Last Saturday, millions of Americans and people from around the world marched in protest of Trump and all that he represents on a global scale. We did it in small towns down main street, in droves on state capitols and other government buildings; on the streets of New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago; across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco; in London, Paris, Berlin, and Melbourne; and on Washington D.C., outside the White House. We came with signs airing our grievances about what Trump’s racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and downright fascistic legislations and personal tendencies have caused so far and what they mean for the future; we marched with banners in solidarity with other women and men who share our distress and fear, our anger and spiritual need to stop him and the growing global white nationalism rearing its head again. And we did it with women and men who have been fighting this same fight—a fight for racial social and political justice, personal freedom, democracy, the right to live as one chooses to, the right to love who we love, the right to make our own decisions about our bodies—for decades.
It’s now well known that Trump refuses to acknowledge—at least publicly—that the numbers of marchers at the Women’s March on Washington far outnumbered the estimated 160,000 attendees of his Inauguration. Aerial images of the March show a sea of pink barely contained within the streets of D.C., whereas images of the Mall on January 20 show spotty crowds with ample white space for would-be attendants. And contrasted against images of Obama’s Inauguration, Trump’s event looks even balder. One could easily see his attempt to decry actual numbers—counted by multiple sources—of the March and Obama’s Inauguration to be yet another effort to comb over gaping holes in the logic of his version of reality. And a few days later, The New Yorker published a brilliant cartoon getting at just that. It shows him hiding behind a curtain in the White House, surrounded by TVs broadcasting the March, peering out a window at the crowd of pink saying, “I’m terrific at estimating crowd size. It looks like a dozen, maybe two dozen women at most,” while tiny Mike Pence cowers behind him. The hilarity of the cartoon lies in its ability to both point to his enormously puffed-up ego and his need to use hyperbolic language, while also showing how truly delusional he is.
Despite the cartoon’s brilliance, it points to an unbelievably frustrating (and infuriating) and thus far unanswerable question of Trump’s campaign and now presidency that’s gnawing at all of us: if millions of women and men protesting him on his first day in office didn’t work, how do we make him listen to what we’re saying? While I was at the protest, I imagined him looking out at the crowds as the cartoon depicts him, unable to hide from the millions of angry Americans flooding his lawn, because that would be how any normal human would react to a similar situation. But reports indicate that the Trumps were insulated in their bubble, bowling or partaking in some other mind-bogglingly inappropriate activity while hordes of citizens assembled in protest. What’s worse is he hasn’t even officially addressed us after we left Washington. It seems like making a public statement—not just a tweet—about a protest of this magnitude would be undoubtedly the correct action to take on his part, but as we know, he hasn’t played by any “normal” rules.
Unlike during other presidential campaigns and presidencies, this time, Americans are more plugged into the internet and all forms of information delivery systems that entails than ever before. We’re all experts on something because we are guaranteed to find ample evidence—substantiated and credible or not—that supports our own individual opinions and viewpoints, so our collective ability to drown out voices of opposition has never been stronger. And this is what Trump wants. It’s the perfect environment for him to succeed because no one trusts the media, statistics, peer reviews, or any other fact-based pieces of evidence, which he’s actively encouraged since entering the race. But, perversely, he’s cited himself as the only voice of reason, the only one we can trust, and the only one who can save us from the “left-wing media conspiracy,” or whatever other nonsense. And to make matters worse, he’s repeatedly lied on tape, in interviews, on video, and he even admits that he does this. He’s positioned himself as the ultimate truth who’s also the only power allowed to lie, which in turn, makes his lies also truths in his twisted Trumpian logic. And as we’ve seen, if anyone tries to hold him accountable, he acts as if what he said months ago didn’t truly happen, thereby further weakening his supporters’ own understanding of reality.
He doesn’t have to worry about the consequences of ever saying anything unpresidential (that ship sailed long ago) because he has hordes of people blindly following what their adopted sense of logic dictates. In short, he’s been gaslighting millions of people. It’s a brilliant tactic, one that’s proven to be shockingly effective—he did get elected after all—and we’re not even two weeks into his presidency.
So when Trump publicly denounces recorded crowd numbers of the March and his own Inauguration, he’s telling his supporters that they’re on the correct side, the popular side, the side with “over a million followers”, the side victimized by the corruption of the left-wing media, the side against the “two dozen” whiny crybabies in pink hats. So they also see the same numbers he cites and feel even more empowered that they’re on the side of justice. His bending of logic and brainwashing tactics to replace truth with whatever he feels like is terrifying and undoubtedly the greatest threat to America’s future for the next four years.
When I walked away from the March and read that cartoon days later, I felt more strongly than ever that since he is staying in his bubble, hiding behind that curtain only seeing twenty four women in festive pink hats hanging out on his lawn, we, the people, have to continue doing everything we can to make ourselves heard. We need to hold our local politicians accountable to accurately represent us in Washington; find our Representatives’ and Senators’ contact information and protest against repealing acts that so greatly protect us and help us live better lives; march for all progressive issues, because everything is intersectional; and write and speak out against this new administration every chance we get. We must form a united front against him and make him see.
It was an indescribable experience rallying with so many women and men marching for justice and a different future than the one Trump is trying to lay out for us. Being a part of that felt strengthening and empowering, and nourishing in a way I hadn’t experienced since before November 8. And as Hillary said best in her campaign, “together, we are stronger.”
Photos by Frances F. Denny
Frances F. Denny (b. 1984) is an artist and photographer whose work investigates the development of female selfhood and identity. Her work is represented by ClampArt in New York City. Radius Books published Frances’ first monograph, Let Virtue Be Your Guide, in the spring of 2016. She is the recipient of a 2016 NYFA Fellowship in Photography, and has won numerous awards, including PDN’s 30: New and Emerging Photographers to Watch, PDN’s 2015 The Curator (for Still Life), LensCulture Emerging Talent, Magenta Foundation Flash Forward, and Critical Mass 50. She holds an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design, and a BA from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. Her work has been featured by The New York Times/Women in the World, Art New England, Dazed, The Humble Arts Foundation, PDN, and A Women’s Thing. Frances lives in Brooklyn, NY where she balances her art practice and a career as an editorial and commercial photographer.