We’re in a strange place, a garden inside Trump Tower. We are facing blank pages with our pens. There are 15 of us. Savitri D and myself and singers from the Stop Shopping Choir and friends who heard about it. We’re waiting for the timekeeper to say “Write.” We will write nonstop for 45 minutes.
The Trump Company is required to let us sit here under this 700 feet high slab of gold-tinted glass. Years ago, Trump agreed with the city to keep this garden open to the public, in exchange for 24 extra floors. This is Donald Trump’s business headquarters and sometimes home, with body-armored men at the door with submachine guns.
Being inside Trumplandia can be unnerving. For the New Yorkers who join us in the tower garden, Trump has been the city’s unsavory clown for decades. We encountered the gold lettering of his name everywhere and we glimpsed posturings with hair in the distance. When we take the five flights of gold-plated escalators up to the garden, we suffer a full-body immersion. The gold mirrors make a dim, almost soupy light. God it’s ugly.
“Write!” We all start scrawling. What we write might be called secrets, first-thoughts, recovered memories, streams of consciousness. I say “secrets” because we don’t share our writing with one another. Not yet, anyway. Now in our fifth week, we haven’t read our work out loud or handed off the journals.
We’re focused on pre-Gutenberg writing. We use the older technology of longhand-and- paper. We’re spending time on the nearside of pixels, streaming, virtual reality. This home-made culture of our little band of citizens, at the site of world-wide piracy and hokum and treason – assumes that something has gone radically wrong in our basic social communicating. But it is inside the sentences that you and I speak all day long, let’s admit it.
To borrow from science fiction, there a space-time rip in our language. The Trump tweets, Russian hacks, and Koch trolls seem more like symptoms than causes. Our failure is more devastating than Donald Trump. As a nation, and as a species, we don’t know how to communicate with ourselves. Our town crier function is silenced. The attack-noise of products and law enforcement and fear – make our public media conceal more than reveal.
Otherwise we would have written or spoken something in public about the racism, compelling enough to Out The Hate. Why haven’t we shown that families must be protected? How can our defense of life itself be demoted to “issues” and “policy” and “write your congressperson?” This 700 foot wall is crawling with Devils!
We don’t need to be great writers. We need to say something. Where is the art of effective protest, the howl, the arts as a starting-over point, or call it just plain I-don’t- buy-it independence. Freedom of expression has become as irrelevant as White House press conferences.
This is why we are turning inward for awhile. Margaret Meade said that revolutions start with a few people talking at a table. We’re in the thoughtful inhale before the talk. The stakes are so high and the hour is so late. We’ll spend some time tilling the soil of silence.
There are little weeds in the cracks of the pink granite floor of this so-called garden. There is moss and mold along the walls. We talk to the weeds at the end of our 45 minutes. We ask the weeds to remember us as they dismantle this modernist slab. Can we be super-weeds in your forest?
Culture starts from inside, quietly under the surface, like a seed in the soil. The first breath of a thought, before the socializing starts, is the protest that will grow to bury this wall.We sit together at tables in the garden, the police and the tourists eyeing us from the edges of the gold decor.
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