Michael Moore spoke at the Women’s March on January 21st, but I was thinking of one of his documentaries in the run up to the inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the United States of America the day before. I actually don’t care much for Moore’s films, but there’s a terrific moment in Bowling for Columbine (2002) when Marilyn Manson, of all people, says something more intelligent, thoughtful, and compassionate than any of the politicians and pundits who foamed at the mouth over the 1999 Columbine High School massacre and what they opportunistically, hysterically claimed as its causes: video games, moral relativism, and, especially, Manson, at the time the prime cultural target for conservative scapegoating. At the end of the interview Moore asks Manson, “If you were to talk directly to the kids at Columbine or the people in that community, what would you say to them, if they were here right now?” Manson’s reply: “I wouldn’t say a single word to them. I would listen to what they have to say, and that’s what no one did.”

I have many, many thoughts, feelings, and theories about what is happening in and to this country at the dawn of the Trump era. But I also have a lot of questions. In fact, though I strongly suspected Trump would capture the presidency—or at least harbored a greater fear that he would do so than most people I know—I’m not afraid to say that the rise of someone I consider at best highly questionable and at worst completely unfit for to the most powerful position in the world has left me with more questions than answers about the current political—indeed geo-political—picture, and it has left me with virtually nothing but questions concerning my fellow countrymen and women’s relationship to such a man. I’ve been told by the media, as well as several friends—both Trump supporters and those opposed to him—that in light of Trump’s ascendance we need to listen more to one another, that certain people’s concerns haven’t been heard or addressed by the political elite, that the national conversation has been corroded by recrimination and name-calling. Now is the time, or so the narrative goes, to hear each other out, to understand conflicting views, to get a gauge on the relatively understandable reasons why so many people—albeit not a majority—helped put into the highest office in the land someone who many more others, including myself, vehemently oppose.

On January 20th in Washington, D.C. I witnessed firsthand the reactions of Americans, from myriad walks of life, to the inauguration of Donald Trump as president. (I protested against it at the Women’s March the next day.) I interviewed as many Trump supporters and protestors as I could, using roughly the same set of questions, in order to preserve these reactions; my intention was to allow Americans to speak their minds as freely as possible without the constraint of 140 character missives or the inevitable shouting matches that unfold across Internet comments sections. I wanted to know people’s thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears, and political passions and questions. I wanted to listen. Readers can draw their own conclusions, though I must say in passing that the surprising optimism on the part of many people from both sides of the political spectrum—that the country can still “unite” and “work together” after Trump’s assumption of the executive branch of the government—seem sadly naïve in light of what has already transpired over the first week under Trumpian rule.

The following interviews are full transcripts; I have given the interview subjects’ names, ages, locations, and professions to the extent that they offered such information.

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Stacey, Woodstock, NY, social service policy

Who did you vote for, and why?

I voted for Hillary Clinton—she was not my first choice, but I felt it was the right thing to do.

How do you feel about Trump’s inauguration as president?

I feel a whole range of emotions: obviously devastated and disheartened, but trying to find hope in it where we can band together and form connections with other people, and trying to find hope in the fact that Bernie Sanders made it so far and truly tapped into something that the American people obviously wanted. And I see it as a failure of our economic structures that Trump became president.

How so?

I feel that the Democratic powers-that-be failed to recognize that people are not stupid, that they do recognize that severe economic inequality is negatively impacting their ability to actually move forward, and that the structures we have in place frequently just aren’t working for people. Honestly I feel like Hillary as a nominee was a failure of their assumption that people have to vote Democrat if they’re of lower income.

If you could speak with him one-on-one, what would you say to Donald Trump, or what would you ask him?

Honestly, I think I’d start off asking him a lot of questions, because that’s one of the things I find fascinating about him, is that I truly don’t know where he’s coming from. I can’t get a read on him, and I would like to know how exactly he is going to help the people who voted for him, because he really did tap into a lot of anger and frustration in people that’s truly there—and it’s truly there for a reason. And so I’d ask him what he will do for displaced workers from manufacturing areas in the Rust Belt beyond trade restrictions—what is he going to do to help those people obtain medicine, have safe schools, obtain a safe standard of living. I’d like to know that.

Over the next four years, how do you plan to oppose Trump if he fails to follow through on policies that you believe might help people, or if he implements policies with which you disagree?

