By Leah S. Abrams
This weekend, it feels like even the weather is celebrating. And why not? The country, though perhaps not by the mandate level margin one may have hoped for, has elected a new President, one who is interested in protecting the environment, who believes in science, and for that alone I breathe a sigh of relief. Along with this new President comes, finally, this country’s long overdue first woman Vice President – and a woman who represents this country’s diversity.
We have much work ahead of us. We must resist a return to apathy. We must return to true discourse – to listening, to reading (reputable reads). But first, let us do what the NYC sunshine is doing and celebrate. We did what Tony Kushner pleaded with us to do in his 2019 rewrite of “A Bright Room Called Day” – we got up out of our seats, stopped simply nodding and watching, and instead, took all kinds of action. On every side of the political spectrum, we became engaged citizens at a level we’ve not seen in my lifetime.
Four years ago, I was struggling with being away from home and from my girls (aka my cats) for so many weeks, when, in the middle of a dress rehearsal for a pretty timely political play, I learned that every pollster had been wrong while my gut and condemning opinions of humanity had been right. I embarked on a period of endless social media consumption and ranting, reading and rereading dystopian novels, and attending protest marches. I even made the questionable decision to see the stage adaptation of “1984” that had come to Broadway.
After a while, the worst of fears: normalization. You live in a constant state of underlying panic you so come to accept that you forget it’s there. And then a global pandemic smacks you, a law enforcement official spends over 8 ½ minutes killing an innocent man while being video recorded, and you can’t even get through a movie about relatively recent historical events without screaming at the screen. And it all feels, somehow, normal – the way it is going to be.
Yesterday, late morning, I was home, four years and four days after that fateful 2016 election when I learned in the most 2020 sort of way that the world is shifting, finally, out of “The Empire Strikes Back” toward “Return of The Jedi.” I was celebrating my nephew’s 7th birthday – on Zoom – it had been the longest my sister, brother-in-law, or I had gone without refreshing the news when I heard it – my neighborhood.
There came a slowly building crescendo I’ve not heard since our more mournful 7pm gratitude gatherings in the height of the pandemic here. “Ahm, I think we may have just won?! Hang on..” and ran to the other room: “Hit refresh! I think we won!” And then the confirmation, followed by the family celebration where we’ll always remember my nephew’s 7th birthday as the day our Democracy was saved, at least from this family’s perspective.
And then followed the music – our neighborhood DJ who’d played us through those long, dreadful months gave us a largely Motown and R&B celebration concert of my personal favorites.
I made my way out to the fire escape to discover it was 70-ish degrees – my neighbors had brought back the clanging pots and noisemakers we’d used to express our gratitude this past spring.
But it wasn’t until hours later, in the midst of the NY Botanic Garden as bright a rainbow of trees as my nephew’s birthday outfit and decorations, that I noticed it – my shoulders – they had dropped to a place I’ve not felt them in four years. Yes, there is a great deal of effort ahead to continue forming a more perfect union, but for someone as suspicious of our species as I am, this is a good day – a day to celebrate that at least a small majority of one’s fellow humans have chosen to reject fear and divisiveness and try instead to embrace and lead with our better angels.