On Inauguration Day, I was an outsider observing from within. Like many Canadians, I was enjoying some Florida sunshine when Donald Trump officially became President of the United States. Presidential inaugurations don’t happen in Canada. Our Prime Ministers are sworn in at fairly reserved ceremonies where the Governor-General presides as the representative of the Queen. Hundreds–not thousands of people may gather outside Rideau Hall in Ottawa. There are no parades, no musical performances, and no glitzy parties.
In the days leading up to the inauguration, I had overheard conversations and chatted with people in Florida about the upcoming event. I never raised the issue on purpose. I just kept my eyes and ears open as a “fly on the wall.”.
While waiting for a table at a busy restaurant, I overheard a a woman ask another woman if she planned to watch the inauguration on TV. “I’ll tune in and out, but I don’t want to see people acting like a**holes and shooting each other,” she said. The woman added, “I read on Facebook that hoping Trump fails as President is like hoping a plane crashes and we’re all on it.” She told her friend that Mr. Trump is not hostile towards women and gay people like many believe.
On the day before the inauguration, I was at the visitor center of a nature preserve where I went to see some alligators and unique bird life up close. A grandmotherly volunteer behind the desk asked, “Did you come down here to laugh at our new President?” I said no, and that I was trying to avoid discussing him with Americans because I didn’t want to get into arguments with anyone. I was there for a vacation. “I like your Prime Minister,” the woman said about Justin Trudeau. I noted that he is facing controversies of his own. “Well, he just seems like he tries to get along with everyone,” she responded.
On the big day itself, I watched events unfold on TV while staying with a good friend at his parents’ condo. He’s an aficionado of all things political and was keenly watching the ceremony assemble in Washington. “This is very surreal,” he said.
Major events usually have that feeling, whether they are political ones or otherwise. Later that day though, the inauguration seemed far from the minds of people I saw. Nobody was talking about it in the line at an Orlando-area buffet. Parents who looked like they had spent a long day at Disney World with the kids looked more concerned about taking tired tykes back to motel rooms than about what was going on in Washington. I was tired too. I had a flight to catch early the next morning. A few hours of sleep seemed easier to obtain than an accurate opinion of Americans about their new President.