by Dylan Pryor and Saif Iqbal
On Jan. 20, several New College students arrived in Washington D.C. to witness the 58th Presidential Inauguration. As Muslim and Jewish-American students, we stood only hundreds of feet from the Capitol as a new chapter of America’s history began.
The sky was cloudy and overcast, and the forecast predicted a 90 percent chance of rain – grimly amusing in a biblical sense. As we walked to the inauguration grounds, we were surrounded by a sea of red hats emblazoned with the caption “Make America Great Again”. We darted throughout the crowd trying to get as close as possible to the Capitol’s steps, and it was clear that the crowd represented a stark contrast to all the friends we had left behind at New College.
There was a sense of excitement in the air, with people coming from all across the country to witness the inauguration of their candidate. Standing there with our blank expressions, we stood out like a sore thumb. We could not help but feel as if this day would go on to be remembered as a dark stain in United States history. We could not help but feel as if were there to eulogize truth, dignity, tolerance, respect, open-mindedness, science, free speech, facts, understanding and accountability.
As President and Michelle Obama arrived, there was a loud chorus of boos across the crowd.
“They should both go back to Kenya,” muttered the little old lady next to us.
As the camera panned over Hillary and Bill Clinton, the boos and heckling were even greater, with a contagious grin spreading throughout the crowd as they gloated over what they truly believed to be a grand moral victory. It was then that things seemed quite bleak, like focusing on your team’s reaction after losing in the Super Bowl, but the feeling was far more austere.
As Senator Bernie Sanders arrived, there was laughter and jeering, but also applause and support, which presented a little bit of hope on a dreary day.
Later Donald Trump raised his hand to take the oath, and it was clear that this country was heading down an ominous path, and that his promise to protect the constitution was but an ironic formality. The applause at the end of his oath was thunderous, reminiscent of the fictional rise of Emperor Palpatine, and as he took his hand off of the bible, it began to rain.
The 45th President began his inaugural address, and the “Presidential Trump”, the “natural leader”, that many were convinced would materialize was nowhere to be found. We found ourselves at another Trump rally, faced with Trump’s twisted vision of the world.
When he proudly spoke about his plan to stop “this American carnage,” we both looked at each other as we bit our tongues, genuinely concerned that if one of us spoke our minds, an over-zealous Trump supporter would physically confront us. We made do with quiet contemplation and reflection, fueled by the terrifying promises booming through the air. As we glanced at each other, no words were needed. In that moment, it was not a question of what we could do, but what we would do.