I was still feeling the pure joy of the previous day, when the 2020 presidential election was called for Joe Biden. At the moment that news broke on Nov. 7, 2020, I was in the perfect place to celebrate — McPherson Square, a park just blocks from the White House.
I was in Washington because of #TrumpRat, a 16′ tall piece of inflatable protest art that was the brainchild of New York City gallerist John Post Lee of Bravinlee Programs and artist Jeffrey Beebe. Since the winter of 2017, John and activist/photographer George De Castro Day had tirelessly organized protests featuring the Trump Rat in New York, D.C., and parts beyond. I was the newest and least helpful member of Team #TrumpRat. George and John were the longtime rat strategists (rat-egists?) and scheduled the appearances, while I could barely budge the heavy gas-run generator required to keep the rat inflated. At the many rat outings I attended in 2020, George did the heavy lifting (literally), revved the generator, explained the 1st Amendment to disapproving cops, and served as the rat’s official photographer. My job usually consisted of standing next to the rat with a sign — sometimes on the West Side Highway, sometimes in Brooklyn, sometimes in Washington — and anxiously asking, “Are you okay with that?” whenever George lugged the rat and its gear to a new location.
Anyway, it was obvious to the whole team that Trump Rat needed to go to D.C. to await the election results. We first set the rat up in McPherson on Friday, November 6, while state election officials were still counting the votes.
After enough people had taken photos that day, George recruited a team to carry the rat towards Black Lives Matter Plaza and the White House — while he directed the march, wrangled the generator, and debated the police. A master of multi-tasking!
I “assisted” by running alongside and taking video of the rat on the move.
The rat had never marched before — this was totally spontaneous and amazingly well-executed on George’s part.
An encore performance was demanded the following day — November 7 — when the election was called and the streets turned into one big, ecstatic party. First, in McPherson, George inflated the rat, deflated it, and re-inflated it for the public’s entertainment.
Then he corralled another team of celebrants to carry the rat down H street so even more people could pose and pop bottles with it.
The Daily Beast reported, “Dozens of people in the nation’s capital marched a gigantic inflatable rat wearing an oversized suit and red tie to the White House, chanting the chorus to Steam‘s ‘Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.'” I don’t have any personal video of that scene because I was under the inflatable, contributing some muscle to the group effort at last. But Storyful user “DCDebbie” caught the parade on camera, and Yahoo News picked it up from her.
Of course, you can show a fascist the door, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to walk through it. The headline on the rat-mentioning Daily Beast story struck an appropriately ominous note: “‘It Feels Glorious’: Democrats Across the U.S. Finally Exhale—for Now.” (My less-fancy blog version of that was “Relaxing With Joe Biden … Not!“) I’m sure that vast numbers of the people dancing in the streets on Nov. 7, 2020, were aware that all our relief was just “for now.”
Tellingly, less than a week after the election was called, the Trump Rat was out with the activists of Rise and Resist at the offices of international law firm Jones Day, which was handling futile election lawsuits on behalf of Republicans.
Even after this January’s violent insurrection at the Capitol, the Nation’s “Farewell to a Monster” headline — on an article that included a November 7 photo of Trump Rat — was clearly too optimistic because monsters have been spawned by the original one. But you know what? It’s okay — even essential — to be fully present in our happy moments and celebrate our accomplishments without inhibition. Moments of respite can help us “be strong and of good courage,” to borrow the words of Auschwitz freedom fighter Róża Robota. We live to fight another day!