I’ve been haunted by Don for the last few days. Not Donald Trump—he is a nightmare, but not a ghost. The Don haunting me, and those around me, is a welcome specter.
The 2016 election result has made obvious and urgent what was already true: there is a war to fight. Our collective incredulity over Trump’s victory also suggests that we don’t yet know how to fight it. Too many Americans trusted Clinton’s neoliberal capitalist feminism as a buoy against fascism; it wasn’t a shield, let alone a weapon. In the uphill battle against authoritarianism, racism, sexism and transphobia we need a well-stocked arsenal, a diversity of tactics. Here, I propose just one: In the face of Donald and darkening times, we do well to let a different Don haunt us. This is no time to underestimate the importance of radical ghosts.
The Don I’m talking about went by his middle name, and was better known as Clark Fitzgerald. Clark died at the age of 28, one day before Donald Trump was elected president and just in time to haunt burgeoning fascism with a vengeance, so long as we let him. Clark was a brilliant, mischievous, generous believer in commune and community, beloved across the fractured New York left. Rake thin, beanstalk tall, mustache and grin. He died in a car crash in Monday’s early hours on a Wisconsin highway. The vehicle swerved to avoid a deer carcass, swerved again and flipped. Clark was the only fatality. The car was part of a caravan on its way to Standing Rock to join and support the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline—a struggle for life, water and earth that runs much deeper than one crude oil passage.
In these last grim days, Clark’s absence, which is a presence, has for me illuminated the strength of a radical coming together, which, crucially, is about solidarity beyond collective opposition to Trump.
I saw hope and purpose on election night, not in the clasped hands and hugs between liberals and leftists staring in disbelief at reddening infographics (although there was solace there). As the results rolled in, I was in a community bookshop in Queens, without screens, oblivious to the national narrative unfolding, reuniting with distanced comrades to think about Clark. The fearsome spectacle of Trump’s victory didn’t creep into this memorial. I walked away from the event, dead phone in hand, assuming Clinton was well on her way to a firm win, only to join journalist friends at a viewing party sitting open-mouthed in front of a red map. But it was the memorial, not the election result, that renewed my commitment to organize, risk and fight.
Back in 2010, I met Clark at a reading group (the anti-state communist reading group, to be precise). The friendships forged there became the foundation of an anarchist-leaning cadre that helped fuel Occupy with far-left, sometimes blustery energy. You could spot Clark in any crowd, and police always seemed to. We took trips, marched, dangled donuts in front of somber riot cops, shared long meetings, anger and disappointment. We were thick as thieves for some years, but drifted apart more recently. No animosity—we chose different projects, different organizing spaces; far-left organizing in New York cleaved along ideological and personal lines. In truth, I’ve been apathetic; Clark never was. Had the Standing Rock–bound caravan reached the Dakotas, I’m sure that Clark’s November 8 would have been absent of a big screen glaring red and blue. Trump’s ascendence was not Clark’s wake up call to put his body on the line against white supremacy and capitalism.