Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
(The Declaration of Independence)
A sunny autumn Saturday afternoon in New York City. As my laundry swished around in a sudsy cycle I sat across the street at the tiny counter of what New Yorkers might call a “Korean deli” or “Korean bodega”. A hybrid-ish slang for a business that once upon a time was the province of immigrant European Jews prior to becoming a model of enterprise for the later wave of this town’s Latino populations, now increasingly represented by this fresher wave of folks yearning to breathe free as well. Through all of it there have been toasted bagels. As a muddle of egg, bacon and hard roll swished coffee over, under, around and through my teeth, suddenly an eruption of noise from outside the window. It is not unusual to hear horns honking on the thoroughfare known as 8th Avenue in Manhattan, and lately with the multitudes of protests herding up this same street it was also not unusual to hear shouting. As I lifted my head up nothing of an obvious nature explained this. I witnessed no organized marching, the car horns were intermittent and I was far enough removed from the current news bytes, captivated as I was by an article about the recently deceased Jerry Jeff Walker, to momentarily forget that the country was on tenterhooks waiting for the final presidential election returns signaling what would be (as we had been repeatedly reminded) the most consequential electoral decision of a generation, maybe even in all of American history. As I pulled myself away from the page and pushed aside the continuous soundtrack in my head of Jerry Jeff covering Guy Clark’s LA Freeway, I noticed a woman on the fifth floor of the building across the street unfurling an American flag outside her window, and in a flash clarity arrived. Duh! Yes, of course, Joe Biden must have hit the elusive 270 electoral votes necessary to attain the presidency. I stepped outside and just to be sure, I stopped a young woman who was entering the same deli and asked, “Is this what I think it is?” Without defining exactly what “it” was, she knew instinctively what I meant, for her reply was “I don’t know. I haven’t seen anything on my phone.” With that she poked the device again and said “Yep, Biden hits 270.” We both smiled widely (at least I think she did, I know I did) and went our separate ways.
My machine still had five minutes of spin left, so I stood on the sidewalk contemplating a scene that was now more obvious from this vantage point than my previous perch. The horns became louder, more prolonged, and much more frequent. Total strangers passed on the street high five-ing, hugging and shouting inarticulately, that is unless WHOOP is an actual word. There was not a frown to be seen. Tears of joy were the order of the day for I believe I even spotted a dog crying. Although that may have been because he was being tugged away from a tantalizing fragrance. But he did, very obviously, reach his paw up to his eye. Perhaps as the Temps sang in another era, it was just my imagination running away with me. Would Ode to Joy blaring out a window have been too much for the moment? Somehow I doubt it. We were, all of us it seemed, finally exhaling, an exercise which ironically in the other prevailing context of the times we are living in, should be taken with great care.
But there are still too many wooden boards on retail windows. Covid-19 is rampaging more powerfully than ever throughout the nation and my city as our transmission rate races toward a 3% mark that will result in another closing of schools. Daily infection numbers which had fallen to hundreds have swelled to the thousands again. The nationwide fatality rate is approaching a quarter million. The unemployment rate has fallen according to the latest government reports, but the subsequent rise in infection signals a turn back in the other direction as businesses face another period of partial or perhaps even complete shutdown. Meanwhile, as the streets of my city teem with unfortunates many of whom likely never imagined themselves in such a condition, any financial recompense that could contribute to the alleviation of at least some of this misery finds itself held hostage to the political considerations of a body of supposedly “responsible” people who will not be missing any meals or slumbering on or under a box marked Maytag or Sony any time soon.
Family Thanksgiving feasts will be much smaller, and Santa has been largely sidelined for the season. There is hope for progress on the sickness of systemic racism, but we have all seen this movie before and a healthy degree of cynicism in this area is not unwise. Roads and bridges across the country continue to crumble. Too many innocent children continue to be kept apart from their families. The planet itself, in large measure due to our own malfeasance, is sick and our attention to the details of that is more important than ever. Still…
Saturday, November 7th in Chelsea, in the city of New York in the state of New York, brought an exultation of unqualified joy that will be forever tethered to my memory. Saturday, November 7th reminded us that there is still hope for government of the people, by the people and for the people. The fraud dear citizens, lie not in our votes, but in the White House . The infant in- chief can shake his rattle and his lawyers as much as he wants but the writings of history and his failures are on the walls. Hopefully in indelible ink.