The View from Grant Park & Michigan Avenue: This is what democracy looks like…

From the early morning train ride downtown so packed with protesters that conductors didn’t even try to collect tickets (thanks Metra!), to the walk through the Saturday-quiet business district over to Michigan Avenue, the sense of purpose, excitement and joy grew. Protesters crowded the steps of the Art Institute with ready-for-the-camera signs held aloft. People spilled off the sidewalk onto the street approaching the turn into Grant Park. Not long after, to accommodate the obvious, streets were closed to traffic for blocks and blocks in all directions. On an unprecedented 60° blue sky January day in Chicago, a quarter million people, many sporting distinctive pink pussyhats, basked in the power of being together.

We were united by outrage, horrified by a new administration led by a narcissistic, Twitter-addicted, truth-challenged, bullying demagogue determined to dismantle the defining institutions that have made this country enduringly great. The threats are both personal and specific (mysogyny, racism, LGBT rights, healthcare), and global and broad (climate change, science, security). The stakes are as high as can be: There is no “redo” of the climate or an easy way out of trade wars. The ramifications are as insidious as they are endless.

The Women’s Marches on Saturday broke records of every kind, bringing together millions of people in hundreds of cities across dozens of countries on all seven continents. In addition to the heady esprit de corps, people whose paths otherwise would have no reason to cross connected. Kismet hit critical mass with the potential to start virtuous circles of rippling goodness.

We will need it. The next day, in an opening volley of just how through-the-looking-glass “the alt-right” universe can be, Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway schooled us all on the existence of “alternate facts.” Good to know. It means that nothing this administration says can be taken at face value and will very likely mean the opposite. As an editor at Chicago’s old City News Bureau famously barked to cub reporters, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out!”

Fact-checkers, archivists and librarians as the heroes of the 21st century? Hello Marvel, have I got a new franchise for you. Agents of Shield move over. Make room for the Agents of Truth!