The Hudson Women’s March and Encounters with Donald Trump

The Hudson Women’s March and Encounters with Donald Trump

Commentary:   WAMC Northeast Public Radio  (aired 1.28.17)                   

(Click here for audio)

Women’s march in Hudson, NY – 1/21/17
Unless you were vacationing on another planet or living under a large, intractable rock you’re aware there were massive women’s marches around the country and the world last Saturday, including the one I attended in Hudson, NY.

Hudson is excellently laid out for a march. The participants – I’d put the crowd at close to a thousand people – walked from 7th Street Park to the bottom of Warren Street, the city’s main drag. It’s a straightaway a little more than a mile long.

From there we continued on past the city’s handsome train station to Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. It seemed an appropriate place for the march to end. Not just because you couldn’t go any further without getting wet. But also because the historic river seemed to match the majesty of the occasion, the blue skies, and the warm weather.

I’m not much of a marcher. I was born in the McCarthy era with parents who thought it was stupid to sign any petitions or lend your voice to any protests.

In fact, when my mother, who’s 92, heard my daughter was heading to Washington last weekend, she shook her head and asked why? It wasn’t worth explaining. Nothing I said would have justified the risk in her mind, minimal though it may be.

But to me it boils down to patriotism. I don’t recognize the nation President Trump described in his inaugural address.

Sure, we’ve got our problems. The gap between the superrich and everybody else doesn’t serve democracy. And a living wage and affordable health care ought to be a right, not a privilege.

But the President’s rallying cry to make America great again never made much sense to me. I just don’t share his apocalyptic vision. We were great before he came along and hopefully we will be after he’s gone, as long as we follow the instructions on that piece of parchment that got us this far.

Also, as a child of the Cold War, I have trouble thinking of Vladimir Putin as our friend.

I met Mr. Trump in 2003 when I interviewed him for the New York Times. I was working on a story about the way real estate developers misnumbered the floors in luxury buildings to make residents believe they were living on higher floors than they actually were.

Someone told me Donald Trump invented the sleight of hand and suggested I talk to him.

Mr. Trump was more than happy to get together. And instead of denying the practice, as I expected him to do, he owned it. “A lot of people have copied me,” he boasted.

I also remember his surprising first words when I walked into his corner office in Trump Tower: “Another big guy,” he observed.

Meaning he was tall and I was tall.

It sounded like high school. Or rather junior high. As we’ve all learned since, size matters to the man, whether it’s the height of buildings or the crowds at his inauguration.

In fact, he proudly showed me a prize souvenir. It was an autographed sneaker belonging to basketball star Shaquille O’Neal. Size 23.

He also contacted me in 2010 after I wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal about a very brief bus ride we took together. And I mean very brief. Arranged to celebrate a Gray Line sight-seeing bus named in his honor, our journey started in front of Trump Tower and stopped around the corner at the entrance to the Trump Tower apartments.

My column wasn’t especially complimentary. I noted his otherworldly complexion, his seeming impatience with the ribbon cutting ceremony, and in what turned out to be unintentionally prescient, I described “his regal disinterest… as if his real job was keeping America safe and he was more than a little anxious to get back to it.”

The day the column appeared I got a message from the real estate mogul’s office: “Mr. Trump wants to talk to you.” I assumed it was to inform me he planned to sue. He was famously litigious, after all.

But he just wanted to thank me. He apparently focused not on my barbs but on the column’s headline “Donald Trump: Landmark”.

So I had nothing against the guy. In fact, I rather liked him. He was funny and charming.

But any respect I had vanished as soon as he adopted the birther lie. And it’s been downhill ever since.

If I have a pet cause, it’s the planet. To quote Bob Dylan, “It’s easy to see without looking too far that not much is really sacred.”

When you find something that is, it’s hard not to get worked up over it. We don’t own this place. We don’t even rent it. But as arguably its most evolved species we have an obligation not to trash it.

So I’ll probably be out protesting again. In fact, when this commentary airs, I plan to be at a rally in front of Republican Congressman John Faso’s district office in Kinderhook, NY, protesting the GOP’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

It seems the only patriotic thing to do.


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