America will endure

Scott Gilmore watches Donald Trump’s inauguration next to a towering reminder that fear and ignorance have failed once before


He was hard to see, unless you were up close. But there were large video screens with loudspeakers, and the people who came to witness Donald Trump take the oath of office gathered around these to watch the ceremony. They were mostly white, and likely from somewhere else—in the District of Columbia, only four per cent of the voters chose Trump.

There were benedictions, and military bands, and when the Chief Justice congratulated the new President there were cheers and applause. In President Trump’s inaugural address, when he promised to “eradicate radical Islam,” or “bring jobs back to America,” the crowd clapped and hooted. A few protesters booed, or silently held up signs denouncing the new President. But for most of the people there, the mood was hopeful and they welcomed the promises to rebuild America—to make it great.

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I stood by the Washington Monument, which looked over it all, in the centre of the National Mall, halfway between President Trump standing on the Capitol steps and Abraham Lincoln watching from his memorial. Unlike past inaugurations, the monument was not surrounded with people. The crowds were much smaller, and their backs were turned on the white obelisk as they craned for a glimpse of their new leader.

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures while walking with wife Melania and son Barron during the Inaugural Parade in Washington, January 20, 2017. Donald Trump was sworn in earlier as the 45th President of the United States.  (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures while walking with wife Melania and son Barron during the Inaugural Parade in Washington, January 20, 2017. Donald Trump was sworn in earlier as the 45th President of the United States. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

If the people had turned their heads to look back, at the low-flying helicopters circling behind us, perhaps they might have noticed the Washington Monument is not one uniform colour. About a third of the way up the stone changes very slightly and becomes more golden and smoother, the workmanship improves and the blocks fit better. The difference is hard to notice, but once you do, it’s obvious.

After George Washington’s death, efforts to honour his legacy were derailed by partisan squabbling, disagreements on the design, and a debate about whether it was even appropriate for a republic to memorialize its leaders. It took 50 years before Congress funded the construction of the monument.

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But four years after work began, the political mood shifted. The American Party, a populist movement of mostly dissatisfied rural white men, rose up suddenly against the political establishment. They were called the Know Nothings, and the movement portrayed new immigrants as the source of all crime, rejected the increasingly cosmopolitan culture of the big cities, and opposed trade. By the 1850s, they had taken control of several state legislatures and city councils across the eastern seaboard.

In D.C., Know Nothing supporters vandalized the Washington Monument, threw some of its stones in the Potomac, halted construction, and then took over the organizing committee. They controlled it for four years, but the Know Nothings were so ineffectual and disorganized only a couple of feet were added during this time.

MORE: Read Donald Trump’s inaugural address

Eventually, the political tide rolled back, the American Party grew unpopular and faded, the country moved on, and the monument’s organizing committee was reformed. A new quarry with better marble was found, and the design was improved. The few stones that had been laid in the previous four years were mostly from rejected masonry that littered the site. These were removed or recut. Congress applied more resources, the public contributed, and eventually, decades after it was begun, a capstone was placed on the top. The Washington Monument became the towering sentinel that still watches over Capitol Hill, the White House, the Supreme Court and all the people who fill those buildings.

And the Know Nothings, the populist party that promised to return America to Americans—which terrified immigrants, and which many feared would destroy democracy—their only legacy is a faint line few people even notice, a third of the way up the monument, where work paused temporarily, but where the better stone was later laid above.


America will endure

  1. Rome endures.

    • Rome would not have endured if Hillary had been elected and did four more years of Obama’s losing policies.

      • Jerome…The election is over. Your team won. Clinton is done. Get over it and start living in the real world. Trump supporters now have 4 years where Clinton is irrelevant and they have to actually engage with the quality of his ideas and decisions. The protests aren’t about getting Clinton elected. They are about Trump’s ideas and the impact they will have on the country.

      • Rome died hon…..and never had a female emperor.