Frankly, I don’t have much hope for him following through on any of his policies because I don’t feel like any of them have been thoroughly articulated. I can’t even still tell what they are—it’s still quite a mystery. Personally, I’m going to continue to work with people the best way I can to make connections and try to find commonalities, and find language where we can all agree on something and try to work toward small actions we can take as individuals to connect with each other, recognize shared needs, and try to bring a vocabulary of connectiveness instead of divisiveness to maybe formulate ways of getting things done that we can all agree on.

What sort of small actions?

Participating in local government, and I guess I’ll harken back to my job—looking at the ethics of what I do. Looking at how my individual actions impact the world and other people. When I’m saying “Do we care about this particular policy?”, “Do we want to emphasize the enforcement of this rule?”, I want to take action where I have some level of discretion in making things more accessible for people, for a greater good, for a greater number of people. So I’m trying to implement that on a day-to-day level.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about the inauguration, the protest against it, or politics in general?

I’d like to say that I hope the energy we are seeing here today is indicative of the fact that people care, that even though this is a time when we could be incredibly divided, the fact that we all care so deeply at this moment is a sign of hope—we’re not apathetic, we’re not all just on our phones, we’re out here caring about what it was that drew us here, and hopefully we can move forward from that.

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Kaya (Stacey’s daughter), 17, Woodstock, NY, student

Who would you have voted for had you been old enough to do so?

I would have voted for Hillary. I think between her and Trump she’s the one I support more, even though I don’t really support her. Because she seems to know what she’s doing even if I don’t necessarily agree with much of her politics and policies—she actually has a plan.

What do you see in Trump’s campaign, actions, and statements that make you opposed to him?

From a moral standpoint I disagree with what he’s said, especially regarding minorities and women. But, also, he seems to flip-flop a lot. Same with Hillary, but with Trump it’s disconcerting because I can’t follow the logic. With Hillary I could at least see what she was doing in trying to connect with people, but with Trump it’s hard to follow what exactly he’s doing.

Over the next four years, how do you plan to oppose Trump if he fails to follow through on policies that might help people, or if he implements policies you disagree with?

Of course rallying is very important. Voting is of course tremendously important. And elections on the local level are very important because a lot can happen on the local level and through bureaucracy—I think the federal government severely underestimates how much people can get done. As much as I love looking at the bigger picture, and as much as I want to become involved in international politics, I think a lot can be done on a smaller level. People can really create change that way.

If you could speak with him one-on-one, what would you say to Donald Trump, or what would you ask him?

I’d like to ask him about what he thinks of NATO and what’s going on on the global level, and what he actually plans to do except make friends with everyone, which is a little disconcerting. I want to go into diplomacy in Eastern Europe, which has a lot to do with the whole Russia-Putin thing—specifically the Balkan region, and Lithuania and Estonia-Latvia. They’re very concerned right now—everyone in Eastern Europe is very concerned that Trump won’t do anything to protect them, and may step out of NATO, which is their primary protection from Russia.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about the inauguration, the protest against it, or politics in general?

Regardless of all this fear that’s circling around, I don’t think it’ll be all bad, and I think there’ll be a cultural revolution with art. Hopefully people will keep going—I don’t think it’s the end of the world. Things might get bad, especially on the global level, but America will be pretty okay. People are scared. But with my generation, even with all the fear people are excited, too, because it’s interesting with what’s going on. It’s neat to be this age and be at the center of what’s going on.

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Sean and Jacob, Harrisonburg, VA, both builders and farmers

How do you feel about Trump’s inauguration?

Sean: Fantastic. I feel excited—more excited than I’ve ever been.

Why did you vote for him?

Sean: Change—we want change in all of these regulations that don’t mean nothing to me. As a farmer and as a builder there’re so many regulations on everything we try to do that you can’t do nothing anymore. It’s a pain. Some [politicians], I think, have good intentions, but they’ve gone way overboard on a lot of the regulations. For example, I know a guy who’s adding a building to his business—he had to pay $8,000 before he could even dig into the ground, before he could even break ground, just to buy a piece of paper to say he could do it. I just don’t agree with that one bit. That’s how everything is now—you can’t build anything with all of this stuff you have to pay. It’s ridiculous.

If you could speak with him one-on-one, what would you say to Donald Trump, or what would you ask him?

Sean: I’d tell him to keep doing what he’s doing ‘cause I’m proud of him. Just keep doing what he’s doing—don’t back down. Stand his ground.

Over the next four years, how do you plan to oppose Trump if he fails to follow through on policies that might help people, or if he implements policies you disagree with?

Sean: I’m just going to work as hard as I can and hope the economy gets better and I’m going to support him regardless. Some things he probably won’t be able to get done with the world we live in today, and I understand that, but I’m not going to make that much of a deal about it either way. But I will support him—he has my full support.

