It started as soon as we got to baggage claim in Washington on Wednesday of last week. As most of the people I could see were wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, or were with someone who was, or were just wearing sweat suits in camouflage, a wave of anxiety started to roll over me. It didn’t get any better when we went to the hotel bar for a pre-dinner cocktail, where some (but not all) had changed to slacks or at least their better blue jeans. But that deep in your gut anxiety felt very familiar—even if I hadn’t felt it since 1995 when I was in a Long John Silver in Macon, Georgia. (Don’t even ask.)
It didn’t get much better on Thursday or Friday. At breakfast in the hotel, at the Smithsonian, at the Arlington National Cemetery. Walking through the streets of Washington with the Trump supporters there for his inauguration, we passed several people wearing T-shirts proclaiming “IT’S OUR TURN” under an image of Trump sitting in a pose reminiscent of the Lincoln memorial. At one point, we heard a street musician playing a bluesy version of “My Favorite Things” on his saxophone—he captured my mood exactly.
And then Saturday morning, we went downstairs for breakfast, and something had shifted. The inauguration was over, and it was protest day. (And, ladies, it was a protest. There would not have been a march on Washington or anywhere else if Clinton had won.) Out of the blue, the red Trump hats were outnumbered by the pink kitty cat hats. Not by a large margin, but enough that a new anxiety was revealing itself—on the faces of the ones wearing the red caps. Bless his heart, one guy got on the elevator with Karl and me as we were riding down with four Pink Ladies and their signs, most notably one with a quite good drawing of a uterus bearing the slogan “Don’t Tread on Me.” The poor fellow looked at Karl for a lifeline, and Karl (being the master of non-verbal communication that he is) looked back as if to say, “I’m with her. And her. And her.” Delicious, I must say.
But anxiety clearly is not geographically restricted to Washington. It’s free floating in the air like the internet which gives it voice. Facebook is clogged with fearful articles about Trump shared by some folks on the left while some folks on the right are defending everything that Trump says and does. But, fear and defensiveness are not the hallmarks of confidence; they are the products of anxiety. They are the manifestations of doubt. Somewhere along the way, we went from being the “home of the brave” to a nation suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Self medicate much? Practically every day.
Of course, what I really haven’t gotten over is missing the boat when hats came back into style. After waiting years for this to happen, why was I asleep at the wheel? While I do look silly in a ball cap, and those big pink kitty cat caps would have just made my head look bigger, I could have worked a smart little black beret into every ensemble. Lord knows I had the long black scarf with white polka dots to go with it. Missed opportunity—more anxiety.
But even if hats or caps or berets are not exactly de rigueur these days, anxiety and doubt are being worn by most folks (even some Trump voters) in a variety of hues. And if you find yourself dealing with someone who seems hopelessly unfashionable by having shunned doubt in favor of baseless conviction, try to remember this. “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.” You know that Voltaire. He had such a way with words.