Being a hopeful optimist — and a dogged one at that — sucks. It really and truly and fully and completely s-u-c-k-s. Last week I wrote a piece about America showing us who they are (racist, misogynist, xenophobic, etc.) and how it was time to believe them. I wrote about how America shows us time and again who they are and they need to be believed. That piece still holds and I still do believe them. America is all of those things and then some. America is a ‘democracy’ that has a ‘President’ who will not concede a free and fair election and a party who is aiding and abetting him in plain sight. In the latest twist of a very on brand for 2020 plot, Emily W. Smith, the General Services Administration Administrator (who knew that was a thing?!), is holding up the process of a peaceful transition of power.
Given all of that evidence and facts that are not ‘alternative’ (thanks for that gem Kellyanne) no doubt, America remains who they were when I wrote my piece last Wednesday and they will remain as such for the foreseeable future. I can not, and will no longer be, disappointed by them. Yet, as I also wrote, I can and will remain hopeful for them as evidenced by a pretty extraordinary shift in my feelings between Wednesday and this past Saturday night. On Saturday night, seeing Kamala Harris stride on stage in her crisp, powerful, white, Suffragette pantsuit was to see joy in motion. To hear her speak assuredly, confidently, powerfully; to see her smile, to look into her alive and beautiful face was to feel hope once again reignite. It was to see progress embodied but, this time, reimagined.
Kamala Harris is no ordinary woman and is certainly not going to be an ordinary Vice President. She will not be because she identifies as female; she is Indian and Black. She identifies as female. She is newly married despite being over fifty years old and it is an interracial relationship. She identifies as female. Her husband will be, by all acccounts happily, in the passenger seat while she drives. Ms. Harris has never had children biologically. Instead, she has white stepchildren who call her “Momala”. She identifies as female.
Kamala Harris — Joe Biden’s partner and to hear him tell it his newest family member — brought a rollercoaster that had dipped low back to a point of ascension. It was astonishing particularly in light of their brutal primary differences and, yet, on this night, Biden’s night, he gave her the grace and the room to shine too. I could feel myself climbing, getting higher and higher; the thrilling quality of hope nearly at my fingertips. The intangible was suddenly within reach.
It got even better once President-Elect Joe Biden came on stage jogging, looking like a leader and speaking in nice, full and coherent sentences impeaching citizens to do the right thing for each other; to conduct themselves with empathy and with decency. To hear and listen to each other. As David Remnick wrote in his piece, “The Biden Era Begins”, “loss, and the recovery from loss, is the very condition of life.”. Mr. Biden understands loss and faith and as he went on to quote Ecclesiates and “He Will Raise You Up” I found myself getting all verklempt and I don’t even consider myself religious.
But those things — sacred texts, music, poetry — the things that capture the ineffable and make the unseen seen, even for the flash of an instant, those things matter and they make us feel like so much more than we often see ourselves to be. They offer the possibility of creation and of making the world how it ought to be and not how it currently is. They offer hope. So too does watching Joe Biden the father unabashedly and unreservedly embrace his son who struggled with addiction. To watch him hold that sons child with reverence. Real humans, expressing real feelings as they sang, danced, hugged, marvelled and awed at the momentous honour they had been bestowed because they know it is an honour and it is sacred.
As my ascendant feelings of hope ascended even further, I began to feel the attendant fear that can occasionally accompany too much hope. But, can there ever be too much hope? No, not really, except when it comes to America. They have shown me who they are and I must keep believing them. The fear that if I got too high again, America would let me down again is real and legitimate. They will hurt me, and all of us who believe in and hope for them, again. They will disappoint us again and cause us to feel anger again that our faith and hope had once again misplaced as all of us optimists had been duped by them like suckers. And, like my grandmother who was fixated on death and talked constantly about how she was going to die until one day she, you know, did, I found myself bracing for impact; the crash after the cookie. The despair after the misplaced hope.
And, sure enough, just like my dearly departed grandmother, I was right. Trump will not (and still hasn’t) conceded. The usual suspects (Cruz, Graham, Fox) are helping to stir up baseless venom and spewing lies and misinformation. Rudy and Co. (including a registered sex offender; there is no bottom) are scheduling press conferences at Four Seasons landscaping rather than the Four Seasons Hotel right between the adult bookstore and the crematorium. The ascension was rapidly descending as the rollercoaster picked up speed until, like any good carnie, I flipped the switch and rapidly engaged the brakes.
Instead of sinking into despair, I decided to put on Taylor Swift’s “I Forgot That You Existed” and dance around the living room. I decided to act like Joe and Kamala and carry on with the business at hand (including hiring someone Trump fired!; Well played Joe. Well played). I decided to take Chasten Buttigieg’s advice and treat Trump with the irrelevance with which he ought to be treated. I decided to stay balanced, but, decidedly, hopeful.
Let the deranged and Orange baby-man engage with his delusions. Let no one ask him why COVID cases are at ten million and instead of, you know, doing his job, he’s whipping up poison and further lies. The Presidency that began at the lie of birtherisn is now ending with the lie of voter fraud. So let a grown man go in his bunker and refuse to come out even when his son-in-law gently approaches him like a child to state the obvious and say in his whisper’y, Jared Kushner voice: ‘Dear Leader…um, you lost.’. All I can say is I hope Jared went into that lions den with a whip and a chair.
Nevertheless, the feelings I expected on Wednesday — the relief and the hope — arrived on Saturday instead and I couldn’t help but open my heart to them. I couldn’t help but once again I feel hope. I couldn’t help but feel that maybe America can change. And you know what, hope is always possible, it’s always there even when we can’t see it or it feels as remote as it has these long and dark past four years. But there it was and I never thought I’d see what I did: celebrations in the streets for Joe Biden. Relief sweeping over a nation as renewed hope begins its work of healing the world.
As I wrote upfront: being hopeful and optimistic can suck. It can make for a real rollercoaster ride. But, as far as I can tell, it’s the only way to really and truly be. Hope is a necessary component to life and one I will never give up on. I can’t quit it and I wouldn’t want to. Hope is the fuel that drives the car even if the car occasionally careens or sputters. So, while hope is important, so too is equanimity. I don’t want a full take backsies from my last piece as I cannot be unreservedly hopeful for America. What I hope to be though is evenly and moderately hopeful for America. An equanimous (aka oxymoronic) roller coaster ride if you will.
Nothing and no one is one thing or another as, on the contrary, we all contain multitudes. So, for us optimists and hopeaholics, being optimistic and hopeful does not mean also not being realistic. Truly hopeful optimists see reality and can accept it, but, they can also see what the world really could be and, therefore, want it to be more. Because when a person truly loves life at its core, when they truly love the world at its core, they see the core possibility and potential and they want to get there. So let’s hope that America can get there and let’s hope that we can stay in balance as they do.