        Think about it

        • Stephen,
          I’m over it but the writer and Emily apparently are not!! Also, it sure wasn’t the Republicans throwing pieces of concrete at the police in Washington yesterday. That was a very unifying gesture!!
          AS for Emile’s last comment, Hillary didn’t lose because she was a woman-she lost because Trump out campaigned her in states she ignored. And that view came from Obama.

          • She ‘lost’ because of sexism.

            No more excuses.

        • Lol, think on what? I can assure you Rome’s fall had nothing to do with a lack of Empresses, you bloody cretin.

          • No, Rome fell because of ‘Imperial Overstretch’, the subsequent lack of money……and the absolute refusal to change

            Just like the US today.

  2. America endured 25 years of megalomaniacal neo-cons and neo-liberals who have brought the world to the the brink of the abyss.

    Obama was all hope and changey but as soon as he go to Washington in 2008 he sold out to the Deep State, and bailed out the banksters and the elites and created even more havoc and destruction in more places than George W. Bush did before him.

    • Call your nurse.

  3. Without reading the article, I noted the first line which states:

    “Scott Gilmore watches Donald Trump’s inauguration next to a towering reminder that fear and ignorance have failed once before.”

    It would have been far more appropriate to have stated:

    “Scott Gilmore watches Donald Trump’s inauguration next to a towering reminder that fear and ignorance have failed once again.”

    Now that Obama, a man of absolutely no accomplishment, has vacated the White house, and left the country far more divided, and a further ten trillion in debt, hope has returned to America.

    • Congratulations Maclean’s on becoming a purveyor and charter member of the fake news cabal.

    • What colour is the sky in your world?

  4. The Know Nothings are still very much around. And the folks in control are happy to use and abuse them
    as long as they get their tax cuts and deregulation. The Burdens dontchaknow. Grover Norquist is testing
    the water in his bath tub.
    And who really knows how the War Between the States is gonna turn out ??

  5. Trump’s America will eat Canada alive.

    • LOL The US invaded Canada 5 times.

      Got their ass kicked 5 times.

      You wanna try it again, Yank?

      • Must not have had a wimp like Trudeau in charge back then.

        • This would be the ‘wimp” that took out yer boy in the boxing ring?

          • Talking about Trudeau’s mind not his fists!!

        • Jerome….oh, so you’ve got a couple of degrees hmmm?

          You running the second largest country on earth?

          You are beloved of the masses?

          Then sit down and STFU.

          • What planet are you on??
            -16th country by GDP (what does land area have to do with anything?)
            – neither a degree in Liberal Arts or one in education gives any direction in how to run anything larger than 30 school children.
            -Approval rating has plummeted to 42% after his pay for play scandals (Posted by CBC Dec 20/16). Looks like no love affair with the majority of Canadians.
            You’re right-he should STFU

        • Jerome, the largest country on the planet is Russia……then us….then China and the US.

          Look at a map sometime.

          Land mass doesn’t change….population, GDP etc go up and down

          You think a math or engineering degree means you can run a country? Nope, sorry.

          A country is far more than numbers… is history, philosophy, geography and so on….or exactly what you get in a liberal arts degree.

          His poll numbers are still very high…..yours are straight down.

          Trudeau would be re-elected in a flash.

          Now stop playing at silly buggers, and go to bed

          You need the sleep.

          • Anyone with one eye in the centre of her forehead knows Russia is physically bigger and Canada is #2. What the hell does that have to do a leader’s prowess?
            The major role of a government is to take as little money as possible from it’s constituents and is to spend it on things the members want and to do that efficiently. A B Com degree sure helps a lot more with that than a BA. And Butts ,who is Trudeau’s puppeteer, isn’t educationally equipped either.
            On his current declining polling #’s he’ll be a one term wonder and even that short period will be regretted by the majority of Canadians.

        • Jerome …Running Canada is very different than running say, Albania. Or Japan.

          And no, saving money is not the role of a govt…..that’s your right-wing view of it.

          Keeping the citizens safe, making sure the country advances…..looking after all the citizens……those things come first.

          We have an entire economics dept in the govt….and no end of economists

          Did you think the PM did it all himself in some back room with a quill pen like Bob Cratchit? LOL

          Harp had ten years and failed completely.