What would you say about people who are out here today to protest against the Trump administration?

Sean: They have a right to express their feelings, but I don’t want them to get violent. That’s just having no respect.

Jacob: I think it’s a disgrace. We need to unify the country, we need to come together as one united people and work together—this is just dividing us. The national debt is way out of control—we have to rein in our spending. The United States on the world stage seems not what it used to be. We need to build up the military. We need to secure the borders. All of those things we agree with Trump on, and the political elites in Washington haven’t been doing anything about it. We need to clean up our inner cities—crime is way high.

Sean: Quit giving out food stamps, unless you really need it. If you’re in bad shape and you need it, fine. But it’s too easy for people to get it and be lazy.

Jacob: We need to take out the loopholes for where all the money’s going.

Sean: If somebody needs it, I get that. But if they’re just doing it to take advantage because they’re lazy and don’t want to work that just makes me mad because I work every day of the week.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about the inauguration, the protest against it, or politics in general?

Sean: Go Trump!

Jacob: I agree. Let’s come together and unite this country. Work together.

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Noah, 25, Georgetown, Washington, D.C., full-time JD student

Who did you vote for?

Didn’t vote for anybody.

Why are you here today?

I’m here today because I honestly felt like there probably wouldn’t be another time when this would happen and I’d be in the area. Pretty boring answer. [Laughs]

If you could speak with him one-on-one, what would you say to Donald Trump, or what would you ask him?

I would probably like to ask him how he really plans on bringing back all of these companies. I personally don’t see how he’ll be able to. I’m also curious about his fight against globalization, because I honestly don’t think that that’s a realistic fight. I think [globalization] is going to be inevitable—I think he’s tricking a lot of Americans that he’s going to be able to institute isolationism and bring back a lot of these dying industries, when in reality they’re making a ton of money overseas. Tax incentives aren’t really going to change their minds about coming back here. I’m interested in his skill as a negotiator. He touts that he’s a negotiator, that he’s going to bring back so many of these companies, and I really want to see if that’s going to happen, and how he plans on going about that.

Over the next four years, how do you plan to oppose Trump if he fails to follow through on policies that might help people, or if he implements policies you disagree with?

That question’s really appropriate, because with my law degree I intend to go into the public sector and may potentially work for government groups that bear his name and the way he’s pushing things. The frustrating thing is that he’s the executive branch and he’s ultimately the boss, but I still think there’s wiggle room there. Personally, I’m not an out-front protestor, but I’m going to tell people the way I see things truthfully and try to work in that direction. But you also have to be realistic, right? You need a job, and being a penniless protestor is great if you never want to pay off your student loans [laughs], but you have to be pragmatic, you have to be realistic, but you have to make sure you’re doing what you believe in. And if at any point that changes while I’m working in the public sector then I’m going to leave, because fundamentally that’s why I want to be a lawyer—because I’m doing something I believe in.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about the inauguration, the protest, or politics in general?

One thing I wish people would get used to a little bit more—I was just in Arizona, my hometown, in a very conservative area, and a lot of folks were saying, “Oh, they’re not even giving Trump a chance.” And I look back at them and say, “Well, you guys didn’t even give Obama a chance.” So I wish that people on both sides would get back together, end this bipartisan stuff, and get behind the person who’s leading us. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything he says, but that does mean we have to have a good conversation with him and make sure we’re getting what we want.

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Greg, 35, West Virginia, high school government teacher

Why are you here today?

Because I want my students to be here. Being in the middle of this is an instructional advantage, and it’s my goal as a teacher to help them become active in public life. Being part of all of this around them helps bring a lot of things that we talk about in the classroom into reality.

Over the next four years, how do you plan to oppose Trump if he fails to follow through on policies that might help people, or if he implements policies you disagree with?

I’m pretty active in my community. We go down to our state government a lot and talk to them. I would continue to do that. I know our local representatives; I don’t know our national representatives as well—they’re a little bit harder to get a hold of—but we do write letters to them, and we’ve hosted our state senators at our school before. I would continue all of that. My life’s work as a teacher is probably the best way to create change by putting students in situations where they can voice their opinions or even, sometimes, debate a public official. So I try to create a situation where we go to them or they come to us.

If you could speak with him one-on-one, what would you say to Donald Trump, or what would you ask him?

I don’t think he could honestly answer the question. When I think about where we are as a nation and our politics, I get very worried. And it’s not just about Donald Trump. What I see, I see individual people across the country pitted against each other. I’m worried about this disunity. He is a figure, by being the president of the United States, that can promote national unity, but I don’t think that he’s doing that. So I think I’d pose a question related to that.

