In the dark of the night, we gather in the center of Salem Square, a green that has existed in the middle of Old Salem since the district’s construction in 1766. The cold light of the Moon Hirself pierces through the old pines and bare-armed oaks to illuminate our faces and signs with an eerie glow not unlike our phones’ flashlight apps. Three people become four when I walk through the dark to join them. Four become a dozen when together we walk back to the fence surrounding the green.
A dozen becomes thirty-something by the time we’ve circled up back in the center, and more will keep joining us. The organizers open the space for folks to share their feelings about the election. A lone FUCK TRUMP breaks the silence of our paused circle and the nearly sleeping city around us, and the rest of us laugh.
After a few moments more, we start off marching. A journalist for the local paper has joined us and is struggling to interview participants, record our answers, and snap photos while keeping up with the hike. He seems sympathetic, yet guarded, neutral, or even muted. A friend of mine agrees to answer some of the journalist’s questions, and intrigues the man by explaining he neither supports Clinton nor Trump.
Some of the organizers are not-yet-defeated liberals and Clinton supporters. Commenters and critics of the journalist’s article will later assume that most of us voted for Clinton. Of course, the article left out that some of us are involved in the International Socialist Organization, and that all of our fliers were distributed to eager and searching protesters by the end of the night.
Our march carries us up through Old Salem towards the cement white phallic Wells Fargo tower, and our chants of BLACK LIVES MATTER and DUMP TRUMP ricochet up the cobblestone walks and stone buildings all around us. Forty voices are magnified to a booming hundred.
Hearing my friend and the journalist discuss the historical toxicity of the U.S. presidency, from Washington to present, and later recounting his participation in protests of the Bush II installation, I am reminded that it is the office of the presidency and it is the state that I am opposed to, not simply the face that humanizes the system of power.
I remember that I have consciously rejected nearly every President I have lived through. I was too young to hate Bush I while he was in office, but I recall Clinton, I recall DOMA and DADT and NAFTA and the crime bill. I remember Bush II. I remember learning that calling him just Bush instead of President Bush made my father furious. The reign of Bush II was the first time I uttered the phrase NOT MY PRESIDENT. His administration and supporters brought me out of church and into the streets.
And I remember that Obama has never been my president either. I remember his refusal to support same-sex marriage equality. I remember the militarization of police that happened under his administration, the renewal of the Patriot Act, and I remember that “hate crimes” legislation, then DADT repeal, were pushed ahead of comprehensive civil rights legislation for LGBT+ people.
I remember watching the trans community be thrown to the side time and time again under all of these presidents (and the advocacy orgs that grew to power with them). I remember the conversion manual presented to my parents when I came out in family therapy. I remember the steadiest steps I ever took, walking out of their church in front of a mortified congregation. I am numb, as we sit here on the verge of a vice-presidency that constituency was sold, backed in the state only by a spineless and toothless minority party that just spent the last year demanding entitlement to our votes for two candidates who built their careers campaigning against our rights and emboldening the Right’s assault at the state level with “states’ right” talk Clinton is yet to express any deviation from.
When I say that TRUMP IS NOT MY PRESIDENT, I do not mean that Clinton is. I mean that there is no one who is my president. I mean that I reject the notion of this office and I reject the authority of the system behind it. I mean that I am ungovernable and that I am sovereign. I mean that I do not consent to the authority invested in this political structure. I mean that I have no gods and I have no presidents.
When I say that TRUMP IS NOT MY PRESIDENT, I am saying that I reject the idea that 26% of the country electing someone to govern the rest of us constitutes “democracy.” I am asserting that 46% of this country is also tired of this shit and too tired of morally bankrupt parties vomiting candidates on us, rather than “too lazy,” to vote when everyone knows the stakes are so high. I am affirming that neither my liberty nor my security come from this state which has systematically denied me and threatened me with both. I am affirming that we have power, and that our minds and hands and voices shape movements that don’t require elections.
When I say that TRUMP IS NOT MY PRESIDENT, I am opening the next chapter of our story, not just concluding a paragraph we have read and re-read for generations. I am daring to dream Queerer futures. I am placing my hope and faith and patriotism in comrades who join me on the streets, and all our friends who haven’t made it out there yet.
As our march carries us back to Salem from downtown, Aradia whispers a chant in my ear. I share it with those around me, but its radical notes fall flat to the left of the crowd. Still, I won’t give in to worry. I won’t give in to isolation. The Moon peeks through the pines and around a chimney, reminding me of persistence, patience, slow education, and long visions.
The next chapter remains unwritten, but so many spirits are assembled. The revolution will be spelled out. Not long now. Not long.
Pat is a writer living in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. His interests include post-capitalist economics, psychogeography, alternative religions, and contemporary life in the U.S. South. Pat presently serves as secretary for Mountain CUUPs in Boone, and is an organizer of Hoof + Horn Collective in W-S. Connect with him through https://patmosley.wordpress.com/
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