Despair and Hope

Four years ago, I wrote a small and unmemorable piece just days after that election trying to restore some optimism and faith in those who were shaken up after Trump was elected President. In my office, a very diverse and progressive company, I vividly recall people walking around with tears in their eyes, others literally shaking with fury.

The same week, only now in 2020, there were no coworkers to observe – they’re all working from home. There’s no long lines to take in at our election facilities, because my wife and I voted early via a drop box. All we had was to tune into CNN on Election night and hope that things wouldn’t go like they did last time.

For a few hours, it was abysmal.

The immediate returns were coming in: Trump was tearing away in numerous states, but surprisingly falling short in Texas and Ohio. There was some fleeting hope early that perhaps a tidal wave of democrat voters in Texas could flip it for the first time since the 1970s, and Ohio has become such a pivotal state that if it went blue, perhaps there was grounds for optimism.

It was not to be. Within a few hours, Ohio and Texas could safely be colored red in all projected election maps on every major news network. The electoral vote projections began taking shape, in many cases very early, and Trump had a foothold on winning re-election. I was in despair and began drinking. My wife left the room and let work distract her from the heartache.

It got very late, and by that point it was extremely clear no winner would be declared, and that the process was nowhere near over, likely not for several days. That said, it was extremely clear: Many countless millions of Americans would happily go out on Election Day and vote for the most repugnant, stupid, and evil President in the history of our nation to get a second term. That itself was crushing. Nearly in tears, I approached my wife and told her how ashamed and hurt I was, wondering if I could see some my family again, because in my heart I know a good many of them likely voted for Trump and Republicans down the ballot.

Posting angrily on Facebook was a fruitless exercise, so I temporarily disabled my account. I purged my social media of anything political and took my foot off the gas. The next day, things began to take shape – mail-in ballots were being counted, and in many cases it was going to take days to get them counted. Amy and I fell asleep watching CNN late Thursday night, as it appeared inevitable that Biden would take the lead in Georgia, turning that state blue for the first time since 1992. The moment didn’t occur until 3 or 4 that morning, and it was nice to wake up to.

Pennsylvania was becoming more blue by the hour, and many votes were still being counted, almost all of them Democrat. Nevada and Arizona both seemed safely blue, despite the stressful manner in which each state were reporting their counts. Friday night seemed like “the night,” but there was no call. To bed we went, disappointed but hopeful.

Saturday morning. I woke up around 7 as usual, since our puppy has an annoying habit of walking all over our chests and faces until we wake up to feed them, which I rarely mind doing. After feeding them and doing a quick internet-scour to find any updates (there weren’t any), I plopped onto the couch with a cup of coffee and began watching Victorian Farm, a BBC series where archaeologists and historians live on a working historic farm in England. It’s an immensely satisfying series that covers multiple time periods, demonstrating period techniques and the humble pride that comes with hard work and diligence.

I was in the middle of a scene where one of the historians was discussing how best to concoct a Victorian-era horse-hoof remedy when a group text my wife and I are in began blowing up, mostly with .gifs. Oh shit.

I immediately put CNN back on my laptop as Van Jones was tearfully discussing how proud he was, and what a significant moment was playing out for our nation. Amy was comfortably asleep, and when I gently poked her shoulder to wake her up, she saw my face and I think she knew.

“They called it,” I said. Her eyes went from sleepy to wide awake instantly, and a big smile broke out on her face. “REALLY?!” We migrated from the bedroom down to the living room, and on an unusually warm November day we opened the house up a bit, watching video from around the country as a gleeful America celebrated ridding itself, no matter how momentarily, of Trump and the divisive culture he and his ilk have worked so hard to poison our society with these past miserable four years. People were dancing in the streets. We hugged in our living room.

I listened to Ray Charles’ rendition of “America the Beautiful” for the first time in a long, long time. I looked at the American flag with pride for the first time in a long, long time. I felt like a patriot for the first time in a long, long time. The sun shined on our country that day after a rainstorm that lasted years.

A few likeminded friends of ours, who strangely we’ve cultivated over remote Zoom hangouts these past few months and have become very close with, joined Amy and I for a celebratory remote drink that evening, and it was cathartic to hear and share the happy moment with these former strangers whom we’ve come to care about. We didn’t say much to some members of our families, for obvious reasons. I’m guessing a great many of them were doing the opposite of celebrating.

As everybody knows now and was predictable as the sunrise a few days ago, Trump and his army of sycophants has rejected all notion of concession and outright denied the results. Shocking, I know. With the electors still to determine formally the next president in early December and any manner of coup-esque shenanigans possible between now and then (much less that day and January 20th), the nagging pangs of anxiety over what the right could and will do are lingering. Similarly, the depression that such a vast number of people chose to vote not only to re-elect Trump, but successfully reinstated both Lindsay Graham and Mitch McConnell is a disgrace; a stain on our society that won’t ever be washed out, at least not in our lifetimes or likely our children’s lifetimes.

The supreme court is sadly broken and bent largely to the right, and within a few years I have no doubt that both women’s rights to choose abortions and gay marriage will be eradicated, among other fascist motions to oppress and crush the agency of non-white Christian male landowners.

But when Amy and I watched Kamala Harris address the millions of young women and little girls watching, you couldn’t help but feel hope. When Joe Biden pounded the podium in an oath to have the backs of the millions of black Americans who fought so hard to get out the vote in Republican-oppressed areas around the nation, you couldn’t help but feel a calm.

One day Trump won’t be President. One day Ivanka and Jared Kushner will have absolutely no influence or power. One day Stephen Miller, Rudy Guliani, Bill Barr, Betsy DeVos, Don Jr., Mike Pompeo, and all of the disgusting cretins who have worked so diligently to undermine and destroy democracy and the American spirit of possibility, one day they will be gone. One day very soon.

That day can’t come soon enough, and when it does, we’ll dance, we’ll hug, and we’ll cherish the moment(s) where America became great again, 4 years and change after the con artist who stole that phrase (from Reagan) successfully peddled his brand of racist, xenophobic, and sexist rhetoric all the way to the White House. America became great again when it soundly rejected him using our ballots, our American birthright, our sacred franchise.

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