In starting to heal that division, what would you like to say to or ask people who you disagree with politically?

I would like for us to sit down at the table. What I mean is that on both sides I see a lot of anger but I don’t see a lot of reconciliation. In order to make change people have to sit down at the table together. We can shout and scream on the street, but until there’s somebody who can pull us together at the table and actually talk to somebody who’s different from us, and be okay with that, I don’t see any progress.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about the inauguration, the protest, or politics in general?

I fear the disunity I was talking about—not only among human beings, but in our government, which can’t seem to sit down and agree. I hope we can become a little more politically active. I don’t care what your opinion is—if we’re not talking about it, then we’re not going to solve anything. I want a public conversation.

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A middle-aged woman who refused to give her name or any information about herself

Why are you here?

Trump is president—we’re here to see history being made.

How do you feel about—

I’m glad he’s here, I’m glad he took over. He’s done more in office before he even got in office than the last president did.

What do you mean by that?

What do I mean by that? Obama said he couldn’t bring back those jobs. Trump did it and he wasn’t even president. And they were going to get rid of all the coal miners in Kentucky—he’s going to try to help that. [The Democrats] didn’t care. They were throwing them all down into the bush. They’ve had more welfare under Obama’s administration than they’ve had in the history of the United States.

Is that something you want to see reformed under the Trump administration?

[Bill] Clinton put in that they were only allowed to stay on welfare for so many years and that they had to get an education, that they had to do something, but Obama removed that so there was nothing.

If you could speak with him one-on-one, what would you say to Donald Trump, or what would you ask him?

Thank God for taking over and trying to help our country.

What other issues do you want Trump to address?

I don’t want to pay for sex change operations out of our tax dollars.

If you could speak with people who oppose Trump, what would you say, and what would you ask?

When Obama won, we didn’t riot, we didn’t beat up people that had Obama shirts. A poor man was beaten to death by thugs on the road only because they asked him who he voted for—he said Trump and they beat the shit of him. They need to go back and profile and find those bastards and arrest them.

And what do you think—

Sorry, my family’s telling me I shouldn’t say anything more.

Madeleine, 26, D.C., International Development, Non-profit

Who did you vote for, and why?

I voted for Hillary Clinton because I think she’s absolutely fierce, and I agree with most of the things she stands for—she spent many, many years working for those less privileged than her, for children, for women.

How do you feel now that Trump is becoming president?

Pretty shitty. I have a lot of fear for what the consequences of a Trump/Pence administration are going to look like for our country and the whole world, for our climate, for our international diplomacy and relations, for women, for people of color, for immigrants.

Over the next four years, how do you plan to oppose Trump if he fails to follow through on policies you believe might help people, or if he implements policies you disagree with?

I’ve always considered myself politically aware, but this is really the first time I’ve become politically engaged in terms of going to protests, calling congresspeople, getting more active in community organizations and such. So I’m going to try to become a more active participant. I live in D.C., so that’s a really great opportunity to get involved in organizations that are doing advocacy work. I also want to get better about contacting my representatives and voicing my concerns to the people who represent me.

If you could speak with him one-on-one, what would you say to Donald Trump, or what would you ask him?

Oh, gosh, that’s really difficult, because I can’t imagine him being the most receptive audience and because I think there are very few areas of common ground between us. I would just try to pick an issue that’s important to me and that I know a lot about—as you can see from my sign [“Get Your Tiny Hands Out Of Our Vaginas”], that’s reproductive rights and sexual violence—and try to talk about it in a humanizing way and share my experience with these issues and my loved ones’ experiences with these issues. Because I do believe he cares for his children, if not our women. For some people, we need to get down to that baseline level of how viewpoints and decisions and words impact individuals. I’m passionate about this issue because I have a uterus and so do many people I know. I’ve experienced in transitioning through different health insurance policies having issues easily obtaining birth control through basic reproductive health services. I’ve experienced sexual harassment and sexual violence, as most women have, unfortunately. It’s an issue that affects literally half of our country. And Trump’s record on this issue is obviously very poor, even from just the words he uses. There’s been talk of instances since the election of kids in schools grabbing girls’ vaginas, saying “Well, the president’s done that, so why can’t I?” At the very least, we should not make it okay to talk about women in that way, to make it sound like those actions are acceptable.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about the inauguration, the protest, or politics in general?