          You are simply a sore loser.

          • “Keeping the citizens safe, making sure the country advances…..looking after all the citizens……those things come first”
            I’d say these are things Canadians want. So I say again, the government should achieve these things as efficiently as possible.
            A striking example:
            -Harper left us with a deficit of $1 billion for his last year. In that year he spent $29 billion on infrastructure.
            -In Trudeau’s first year, his deficit is forecast to be at least $37 billion and he spent only $9 billion on infrastructure.
            These are Federal government reported data. How does one spend $20 billion less on his key job creation program but amass $36 billion more debt? I think he needs a bigger/better group of economists!!

        • Jerome

          It costs money to run a country, ANY country….and you can’t run it like a business.

          It’s not a matter of bookkeepers… involves innovation and leadership and a plan…..something Bob Cratchit can’t provide

          Financially, it’s only the GDP that matters.

          As long as your income is bigger than your outgo….you’re fine

          Our finances are a matter of public record so it’s not hard to follow things.

          • It costs money to run a business too. And smart people to run a business well. Trudeau is indeed running a business. His product is things people want and need. His income is what he collects in taxes. His costs (which he should manage better) are what he spends to deliver those things. The more efficiently he manages his costs, the more money he has left over to make new and better things.

            “As long as your income is bigger than your outgo….you’re fine”. I fully agree!! When your income is smaller than your outgo, you have a deficit and that’s the case for your man-he’s spent $37 billion more than he’s collected!! Dreadful.

        • Jerome: It takes knowledge to build a bridge or remove an appendix….but it’s a specific kind of knowledge. So is govt.

          No business has to worry about homeless in the streets, salmon disappearing due to disease, protecting the longest coastline in the world, finding a place to store nuclear waste……and a thousand other things.

          Selling a product is easy in comparison.

          We make up the deficit figures Jerome…..there is no law on the matter… it can be anything we want. It’s just a measurement tool.

          And our GDP is 2 Trillion.

          We have more than enough money…..

          But if you want cutbacks then get rid of the Queen, the senate, the Lt govs, half the MPs, the military and huge numbers of public buildings.

          Then we can tax the churches and the unions.

          • I’m quite happy with the Monarchy once I learned that all the income from their holdings go to the British government and the support they get back is less than 20% of what they contribute. I’m sure though you could get rid of at least 1/2 of Trudeau’s MP’s and never notice it. Our military will need to grow to meet our country’s commitment to NATO which we’ve shirked. And by all means tax the unions and churches the same as you would any corporate entity.
            Sounds like you’re the kind of spend thrift who would get several credit cards and max them all out. Why?-because you feel you can. It’s your kind of mindset which supports the free spenders we have running both Ontario and Canada into a debtor’s hell.
            You never did explain how Trudeau amassed such an enormous deficit in his first year or what he has to show for that extravaganza.
            Just three more years to go and he’ll be back to his snow boarding career. Too bad it has to take three more years.
            Finally, type your heart out-I won’t be back to read it since what you spew is not worth reading.

        • Jerome…Doesn’t matter what you like or don’t like…..the point is Canada is a very wealthy country and we are doing just fine. Your partisan sloganeering won’t change that.

          If you want to cut and run now, it’s fine with me.

          Here’s a hint though…..don’t start arguments you can’t win.

      • That was when Canada was still a British colony, and the US did not have military hegemony. The US of today could very easily conquer Canada without breaking a sweat, not that it would happen anyway. I see you’ve posted similar dopey, ignorant comments all over this thread and I must conclude that you really are a moron. Or a troll. Maybe both.

        • No, Rome fell because of ‘Imperial Overstretch’, the subsequent lack of money……and the absolute refusal to change

          Just like the US today.

        • LOL You guys can’t even beat the Afghans……and THEY don’t have a navy or an airforce.

          In fact you haven’t beaten anybody in about a century.

          So blow it out your other ear.

  6. Looks like a dead thread folks……the posting is getting really wonky.

    See you on the flip side.