I arrived downtown about a half-hour early for the 9 p.m.”Casserole protest” at the city plaza/Vance Monument. I considered just sitting in my car checking emails on my phone for the half-hour, but I was parked so near to one of my favorite clubs that it was an easy choice to leave the car. The Block off biltmore is a beautiful space with a great vibe and all manner of progressive activities – and cool progressive people. And Cam McQueen, the proprietor, is beautiful and charming and smart and a real progressive hero. I have several topics I’d like to talk with her about, including having her club host a dance party I have in mind.
I was in luck: Cam was there, and even had a few minutes to talk. She warned me that she was wanting to get an early start home, but reassured me that she really did want to talk with me. I didn’t have much time myself, so the timing felt fine – and we jammed a lot of great connecting into about 15 minutes. I left feeling happy – reconnected with someone who is more and more feeling like a genuine friend.
A Cacerolazo or “Casserole Protest” originates in Latin America, where people would protest the dictator by gathering in the town square to bang on pots and pans. The MoveOn and Working Families Party leaders encouraged us to do this in cities across the country, as Trump was spewing his lies to Congress and the American people. It was a way of saying, “We’re not listening to you. We’re turning our backs on you. You are not our president. We’re going to sing and dance and come together.” We may read the speech the next day, preferably the Washington Post annotated version, or listen to what Amy Goodman has to say about it – but tonight we will not give you the TV ratings.
When I arrived at the Monument a couple minutes early, three people were there: Sherry Vaughan, Heather and her son Connor. Sherry was in her car waiting to signal us when the speech began – and mom and son were over by the monument, seeming to be enjoying each other’s company.
Heather and Connor really do seem to enjoy each other’s company – and to enjoy being themselves. They are each of them fresh and unique – very much their own person. And they have created a mother-son relationship that is very democratic – so unoppressive. Heather seems to really support Connor just being himself – and he seems very comfortable in his own skin. Together the two of them stand for liberation.
Sherry and I had lots of fun talking with each other – backing off a bit from our banging to hear each other, then leaning into it and letting out some hoots and hollers. We debriefed the civil disobedience training that Sherry helped to organize on Sunday. We debriefed the afternoon Resist Trump Tuesday rally, which she had not been able to make. We celebrated our NC senator Richard Burr getting caught being Trump’s puppet.
I appreciated her for organizing the Sunday training. I appreciated all the ways she is always appreciating me for my leadership of the group. This organizing work is a labor of love and in a very real way I don’t need the appreciation, but it still does feel good. Sherry and I are really developing a relationship for the long haul – over several different contexts, building our reality in connection with each other, supporting each other. We talked at some length about the word “resist”: resistance we had run into from our friends about our use of the word (ironic, eh?) and how each of us had come to love the word now.
The four of us pot-bangers would ebb and flow with our instruments – sometimes beating our pots and pans very vigorously, other times letting the clanging go way back into the background. It was a dance.
Two teenaged girls approached us in the dark and wanted to take a turn wailing on our pots and pans. We thought that was great and made sure that each got a chance to try out all four pots. After they had been playing their hearts out for a while, one of us asked them if they had any idea what we were doing out here. They acknowledged that they did not – in an innocent way that indicated that it had not occurred to them that this was a significant question. But when we told them it was a protest against Trump’s speech, they thought that was great – and, who knows, this may have even have made them feel better about all their banging.
We didn’t have any signs. Connor: “None of these people going by has any idea why we are doing this.” Sherry: “Yeah, but doesn’t it feel great!?” And it did feel great – so much better than sitting home helplessly while Trump promulgated his lies. It was rally and team-building and play time all at once. It fed us and will keep us going. If the monks meditating in their monasteries help to make the planet a more peaceful place (I do believe this), then maybe us banging our pots and pans did the same. Casserole protests were happening simultaneously in many cities across the country. We were a little band, the four of us – but, by God, a casserole protest happened also in Asheville.
At 9:30, Heather and Connor had to leave to pick her husband up from work, so we called it an evening. As I walked the three blocks back to my car, I decided to stop back in The Block to use the bathroom. As I approached the club, it looked so beautiful shining out in the darkness – the bar really radiant and the back room a little more moody, belting out swing jazz from a live band and full of the whirling bodies of swing dancing.
As I approached the club, I asked myself would it be an even more perfect evening if I lingered in this beautiful room over a beer, rather than hurrying home to bed. I did not agonize over that question, just trusted my actually peaceful and non-hurrying movement homeward. Little did I know that I was actually going home to write, which pretty much always trumps almost everything else I might be doing, even sleep – it’s just the best.
And even the little hit of the beautiful aliveness of this club was enough. In the last two days, I had talked with three people about the need for us to stay balanced, enjoy beauty and have fun as we immerse ourselves in our political commitments – or even as we just lightly touch into this political cesspool, which can be so toxic. Here I had the beauty of the club and the dancers and the music and Cam. I had the remembrance of how important dancing is to me and how much fun I have in the 1-3 times a week that I do ecstatic dancing.
The signs by the bathrooms (in this HB2 oppressive anti-transgender bathroom state) somehow pulled the whole evening together.