Honestly, I’ve just had a pit in my stomach all week. And especially today—hearing the recording of him being sworn in was a lot more emotionally powerful than I thought it was going to be. But at the same time I’m very optimistic and proud of the showing that we have here and that we’ll have tomorrow. People have come out, whether in D.C. or from all over the country or from all over the world, even. You know, we talk about how divided our country is, and so I at least hope that this can help bring some people together and get more people like myself politically engaged, whether that gets the result of more people voting in the next election, or what we saw in the last few weeks with the Republicans trying to shut down the ethics committee and people calling their representatives to reinstate it. That’s an example of how sharing your voice can have impact—so I hope more people, including myself, take that to heart this week and throughout the administration.

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William Ronald Gutschow, 60, Rochester, NY, retired labor relations specialist

Why are you here today?

I’m here because everything about Trump is wrong. And I’m a veteran—I defended this country, and I will continue to defend this country against all enemies foreign and domestic. Especially domestic.

How do you feel about Trump’s statements concerning labor and his promises to revitalize the economy?

I’m willing to wait and see. A year from now, when all of these Trump supporters wonder where their new jobs are in the coal mines and all of these other places where he says he’s going to put people back to work—we’ll see. I’ll give the guy the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think he’s going to do anything, but I’m willing to give him the time. I hope that people get better jobs, you know—I was a labor rep, and I would love to see people get jobs in factories that pay well. But those days are over, and I don’t see Trump bringing them back. Maybe he will, and then more power to him.

So you feel there are economic factors and forces that Trump either has no power over or that he won’t address?

He’s the president, not the king. He’s going to be constrained by what he wants to do and what he can do, and he’s not going to be able to just wave his magic wand and make everything wonderful. It’s just not going to happen that way. We’ll see.

As a veteran, how do you feel about Trump’s stance on the military and America’s foreign policy?

It makes me ill—it gives me a very empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. I don’t think he has any understanding of the military or any understanding of the weapons at his disposal, and I’m afraid he might choose to use them before he understands them. And that scares the crap out of me. I think we’ve killed enough Middle Easterners. I think it’s time for us to take a step back.

If you could speak with him one-on-one, what would you say to Donald Trump, or what would you ask him?

[Long pause.] You’d probably have to give me a week to come up with that. I wouldn’t even know where to begin with this guy. First of all, I don’t think he’s intelligent to have a conversation with about details concerning specific programs. He doesn’t understand them, he doesn’t try to understand them, and I don’t think he even wants to understand them. And, you know, when you have a president who’s ignorant—and blissfully ignorant—that’s a real problem. I could talk to him about immigration, I could talk to him about racism, I could talk to him about labor, I could talk to him about the military, but whether he’d listen to it and understand it, and whether he would even care—man, I don’t think the guy really cares. As I said, I think he’s blissfully ignorant.

If you could speak with people who support Trump, what would you say, and what would you ask?

I actually have a brother who voted for him. I tried to talk with him . . . they don’t listen and they don’t hear. I would think that the one thing they need to do is be a little more open to other points of view. America is not a white country, America is a diverse country. And I think there are too many people out there who think that white people have been somehow cheated and that they have to take back what someone took from them. And this isn’t the case. It’s the America that [Trump] paints. “We’re going to make America great again”—and underlying that is “We’re going to make the white America great again.” I’ve talked to my brother, and that’s what he hears—he hears, “Oh, my world is going to get better. To hell with all of these other people as long as my world gets better.” I think there’s a lot of that.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about the inauguration, the protest, or politics in general?

I hope that God helps this country. Because we’re going to need it. That’s what I was standing here thinking when he was inaugurated—God help us.

Note: Mr. Gutschow was holding a sign that read “Stand With Immigrants! Say No To Racism! @answercoalition.org

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Ellis Bullington, 18, Houston, TX, student

Who did you vote for any why?

I voted for Hillary Clinton. I don’t want to say just, “Oh, she was the better option,” but in this situation if I tried to vote for the Green Party I feel like it would have split the Democratic Party, so I gave Hillary my vote. Also because: being a woman I feel like we need more women in power and I felt empowered that we even had her running for president.

What are your feelings about today, and what are your hopes and fears for the next four years?

Honestly, being here is almost unreal. The energy here is so heightened—you can just feel the tension. Nobody has to be talking—you can feel the tension. My hope is that Trump listens to our voices because so many people of different colors, of different races, different religions, different sexualities are trying to get their voices heard. And it’s hard, because all of this is about white supremacy, just focusing on the white, the wealthy. And I think it’s time for minorities to be heard.

