As I watched Donald Trump’s inauguration today, I looked at the festivities with different eyes than I have previous presidential transitions. This time, I found myself scanning the crowd, looking to the sides of the screen, keeping an eye out for something that looks out of the ordinary.
A few months ago, as we were determining SOFREP’s coverage of today’s events, it came time to decide who among us would actually be going to the inauguration. Norwood, one of SOFREP’s most talented writers, jumped onto that grenade. The man has a passion for his work, and doesn’t seem to suffer the same tactical agoraphobia being unarmed in a large, angry crowd would throttle me with. My assumption? He’s probably got one hell of a right hook.
I watched the day’s events unfold, concerned throughout that, at any moment, the worst might occur. This isn’t how these types of things used to be. They didn’t have to park dump trucks full of sand around the perimeter of Ronald Reagan’s swearing in. Then again, maybe we as a populace were just less aware of the need for such precautions.
Gone is the magic of watching history unfold, replaced by an anxiety born of years of terrorist attacks the globe over and the subsequent training I underwent to spot dangers in such crowds. Just as I glance at the hips of most people I meet in my small Georgia hometown to assess whether or not the man I’m getting a beer next to is wearing a sidearm, I nervously scanned every bit of the ceremony I could see, looking for a sign of danger, a threat, an indication that today, I’d indeed be watching history unfold, but in its worst and most violent form.
I thought of Norwood, standing among those in attendance, and likely looking for those same signs of danger.
I can’t help but wonder if my perspective is shaped by working security in these kinds of events. I once carried General (then Colonel) Burke Whitman’s Rolex in my bag as we passed through a small village in Africa because, although he wanted our security presence to be minimal, he also wanted to make sure his mother got the watch if things were to turn violent, and assumed the local military would “check his bag for valuables” before mine.
A few years prior, I served as backstage security for the Red Hot Chili Peppers at Coachella. As another Marine and I (we were moonlighting, not working in an official capacity) checked Paris Hilton and her team for credentials, a half-drunk Patton Oswalt tried to run us over with a golf cart for making him wait. With the crowd swelling around us, all hoping to find their way through the metal fence that separated the (honestly kind of lame) backstage area from Coachella’s sprawling mass of humanity, I became acutely aware that the handful of us in yellow “Security” shirts didn’t have the real power. If things were to go bad, there was little more any of us could do than stick our watches in a friend’s bag in hopes it would make it to our mothers.
Maybe the problem isn’t society. Maybe it’s me. Spend enough time looking for the worst in humanity, and you’ll begin to find it—even when it isn’t there.
That cynical perspective isn’t reserved for the tactically minded, though, and many Americans have adopted this same sort of fear toward the new president himself—certain that his controversial statements and political stances will bring about a new era of fear and discrimination, assuming the worst about our fellow Americans and the man they’ve elected.
Maybe we’re all wrong about people from time to time, and maybe today can serve as a valuable lesson for each of us. This may be a new era in American politics, but only we can make it a new era in American understanding.
Still, I’m going to keep checking my corners.
Featured image courtesy of usnews.com