Alternative Facts, Distracting Acts

Saturday’s marches, across the country, around the world–the so-called Women’s March–was brought home to me in the small city of Las Cruces, New Mexico.  I wanted to go to Santa Fe where I knew the crowd would be large, the speakers more well-known, but when I thought about it, it meant more to support local efforts, networks, people.

This particularly was apparent when I took the photo accompanying this blog.  A toddler, a little girl, in a stroller, holding a sign which said: “Women March, 100 percent beautiful.” And yes, you are too, little one.  Right there, amidst mostly folks I don’t know, some 3,000 of them, I felt a connection.

I flashed to one of the cartoons drawn by Rose O’Neill, “the mother of the kewpies,” originator of the Kewpie doll.  I’d researched and written a book on O’Neill back in the 1990’s.  It’s 1914 and O’Neill is participating in one of the marches for women’s rights–for women to get the vote–in her home town of New York City.  The suffragettes thought their march beautiful too and O’Neill drew a cartoon of the kewpies carrying a sign–“Votes for Our Mothers,” it pleaded.

And I remembered too that my own mother, was born before women got the vote, in l914.

It’s safe to say, whatever our memories or maybe even ages, we felt a part of history that day,  a day questioning, from all sorts of angles, the normalizing of “alternative facts,” or perhaps even worse, “alternative truths.”

Yet I read in the New York Times the very next day, even as protests continued around the country, that, according to columnist David Brooks, these actions were beside the point, irrelevant and ineffectual in calling out Donald Trump and his administration.  Brooks the same as said women’s issues were not central to the needed examination of the causes of a return to nationalism and the ignored and desperate conditions of many Americans whom the “liberal intellectuals”–as he says were represented in these marches–continued to ignore.  Brooks ends his editorial with the suggestion that though he deplores many of Trumps positions (if you can call them that), there’s a kind of decent morality demanding expression. Perhaps Brooks has forgotten that in a representative form of government, protest is often the first step to getting the attention of those in power.

If the Women’s March is a distraction, then what of the call for an investigation into voter fraud to the tune of “two or three million” votes rather than support for an independent investigation of Russia’s possible tampering with the election?  Funny that that number–three million–is about the same as Hillary Clinton’s popular vote margin over Mr. Trump, a number that continues to bug him.  One wonders: action or distraction?

And what about those beautiful blond Trump women (daughters, daughter-in-laws) who paraded out during the inauguration in what–white pant suits, but sharply designed for more glamorous figures than HRC’s original.  Irony? Satire? In your face?  One gets a whole new sense of the postmodern and the dangers of the simulacrae in the host of refractions of facts and truths so that no original may be found. I confess: I also thought of Daniel Borstin’s l960s analysis of the first televised presidential debates, a book called “The Image: A Guide to Psuedo-Events in America.” Read it, clear eyed. As steps are taken to reshape media and access to facts, it is a harbinger, a cautionary tale come true.

And when that little girl–the one I asked to take a photo of, the one I don’t know but who is a sister American–grows up, she can tell her grandchildren:  “Oh yes, I was a part of that distraction, that Women’s March which contained signs like ‘Muslims Are Americans Too,’ and people supporting everything from climate change research to reproductive rights.”

It is beautiful.

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