If you could speak with him one-on-one, what would you say to Donald Trump, and/or what would you ask him?

I was actually participating in a video for my friend who was saying, “Hey, I want to hear your message to the president.” I said, if I were to sit down I would tell him you need to listen to these people because it’s not only about the whites and the wealthy, it’s about everybody as citizens of the United States. It’s not just them, it’s everybody. We need to be united. And in order to be united we need to collaborate, we need to respect one another. And in order to do that you need to listen to everybody. And I also think that he really needs to pay attention to global warming. I know he doesn’t believe in global warming, he doesn’t really believe in science. We live on this planet, so why not respect it? This earth gives us so much, so why not give back to it, why not protect it? It’s already dying—we need to do something about it.

If you could speak with people who support Trump, what would you say, and what would you ask?

If I could ask the other party anything it would be why do they want to support Trump. It’s almost unreal to think that somebody would want to support somebody who is so hateful toward so many different people. I would respectfully, of course, ask why. Why are you here? Why do you support him? What makes you think he’d be a good president? And then just kind of work from there. I’m pretty peaceful—I try to keep the peace. I don’t try to instigate anything, but I want to talk to these people, and I want my message to be known. I want to observe—just observing is better than going far left or far right. Just observing and seeing what it’s like from both sides. And that’s what I’m doing. I aspire to be a director, so I decided, why not document my journey doing something I’ve never done before but that I feel morally obligated to do? So I thought why not make something really cool with this and that could potentially help me go to college? So I want to make a documentary about my travels with my family and everything I’ve experienced, just to have it there and get different perspectives.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about the inauguration, the protest, or politics in general?

I would say to everybody: always show respect and always show kindness. You may be experiencing hatred, but always take the high road. In a world that’s so full of hate we need to come together despite our differences. And we need to take action.

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Kevin and Brandon, 19 and 18 (respectively), Burnsville, Maryland, students

Who did you vote for and why?

Kevin: I voted for Donald Trump because I want change in this country. I don’t like the direction Obama took the country. Obama didn’t do well protecting the border, and he seems cowardly in protecting us against ISIS.

Brandon: Same. More like . . . security, keep everyone safe. There were more mass shootings in the country than under anyone we’ve ever had [as president]. By far. Illegal immigrants who have criminal backgrounds should be deported.

Kevin: Yeah. And there should be looser gun laws for responsible civilians carrying sidearms to protect themselves. Under Obama there was too much gun control. Guns don’t kill people. Stupid people kill people.

What are you hopes and fears for the next four years?

Kevin: I’m excited for the new administration. As much as I disagree with the protestors, I think it’s awesome that there are people protesting peacefully, and it’s awesome to see that people are actually motivated to do something beyond complaining.

Brandon: Same with me. It’s nice to see that everybody can be out here and say both sides of how they feel.

If you could speak with him one-on-one, what would you say to Donald Trump, or what would you ask him?

Kevin: I think it’s important that he keep pushing to protect our police and law enforcement and give them the respect that they deserve.

Brandon: Same with me.

Over the next four years, how do you plan to oppose Trump if he fails to follow through on policies that might help people, or if he implements policies you disagree with?

Kevin: We can always protest or write letters. It’s a democracy, so you can be active.

Brandon: Just vote in four years, either way.

If you could speak with people who oppose Trump, what would you say, and what would you ask?

Kevin: Don’t give up on your country.

Brandon: Even if you don’t agree with him, you gotta support him. He’s our president, and if he doesn’t do well, nobody’s gonna do well.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about the inauguration, the protest, or politics in general?

Kevin: Not quite. Nothing that hasn’t been said already.

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Adria, 23, Louisiana, two hours west of New Orleans, 8th grade teacher

Who did you vote for and why?

I actually voted third party—neither Hillary nor Trump.

For whom, exactly? Gary Johnson? Jill Stein?

His name was way down the list.

Who is this? I’m curious.

I’d prefer not to say.

How do you feel about Trump’s inauguration?

Cautious, but I am a fatally optimistic person. I do believe this will test the checks and balances of our system, but I also believe that they will hold. I feel optimistic that it will grow the economy, but of course I’m worried about some of his policies and things that’ll come out of his administration.

What are your hopes and fears for the next four years?

Obviously the issue I’m most passionate about is education. Having a national standard base to education I don’t think is the best choice for our country. Because we’re so big, we’re so regionally, geographically, and culturally diverse, that means that under a national standard everyone has to give up their regional strength. So I would like to see us go back to a more regional if not state-led educational system.

