Signs of Greatness in America

Today we learned that America is great again. Or great still. Maybe we just forgot. Maybe we focused on the problems too much. Maybe we let someone sell us a bill of goods about what the problems are. No matter. Today we encountered our greatness.

Yesterday Donald Trump took the oath of office and became the forty-fifth president of the United States of America. His inaugural address painted a grim picture of the wreckage of our nation, the same picture of waste and decay and division that he had spun into a narrow electoral college victory. I am the only one who can save you from this, he said. And just enough of us believed him. Not the majority, not even a plurality of the voters bought the story. It was the most efficient win in the history of American elections.

A sign of greatness

One woman’s impulse to do something with her humiliation and despair avalanched into a world-wide movement. The Women’s March on Washington, set for the day after Trump’s inauguration, littered daughter events first across the nation, and then around the world. Women and their allies gathered from London to New Zealand, showing solidarity with their American sisters or protesting the puzzling authoritarian trends in their own home countries. An estimated 3 million women, men, and children took to the streets in the US alone.


My daughter and I took a bus from Broomfield, Colorado, where she lives, to Union Station in Denver. We were an hour late arriving, because RTD (greater Denver’s public transportation authority) badly underestimated the expected size of the Women’s March on Denver. They had originally added just eight extra buses to the Saturday schedule. By the time we boarded our bus in Broomfield at 8:30am, the drivers knew what was up. None of them were planning to go home before evening, and more drivers were being called in. Our driver was thrilled to giggling about the whole thing. That was when I knew it was going to be a good day.

Two beautiful faces from the League of Women Voters

It was a longer day than I’d anticipated. Our bus didn’t take us all the way to the Civic Center Park jumping off point of the March. Denver’s 16th Street pedestrian mall runs from Union Station, where we debarked, to Civic Center Park almost two miles to the southeast. Busload by busload, marchers walked almost the full length of the mall before merging with the winding 3-mile route of the planned march. Our staggered arrivals saved the Denver march from the congestion that plagued some of our sister cities. By the time Lexie and I reached the march route some people were already heading back toward the bus station.

“You’re going the wrong way!” we shouted.
“We’ve been here since six! We’re tired!”

It was a party. We dawdled. We stopped for coffee. We all took pictures of each other’s faces and each other’s signs. The wit in the signs amazed us. Our beauty uplifted us. Many groups and many causes were represented. There was no competition and no rancor. Leaders stood on benches and pillars and boxes along the way, leading chants. We moved from one zone to another, picking up the various beats and dropping them again in favor of the next. Black lives matter, and Our bodies, our choice, and Health Care is a right.


This woman’s name is Audrey May. We were leaning against a stone rail at the end of the march, resting and trying to hear the speaker. Some boys zoomed by and drowned her out.

“Fucking idiots.” I heard this woman mutter. Not what I expected an aristocratic grandma to say.
“You sound like you’ve been doing this since 1965,” I observed.
“1964,” she corrected me. “I was at the 1964 March on Washington.”

Audrey May, she told me, is the name her mother gave her. She doesn’t use surnames because they’re about property. Audrey May rode a motorcycle to Woodstock and raised her daughters in Colorado on a 22-acre ranch and dropped the names of folk singers and orators I was too young to worship. What a life.

Here are the ones we are marching for. None of these daughters are so young they won’t remember that they marched this day. By the time four years have passed they will all understand why they marched. I’m sorry they have to grow up at a time when such a man as Donald Trump is president. I hope they aren’t too young to have known the better kind of man who went before him.

The ones we are marching for, with more signs of greatness.

Almost as wonderful as the people we met and the signs they carried were the plans and possibilities that filled our minds. We shook off the despair we had borne from the night of the election to the day of the inauguration of Donald Trump. There is power in our numbers.


If this many people can be counted on to show up, what can we fail to accomplish? We can occupy the offices of our Members of Congress all day, every day, for the first 100 days or more. We can make so many calls that they have to add phone lines. We can pack the town halls until they all sneak out the back way like ridiculous Representative Mike Coffman already has done. We can bury their desks in an avalanche of postcards. They will fear for their seats. They will hedge, and delay, and compromise because they are afraid of angering us by supporting their party line. They are arrogant now but we will plough their arrogance under like manure, and it will nourish the crop of greatness that grows green from the fields of our nation.