Like many of you, I’m not looking forward to Donald Trump’s inauguration. It was painful and shocking enough to see him slide into the presidency with a minority of votes. Since we’re already going to have to deal with him for the next four to eight years, is it really necessary to subject ourselves to his coronation? Yes. Despite all of this, I’m going to tune in, and you, too, should watch the inauguration — especially if you don’t support Trump.
As dangerous as Trump’s presidency may be, it will be a whole lot more dangerous if the Americans who oppose him slip into a sense of denial or complacency about it. And in the short term, watching his formal assent to the presidency is one of the best ways to prevent this from happening, uneasy of an experience though it may be.
Denial is a common and natural human strategy for dealing with unpleasant truths. This sometimes takes the form of literal denial — maybe faithless electors will dump Trump! — while often, it’s more of a subtle decision to opt-out, and simply look away from that which we wish wasn’t the case.
In the weeks after the election, I’d often have experiences where I momentarily forgot that Trump had won. Those were nice moments. Inevitably, though, I’d eventually remember that he had indeed won, and I’d slip back into a sense of despair. Looking away can be very comforting and easy.
But if there’s any hope of mitigating the worst effects of a Trump presidency, we can’t afford to look away. The fact of the matter is this is really happening. Trump will become the next President of the United States, and his presidency will have an impact on America.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to make your voice heard when Trump is president. You can support organizations like Planned Parenthood to combat Trump’s attacks on affordable health care and women’s reproductive rights, as well as groups like Lambda Legal, which provides legal services to LGBT people and those living with HIV. We can take a hint from the demonstrators at Standing Rock and protest Trump’s policies loudly and visibly. We can fight the normalization of his presidency, and highlight his most deleterious policies, at every turn.
But we can’t do any of this if we just look away. We have to look directly at the threat in order to fight it, and there’s no better way to do that than by, yes, subjecting ourselves to the nauseating display that will be his inauguration.
Of course, a lot of people won’t require such a reminder. Those who stand to potentially be directly and immediately affected by Trump’s presidency — undocumented immigrants, for instance, or those reliant on certain health care subsidies — won’t have the option of being willfully ignorant about what’s happening.
For those of you who have the luxury of deciding whether or not to ignore Trump, watching his inauguration is crucial. It will not be fun, but it will remind you that withdrawing from the system, and simply pretending that this isn’t happening, isn’t an option. It’ll light a fire underneath America's own ass, and that’s a fire that now, more than ever, needs to be lit.