What do you think about Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education?

I don’t think she’s going to do any favors for education. There’s such a push for parochial. In our state, the head of public education, John White, he’s very much in favor of parochial schools, and he’s extending the voucher and charter school program. Either two things happen with this, because they’re shutting down failing schools in New Orleans: either your parochial school system becomes your new public school system, or poor kids don’t go to school. I don’t understand what they’re expecting our public school systems to look like.

If you could speak with him one-on-one, what would you say to Donald Trump, or what would you ask him?

I would express my opinion about the public school system. Now, I’m not well enough informed in all things to say, “Hey, I think we should do this.” I won’t go there—I won’t claim that. But I’m passionate about education, and that would be the one thing I would talk to him about.

If you could speak with people who support Trump, what would you say, and what would you ask?

Not to feel sorry for us. Because we’ve gotten from the other side, “Oh, we feel so sorry for you.” But that doesn’t get us anywhere. Like, we don’t feel sorry for you. You’re expressing your opinion and we appreciate that. In fact, there’s a debate going down at the corner that was extremely fascinating—they were both well-spoken, and they picked out things they did agree on and they debated about things they didn’t agree on. And they were very open—they didn’t sugarcoat anything. And I think it’s going to take that kind of uncomfortable honesty to come to an understanding.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about the inauguration, the protest, or politics in general?

Politically, yes, we have issues, but culturally and socially—and I know this is sort of biased, because I come from a socially conservative culture—but I would really like to see our culture change to where we’re not so reactive to each other but more objective and willing to listen and understand. The conversations we have shouldn’t be make-or-break. Like, I had a conversation with this guy that was a very good one, but it didn’t change anything yet. It was just a conversation—I understand him a little better now, and he understands where I come from better. Culturally that’s the direction I would like to see us go in before anything happens politically.

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Brian Smith, 54, Maryland, homeland security acquisitions

Who did you vote for, and why?

Trump, and I voted for him because he’s going to lower the corporate tax rate and that’s going to allow business to stay here in America, and more people will benefit.

Did you vote for Trump on the basis of his plans or policies related to homeland security?

I voted for him mainly because he’s a businessman.

What are your hopes and fears for the next four years?

I think he’s going to do is, like I said, keep jobs here in America. People will make more money, and it’ll increase the tax base. That’s my main hope.

Over the next four years, how do you plan to oppose Trump if he fails to follow through on policies that might help people, or if he implements policies you disagree with?

I won’t vote for him next time, that’s all.

If you could speak with him one-on-one, what would you say to Donald Trump, or what would you ask him?

I would ask him to make sure that every American has an opportunity to work. And that’s it, basically. Because that’s what keeps this country going.

Any other political issues that you’d like to—

Nah, nah, nah, nah.

If you could speak with people who don’t support Trump, what would you say, and what would you ask?

They’re surely misguided. Give the guy a chance—you’ll see. I don’t know where all this stuff comes from. The thing for me is, I’m a businessperson. That’s what appeals to me—I’d rather have a businessperson in charge instead of people who give nice flowery speeches and all that.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about the inauguration, the protest, or politics in general?

Make America great again. [Laughs]

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Bernadette, 53, outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, school and church volunteer

Who did you vote for and why?

Donald Trump. Because I could never vote for Hillary, the criminal. And I believe in Donald Trump. I do. I’m so excited for his presidency.

What got you inspired you to vote for him? What issues did you base your vote on?

Well, he was our candidate. Even the GOP was fighting to try to keep him back, which made things interesting, because I was for Cruz early on. And I found the whole process very interesting—people were tired of it and all that, but I wasn’t. He was the alpha male dog—he won. I’m pro-life, I’m NRA, I believe in traditional marriage, I’m a conservative fiscally. I’m a strong conservative—you might call me Tea Party. I initially supported Cruz because I think he’s great. He’s definitely conservative—more conservative than Donald Trump. He’s always been pro-life—Donald Trump has changed his position. But that’s okay—people do evolve. I don’t think Trump’s a phony. He’s a strong businessman. That doesn’t scare me—that encourages me. But Cruz is a good politician. He’s done well in the Senate—I respect what he’s done. So, he was my first candidate.

Why do you say Hillary Clinton is a criminal?

I think you know why she’s a criminal.

I’m being an objective reporter—I want to hear what people have to say.

I doubt it.

No, I’m curious.

