Wednesday, January 20, 2021

1000 Words

As I write  this, literally in the final minutes of the Trump Administration,  the President and the Vice President Elect have just walked up the 34 steps of the East  Entrance of the Capitol Building. That image is striking for many many reasons, not the least of which is that just two weeks ago, people bent on destroying our government, walked up those very steps on their way to desecrate the nation's most salient symbol of our democracy. 

Until Ronald Reagan, presidents since Andrew Jackson took their inaugural oath on a platform constructed upon those stairs. The bodies of Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Rosa Parks, and several other notable Americans were carried down those stairs after lying in state, or repose, in the Capitol Rotunda. And until recently, the general public could walk up those stairs and freely enter "The People's House." 

We're about to witness the indelible image of a tradition that goes back to the inauguration of John Adams in 1797, that is to say, the peaceful transition of power in the United States. Despite the attempts by the soon-to-be-former president to put an end to that sacred tradition, (he of course failed miserably), the tradition continues.  

In about an hour we will see indelible the image of the first woman to be sworn into the Executive Office.

Images matter. 

This struck me the other day as following tradition, I made a Facebook link to one of my many posts about Martin Luther King on the day we celebrate his birthday.

This year I chose to post the piece I wrote about attending the celebration marking the fiftieth anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

The poignance of that moment hit me hard the other day just as it did back then, as on that day, August 28, 2013, the first black president of the United States delivered a speech on the exact spot where fifty years prior to the day, hour and minute, Martin Luther King delivered his "I Have a Dream" Speech. 

The public gathered for that anniversary celebration could be counted in the tens rather than the hundreds of thousands who attended the original event. But neither that, nor the rain, nor the mud, kept any of us from taking in the magnificent significance of that moment together, simply as unified Americans. 

But what really struck me the other day were the photographs from that wonderful event, the diversity of which truly represents the face of America. 

At least it was the image of America during the administration of Barack Obama, and to be fair, his immediate predecessors. 

If you haven't already, check out the post to look at those photographs

Now imagine, as I have neither the will nor the stomach to publish them, the images that represent Donald Trump's America. 

Imagine the image of throngs of people at Trump rallies chanting "Build That Wall" or "Lock Her Up."

Imagine the image of hundreds of "very fine people", the tiki torch carrying white supremacists chanting Nazi slogans and carrying KKK banners in the city of Thomas Jefferson, Charlottesville, VA. 

Imagine the image of Americans taking their cue from the president by violently reacting to people suggesting they wear masks in order to help keep others safe. 

Now imagine the images of the insurrectionist/traitors inspired by the soon to be former president who in his last brazen act, egged them on them to "fight like hell" at the Capitol to overthrow the results of a free election, where they broke its windows to get in, defecated upon its floors, attacked its police officers killing one of them, and threatened the lives of the members of Congress and even the Vice President himself. 

Those are the indelible images of Donald Trump's America.

Now as a photographer, while I understand that a picture can be worth a thousand words, photographs can also be misleading, not necessarily for what they show, but for what they don't show. It should be pointed out that not all Trump supporters are represented by those images. But the fact remains that they supported a man who made all this possible. 

At this very moment, in thirty minutes, Donald Trump will no longer be president. If I can say anything good about his presidency, it is that it exposed a cancer in our society. None of us want to be told by a doctor that we have cancer, but that knowledge helps us address the problem and God willing, eradicate it. 

Today is a good day, let us take it all in.

But tomorrow we need to get back to work, because we have a lot of it ahead of us.