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The Forest That Overwhelms Trump Tower

It always starts with the vulnerability of risking arrest. The activism is the purest citizenship. We enter Trump Tower. We walk through the submachine guns and dogs, the body armor and the golden name of the white supremacist president that hovers in space above the door.

We are only doing what tourists do. Ta-Nehisi Coates would say that we are walking into The Dream. Trump Tower’s public area, where we are welcome as long as we show signs of being willing consumers of The Dream, is a 5 story high vertical mall, with gold-plated escalators zig-zagging upwards. The hanging garden of Trump. Fake plants on gold pillars! We walk across the threshold of The Dream carrying the intention to subvert it and replace it with our Earthalujah!

Let’s call The Dream what it is – The Nightmare. We have here in this building in concentrated form exactly what most Americans have everyday – the complex of responses to state-sanctioned violence on behalf of race and property and profit. We feel the manufacture of fear, the itching-the-imagined-wound of Trump nation. As we walk by the silent staring Secret Service we feel the fantastic imagination made by American fear – the conspiracy theories, the deadly tribalism of police, the scandal of alternative love, the remake of everyone everywhere into a monstrous “Other.”

Our destination is on the 5th floor. There is a legal never-never-land called a “Privately Owned Public Space” or POPS, and the upshot is that in 1979 Trump agreed in exchange for height variances to keep a garden open to the public. And by the time we get to the glass door of the garden we are ready to shout. We have such a need to re-establish our own body. It is real and direct. We’ve been coming back here a lot since the election, releasing our personal arts in this garden, our songs, outlandish costumes, dancing, lecturing with the lurid statistics of species extinction and climate chaos.

What we have dedicated ourselves to over the long run, meeting three days a week in the Trump garden, is to turn over our personal soil by silently writing our responses to The Nightmare. We are finding a way to our counter-dream. We start with a wisdom quote. One quote recently was from Emma Goldman: “Love is the molder of destiny. Love is the defier of laws.”

Then we write together for 45 minutes. At the end we stand with our writing and recite or shout or sing our words at the 700 foot tall gold-tinted presidential erection. One veteran activist that we met at Occupy Wall Street called the garden “A Zuccotti Park with walls, the Zuccotti Prison.” It is like a back alley lifted into the sky, with rotting tables under USA flags.

We find the weeds and the moss in the cracks of the garden’s fake granite and we talk to them in confidential tones. They are our leaders. We ask the rebel plants for advice. Clearly they are activists. We want to be super-weeds ourselves. We want to evolve to live to change The Nightmare. We tell the weeds in the cracks that we know their descendants will flourish in a forest here, that the tower will come down.

We ask the weeds that we be admitted as one of the species in the eco-system they are making as their roots take hold in the seams of The Nightmare. We promise we can co-exist with life, to wake up from this bad dream having learned that we don’t have to be the apex predator. We can do this! With our species, we’ve learned that a strict program of love works best for us. We know that now! Please don’t forget us! Take us along!

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Reverend Billy is an award winning performance artist. His most recent book, The Earth Wants You, was published by City Lights in 2016.

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