Well, what she did with that server. Anybody—I would be in jail by now. I would have been in jail a long time now, and you would have been, too. And Benghazi sent me over the roof to this day. The lies. People say, “Oh, well, other embassies have been attacked.” Of course they have—you can’t prevent every attack. What they did is they lied about it, and they continue to lie to this day. And I believe those men should have been if not saved—an attempt should have been made. Even what the DNC did to those Bernie supporters—God forbid if we had a socialist in here, but the Democrats got screwed, too, by their own party. And everything that came out on that Project Veritas, Wikileaks, all of that stuff that came out, how they disrupted all the Trump rallies and such. And then the Trump people get blamed for being violent when it’s the DNC—I mean, it’s proven, it’s on those tapes if you’ve seen them. Thank God for James O’Keefe—a shout-out to him.

If you could speak with him one-on-one, what would you say to Donald Trump, or what would you ask him?

That would be amazing! One thing that I feel strongly about that I haven’t even touched on and that doesn’t get mentioned a lot is Islam and Sharia Law. I think he’s on the right track. I think he gets it. And a lot has been blown up in the media—“He’s anti-Muslim,” “He’s going to kill the Muslims.” No, he’s not. He never said any of that stuff. But if he understands Sharia law then he knows it has no place in this country. There’s no freedom in Sharia, there’s no democracy. It’s anti-U.S. Constitution—you cannot have both sets of laws in this country. So when he said that he wanted to stop immigration temporarily to figure out what’s going on, he was darn right about that. I would like to make sure he continues down that track and figures out what Sharia is, because it has no place in any free country. And, you know, I separate the Muslim person from Islam itself. I am not advocating violence against anybody or anything like that. But if you look to see what’s happening over in Europe over the last thirty years—and now it’s on steroids with all of these refugees coming in—he is on the right track to not let them in. So I would just applaud him to stand his ground. Because he’s 100% right.

If you could speak with people who oppose Trump, what would you say, and what would you ask?

I know their side of the story because you’re inundated with the liberal version of the news non-stop. It’s a lot harder to find real news. And much has been made lately of so-called fake news, but, honestly, just flip it around: they’re just so uninformed. When I see all of these signs and all of these people and they think he’s a racist and he hates women and he hates Muslims—no, he doesn’t. It’s just sad—I feel sorry for them. I’d like to tell them all to go home and have some cocoa or something. Like Pajama Boy in the Obama ads. I would just tell them to get themselves informed and have some real hope for change. Back when I heard that slogan “Hope and Change” from this young Barack Obama that nobody had heard of, I thought “What? Are we running for fifth-grade student council?” And my God, the man won. I just feel sorry for them, they’re so uninformed.

Over the next four years, how do you plan to oppose Trump if he fails to follow through on policies that might help people, or if he implements policies you disagree with?

I would voice my opinion to him, of course. We’re not just going to sit back and stay out of it just because we got him in. I’m active in the process.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about the inauguration, the protest, or politics in general?

I’m just praying for Donald Trump and praying for this country and praying for his safety. I have such great hope. I just hope the other side can just calm down and give him a chance and work hard, because this is our country. We all have to make it great. We all have to work hard together, and stomping your feet and crying and setting flags on fire is not going to help.

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Note: The following interview with Josh (18, Northern Maryland, student) was cut short due to technical issues, but I wanted to place the little that was captured at the end of this piece because I thought it was fascinating that someone so relatively young was holding up one of the only protest signs (“Defend Rojava”) referring to the current tragedy in Syria. I must admit, I did not know what Rojava was, nor did I know about its political significance.

What is Rojava?

Rojava is the only free democratic secular region in Syria right now. The U.S. has been supporting them with airstrikes and limited special forces advisement for the past two years. But Mr. Trump has yet to state what he plans to do with Rojava, although he has stated that he supports ending the U.S. intervention there, which would be disastrous for the Kurds, who are protected in Rojava, and a number of other minorities. I’m here to spread awareness about Rojava, educate people about the viability of their political system for the rest of the Middle East and just raise general awareness.

Did you vote against Trump?

I did not vote for Trump. I don’t particularly trust anybody who says they’re qualified to run the country, so I didn’t like any of the candidates.

So you didn’t vote at all?

I voted for Vermin Supreme. He’s a protest candidate, he’s kind of a funky guy. But I didn’t support any of the mainstream candidates.

What are you hopes and fears for the next four years?

My hope is, at best, that his economic policies do well for the country. My fear is that, at worst, he enacts some of the more egregious policies that he suggested primarily toward immigrants and Muslims, in which case I would take further action against his administration.

Images of the Russian and “Defend Rojava” protestors by Matthew Beals; all others by Natalia Moena