Call out the instigator
Because there’s something in the air
We’ve got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution’s here
And you know it’s right
And you know that it’s right
- Thunderclap Newman
Some very good news for this column: Yesterday I was finally able to pick up my credential for the inauguration that I am supposed to be covering tomorrow. I still have no idea how I’m going to be able to get into the city, or how I will possibly be able to leave it in the wee hours on Saturday morning. But yesterday was busy enough without worrying about that just yet.
After getting my press pass I had to head to the office for an interview of sorts before running straight back to D.C. for a rally. The late afternoon air was calm and still, and in the clear sky there was a hint of light marigold, like old-fashioned orange soda over ice. In Lafayette Square the "Free Tibet" tents had been taken over by the homeless. Traffic seemed curiously light for 4:00 p.m. in the city, and the only sounds were of drums and laughter in the distance. I felt calm and happy and optimistic and my thoughts turned, as they do so often, to childhood. It was a perfect evening for resisting fascism.
At McPherson Square I met members of the Revolutionary Communist Party. They have vowed, per their signs, to "STOP THE TRUMP-PENCE REGIME BEFORE IT STARTS." Banging drums and moving in a kind of circular dance-march, in their trapper hats and Keds and shabby old jackets and backpacks, chanting "No Truuuuuuuump / No fasc-ist U-S-A," they looked very happy and capable of anything, calling to mind Wordsworth’s immortal lines: "Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive / But to be young was very heaven." Carl, a party higher-up acting as a spokesman, gave me his business card.
"I read in Reuters Daybook that you guys say you are going to prevent—"
"The Trump-Pence regime from taking the reins of power," Carl said.
Carl, who came down from New York on Saturday, is a perfect example of the kind of leftist more people on the right should spend time talking to. For people like Carl, who told me he wasn’t surprised that Trump won the election, the difference between our president-elect and his opponent were not especially meaningful. "A whole lot of people found no compelling reason to get behind Hillary," he said. "I mean, I’m not interested in which representative of the capitalist class runs the government." Nor is Carl especially fond of President Obama. "Obama deported two and a half million immigrants in eight years. Trump is going to go for three million in one year." He is also very funny. I almost fell over laughing when, with a totally straight face, he referred to our incoming vice president as "Michael."
I didn’t want to monopolize Carl’s time and there were other reporters waiting, so after about ten minutes I said goodbye and walked to a bar near Metro Center where I tried to steel my self ahead of the night’s main event, a "Queer Dance Party" sponsored by WERK for Peace and DisruptJ20 outside Mike Pence’s temporary home in Chevy Chase. I’m not sure how much experience the reader will have with decadent outdoor LGBTQ soirées, especially ones being held in proximity to the domiciles of famous politicians, but my own is fairly limited. I knew only two things going into it: that we were supposed to meet at the Friendship Heights metro station and that there would be lots of biodegradable glitter. I think it was safe to say that my expectations for the evening were met, by which I mean that I had an excruciating time and did my best to leave as soon as I could without giving offense.
My first mistake, I think, was wearing my tattered Fair Isle cardigan and some old chinos. I probably should have shaved too. Everyone else in the hundred or so-strong glittering crowd was looking fab in leather, Halloween costumes, animal prints, trench coats, newsboy caps, leggings, mesh tanks, rainbow flags. For a long time I stood awkwardly smoking, waiting for music to begin. After what seemed like an eternity I heard a friendly voice from behind me:
"Hey, there, you need to get your glow sticks on!"
I turned around. A very tall and very thin man of undeterminable age was beaming in my direction—a picture of sympathy and heartfelt welcome.
"Oh, gosh, I’m sorry," I said. "I didn’t think to bring any."
"No problem. Just check out the wagon in the middle over there and you’ll be all set," he said, gesturing towards a mass of people wearing multicolored neon-lit hula-hoops and vaping. "You can get some rainbow suspenders too."
"Thanks," I said, and walked to where he had pointed. After apologizing to around 15 people, I finally found in the middle of a swarm of exuberant rainbowed bodies what looked like a Radio Flyer wagon stuffed with plastic bags. I reached into one of the bags and pulled out a clear plastic tube about six inches long. Clearly this one was broken, so I reached back into the bag hoping for something in pink or orange or violet or electric blue only to find myself saddled with yet another stick that was disappointingly see-through. At this point there was a fairly long line behind me—or the closest thing you can get to a line in the middle of a teeming crowd of woke party-animals waiting to boogie—so I stepped away, ready to embrace defeat.
A few moments later I heard a startling noise, like the neck of a small animal being broken. I turned to my left and saw a man take his clear tube and snap it in three places: almost instantaneously it turned bright orange. So that’s how these things work, I thought. Before I had left the bar a friend had given me the onceover and said, "You look very straight." That hadn’t quite managed to nonplus me, but how could I possibly proceed with confidence at an anti-fascist gay street rave if I didn’t even know how to work a glow stick? I needed to find my friend again.
Unfortunately he was nowhere to be seen. No one else seemed much interested in talking to me, even after I bent my sticks oozy green and placed them in the pocket of my Oxford shirt. When was the music going to start? Finally after a short speech from one of the organizers in which we were urged to obey traffic signs and avoid damaging property, public or otherwise, things finally got underway. From the metro stop we were supposed to dance-march down Western Avenue to Pence’s place—or rather, as close to it as we could get without encountering barricades.
I have to confess that I only made it through one and a half songs. When "Born This Way" came on over the portable PA system I started to bust what I thought was a pretty mean groove. In movies you sometimes hear people call out to people near them when they are dancing, so I turned to a couple near me and said, "Hey, what are your pronouns?" They ignored me.
I finally began to attract some attention about halfway through the procession. An extremely tall man with a gray beard and a long coat that was open in the front, revealing a striking pair of rainbow braces that did not look like the ones other people were wearing, moved behind me and without quite touching got extremely close, smiling and mimicking my own "Locomotion"-inspired dance moves.
Is it fair to say without prejudice that this made me uncomfortable? I don’t blame the gentleman for admiring my little boogie there, but there are limits to what I am willing to do for journalism’s sake, one of which is "Dancing with guys who look like they could beat me up and probably would if they knew who I was." Really it’s my fault for leaving the press badge in my bag at the bar and attending the event incognito. It’s always a tough call—do you want to get as close to the action as possible, as I usually do, or do you want to maintain a certain journalistic distance and avoid compromising situations like this one and the need to offer outrageous lies about what brought you there? Deep matters, these, and I had plenty of time to ponder them while thumbing my glow sticks as I rode in an empty Red Line train back to friends and cold beer.