The blankets are all over the floor even though I prefer them folded and put away when they aren’t in use. I have like five pillows from the bedroom that have ended up in the living room over the course of the last few days, and I just haven’t bothered to move them. To my left, there’s a jar of Jif peanut butter along with some crackers sitting next to a picture frame of my parents beside a lamp I took from Shelter Island. To my right, there’s an empty glass of water I wish was full. Even the fish-tank is pathetically low on water, but on that front I’m a glass half-full kind of guy. The Christmas tree is still up but I’m too lazy to start packing it away or even turn on the lights and celebrate a little longer.
Everything seems to be exactly where it’s supposed to be. And it all seems a little chaotic and weird at the same time, here on this quiet New Year’s Eve.
Eight miles away but streaming through the television, Anderson Cooper is in an empty Times Square and just mentioned that the last time it was this empty was twice during World War II when the ball didn’t drop for fear that bombing raids could target the bright lights in Hells Kitchen.
Oddly, more Americans have died in this one year than did in any year in our history, including those wartime years. But unlike those wartime years, we aren’t rallied together against a common enemy. Our enemies have become each other, instead.
For a time of year that’s supposed to be about turning the corner and having hope, it’s hard to hold any expectation that things could get better.
You hold out hope for a vaccine, but we’re also just learning that the pace of distribution is so slow, at the rate we’re currently vaccinating people, it’ll take ten years to distribute it. Worse, much of the vaccine will expire before it can be distributed because of the piss-poor job done on “Operation Warp Speed.”
You hold out hope that in the midst of the worst unemployment in U.S. history, while billionaires are making trillions and the rest of us will be lucky–no “blessed”–to get $600 in a sick joke, that the economy doesn’t collapse into utter disarray. With the stock market at all time highs while Americans are starving, the bubble has to pop eventually.
You hold out hope for a Biden presidency to right the wrongs of months upon months of corruption, but with 140 House Republicans vowing to challenge the electoral college vote, the damage ahead could be violent and insurmountable. Worse, Mitch McConnell told senators tonight to vote their conscience, as if they had a conscience.
These are acts of betrayal and sedition; these elected officials are treasonous in spirit. If the president decides to do what his former National Security Advisor and convicted felon Michael Flynn is advising he do and enact martial law, the seditious behavior of Congressional Republicans provides him with the seeming credibility he needs.
That said, it’s not about whether or not Trump can succeed at actively removing the rightful winner of the election to stage a dictatorship; one hopes he can’t. It’s about how such rhetoric could make the country ungovernable once Biden takes the helm. When the Department of Defense and the Pentagon already refuse to meet with the president-elect; or when the Secret Service needs to be seriously altered because it’s been turned into an institution that’s deeply loyal to Trump, instead of the U.S. Constitution; or when former top aides in the White House are warning that Trump is “encouraging” violence on the day of the electoral college vote, we are teetering on the edge of an outright disaster, from which our democracy cannot return.
You hold out hope, of course, that none of that happens. You hope Biden is not only inaugurated but the Democrats take the Senate on Jan. 5, amid no economic collapse and no violence. You hold out hope Biden can bring us to a state of taking the pandemic seriously, the economy seriously, climate change seriously–before ecological genocide becomes reality. You hold out hope not because you’re a Democrat but because, well, that’s the kind of hope any decent person is prone to hope for.
I want us to live vigilantly, woke and watchful. I want us to live compassionately, with empathy and connection. I want us to live passionately, with accountability and demanding justice. I want us to live, just that, to be able to live–and maybe even thrive. That’s what most of us would claim we want, I think, but for whatever reason, some of us feel crowded out by others wanting the same fortune, the same inalienable rights. Where did we get the idea that the very basic hierarchy of needs was for some but not all? That hope was for some but not all? That’s really at the root of the issue of everything I’m talking about.
But the thing is, holding out hope isn’t enough. Hope wasn’t meant to be this thing that we carry with us despite the inevitable, disappointing outcome, that just gets us through. Hope wasn’t meant to some far-fetched dream you cling to during a nightmare. Hope, like love, was meant to be an action verb: something we strive for, actively. It’s the act of bending the arc of the moral universe–it doesn’t just bend over time on its own.
Horrific things may come our way in the days, weeks, and months ahead, and while most of us aren’t in positions of power to sway things one way or the other, all of us are in relationships, and how we order and manage those relationships will determine how the country as a whole embraces or shuns unspeakable injustices.
I’ve lost a lot friendships in the last five or so years, burned a lot of bridges, many of them intentionally, because I believed you couldn’t squash fascism with social niceties; because I believed there’s a time and place for shaming hatred back to the dark corners it came from, and if that cost me relationship either to people who were bigots or to people who tolerated them, it didn’t cost me relationship to anyone who deserved to be in relationship with me. And here as we, hopefully, approach the end of this dark saga, our president maybe readying for political violence, I feel a little justified in having taken that route.
So, when I say we have something to hope for, it’s that regardless of the outcome of these coming tests of our time on this sorry little planet, we can place our hope in those of us fighting the good fight, sending the authoritarian shills of the great grifters of our democracy back to the cesspool they crawled out of.