, though not always kindly.
Trump has a routine, almost a formula, for handling his critics, which is to bash the hell out of them. After Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globe Awards, Trump said she was “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood.” After the cast of "Hamilton" berated Mike Pence, Trump called the play “highly overrated.” After last week’s episode of "Saturday Night Live," in which Tina Fey predicted that Trump would call the show overrated, Trump took to Twitter and, instead of calling it overrated, called it “the worst of NBC. Not funny, cast is terrible, always a complete hit job. Really bad television!”
In a way, the marchers are playing into Trump’s tiny hands. For Trump, the only thing worse than being attacked is being ignored. He can take solace in the fact that tomorrow’s march, though vehemently anti-Trump, is at least vehemently about him.
But what about him? At this point, there isn’t anything to say about him that hasn’t been said already. The marchers need not impugn his character; Trump can do that on his own. Assuming he doesn’t start a war or abolish the First Amendment in the first 24 hours of his presidency, there won’t be anything “substantive” to protest; there will be only grievances and premonitions, fears of what is to come.
If you want your voice to be heard, it helps to have something to say. What is there to say, apart from saying you want your voice to be heard?
It’s hard to formulate a cohesive message when so many people (200,000+) and so many interest groups (100+) are involved. How to articulate, in one sentence, the views of the National Organization for Women, the Sierra Club, the American Indian Movement, FREE THE NIPPLE and Communist Party USA.
Let us create a stable environment, just as the American Indians did, where women can free their nipples before President Trump builds a Berlin-like Wall and makes Mexico’s proletariat pay for it.
I guess it’s not so hard, after all. But “HEAR OUR VOICE” is probably better.