On Decency

Two more days.

I’m tired, you’re tired, everybody’s tired.

Well, sack up, hoes. It’s going to be harder this time. Dark and getting darker, cold and getting colder, the isolation starting to freak everybody out. I have a bottle of champagne if it goes one way and a bottle of scotch if it goes another and I’ve got bail money for you and you and you and you, just tell me what you need.

Tuesday night we’re going to have a Zoom van, I’m working out the logistics today. There are a couple of things we need to talk about first.

There’s a reason things broke when they did, when it seemed like a corner turned, and it was when Joe Biden stood next to Donald Trump on the debate stage. Not because of anything either of them said, honestly, but because of the unavoidable contrast between someone who gives a damn about others and someone who just wants to scream.

Hunter’s laptop, e-mails, lockdowns, whatever they think socialism is, the shifting sands of deep-state conspiracies and unsuccessful coups … for most ordinary people it all just became too much. And when you’re juggling work from home and work from masked-up misery and homeschooling and hybrid schooling and which of your friends just tested positive and who’s even in charge of where you can go anymore and what’s safe to do, when you’ve spent the past six months lurching from crisis to crisis and the country’s spent the past four years doing the same … the contrast with someone who just says look at this, I can do better than this, is undeniable.

When people talk longingly of a forgotten time, it’s almost always for moments when things seemed easy, or at least easier. When they felt secure, when they felt that what they were doing was right with the world. Sure, some of that was laziness, but not all of it. Some of it defeated depressions. Some of it won wars. Not all the slogans are empty and not all the platitudes are meaningless, especially if they translate into the soup kitchen and the shelter, into lifting up the widow and the orphan and the stranger.

Not all the prayers are only poetry. Some of the poetry is work. And for months we’ve been doing the work, and it seemed for so long like nobody noticed, because all we heard from up above us was to hate and fear and rage and defend, defend, defend, against our neighbors, against everything out there in the world. As if the world isn’t ours, too, isn’t what we make it, can’t be made and unmade every single day with a thousand small actions that only seem meaningless if you can’t see the whole.

That’s what leadership does. It tells us what the whole is. And for the past month we’ve had a voice speaking with clarity and courage about what we have done for each other and what we can do. I don’t think any of us realized how hungry we were for it until we heard. I don’t think any of us realized how small and mean we were until there was someone else we couldn’t ignore saying just the absolute opposite.

Leadership tells us a story about who we are in order to teach us who we can be. The most of it is up to us, always, to keep each other safe and take care of each other. Stories alone can’t save us, but stories don’t make us dumber and they don’t make us poorer and they don’t have to make us selfish and angry and scared. We are a nation founded with the written word, with the declaration, and every day we can declare over and over again: This is who we are. Every day the answer can be different.

Maybe today it will be. Maybe tomorrow.

A.

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