In 2007, George W. Bush visited our southern hemisphere. Message: he cared about the neighbors the U.S had ignored since 2000. As part of that effort, Bush visited Iximche, a one-time capital of an ancient Mayan kingdom subdued by Spanish conquest in 1524.
His visit angered many Mayans. One spokesman said, “That a person like Bush – with the persecution of our migrant brothers in the United States, with the wars he has provoked – is going to walk in our sacred lands is an offense for the Mayan people and their culture.” After the brief visit, Mayan priests were called in to spiritually cleanse the archeological site of “bad spirits.”
I started joking that perhaps we should sage the White House after Bush left. Here’s the thing: never say something like that in front of my girlfriend. In 2008, when Barack Obama was elected president, she dared me to make the joke practical. We sent the word out that we were going to sage the White House the night before Obama’s inauguration.
Here’s the other thing: props to actual event organizers – who knew we couldn’t get anywhere near the White House? That we needed a permit to gather in Dupont Circle? That a sound system might be a good idea? No need for the back story, but thank you Code Pink. Somehow we pulled it off.
A rabbi, a comic and a shaman go into Dupont Circle. There were 2,000 people there.
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum welcomed everyone. I adapted the Catholic litany form into a white person’s version of call-and-response. With the distant hum of shredders working overtime in the White House, I chanted some of the sins of the previous eight years – stolen elections, voter suppression, my pet goat, WOMD, the Patriot Act, Abu Ghraib, the drowning of New Orleans, faith-based finance, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, socialized losses and privatized profits. After each lament, the crowd sang, “Hey, hey, hey, good-bye!”
Mamma Donna Henes, an urban shaman, performed the ritual cleansing of the bad spirits. Michele Lanchester led us in singing, “We shall not be moved.” We cranked up the borrowed sound system. My girlfriend DJ’d the last few minutes of our permitted hour. We danced and dispersed into the freezing, sage-laden night.
The next day we joined thousands in the bright, joyful, jostling gridlock of Inauguration Day. We never made it to that promised land of the purple ticket section. Instead we watched in the welcomed warmth of a friend’s home. When President Obama stood to the podium to speak, he looked ashen, as if someone had finally shown him the real books. I was glad we had saged the White House and had done what we could to help him transition into his new job and new home.
This summer, during the Republican National Convention, about halfway through Trump’s rant, before I really knew what I was doing, I got up, found a sage bundle wedged in the back of a drawer, lit it and slowly wanded my friends as they watched the speech. I did not want all that hateful slime to get on them. I passed it over myself for good measure.
The call went out the day after the Rejection Election for a Women’s March to focus and amplify resistance. The pre-exhausting condition called “President-Elect Trump” was sworn in. The PTSD of President Trump Stress Disorder officially began. We marched.
Let the size queens debate. I have never seen a larger crowd in all my years of marching. As one sign said, “Resisterhood is powerful.”
You’ll be happy to know that you can now order sage sticks by the gross online.
Kate Clinton is a longtime humorist. She writes regularly for the Blade.