It was on that “forever Tuesday” that we were reminded that this democratic experiment known as the United States of America is not guaranteed and should not be taken for granted. It was on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020 when that “forever Tuesday” turned into a heart-pounding Wednesday, a nail-biting Thursday, and a frightening Friday. It was a smack in the face that reminded us that the freedoms for which we hold so dear hang in the balance every day.
That “forever Tuesday” lasted five days culminating on that exhilarating Saturday when it was declared that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would win the White House. However, that “forever Tuesday” felt like It lasted longer than five days — and that is because it did. In reality that “forever Tuesday” began at the end of the 2016 presidential campaign and without any risk of sounding hyperbolic, we as a country, have been waiting since then to see if our democracy would survive. During those four years there was lots of doubt and fear and even the most optimistic of pundits recognized that the stakes of the 2020 election were so high that no amount of punditry or polling could allay the fears of millions that believed that the very existence of our country was dependent on its outcome.
On a personal level, it was also on that “forever Tuesday,” and without warning like the ecstatic and relieved crowds of American voters who surprisingly rushed into the streets of our cities to celebrate the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, that childhood memories, seemingly long-forgotten, streamed into my consciousness as well. Memories that were tucked away in the back of my mind appeared out of nowhere and oddly enough felt as if they had just happened yesterday.
I remembered my family and I would rise at dawn on any given Sunday morning and hop into the old station wagon to make the journey to the big city — New York City. My parents would drag their four boys on this hour and a half long trek several times a year, so that they could purchase inventory for their “mom and pop” clothing store in the small town of Lakewood, New Jersey. I remember giggling when my dad would cheerfully great the bleary-eyed toll takers at the Holland Tunnel who were just finishing up their all-night shifts just as the sun would appear above the horizon.
I could see myself as a small boy straining my neck to stare up at the tall buildings as our car would stop and start in fits amid the bustling city traffic. I would follow the bright yellow taxis as they whizzed around the cars, buses, and pedestrians that stood in their way. I enjoyed listening to the melodious sounds of honking horns and sirens blaring that were the soundtrack of the exciting city. But, by far the highlight of those trips for me was the first moment I would spot Lady Liberty standing majestically in New York Harbor. The delight I felt was not because I was moved by the significance of her welcoming torch that had taken in both the tired and the poor. It was not because I recognized that without her willingness to accept the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, that I most likely would have suffered the same fate as six million of my fellow Jews. No, as a little boy I just thought the bright green statue that appeared in front of the Manhattan skyline was, “…pretty cool.”
Of course, as I grew older, I learned in school and from family and community, the importance of this symbol of America that was a beacon for so many. I would also learn of my own family connections to Lady Liberty. On occasion, my dad would recount his own adventure sailing to America on the SS Liberte in 1950 as a twenty-two-year-old who, after having watched countless American movies, arrived at these shores disappointed to discover that the streets of America were not really paved with gold. Thinking back, I recall his retelling was focused on his encounter with Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali, a fellow passenger on his ship, and not some awe-inspiring tearful moment when he first caught a glimpse of the Lady’s raised torch.
My dad immigrated from Leeds, England without a high school education and supported his family in America with the tailoring trade he had learned as a young man. My mom, who was born here in the U.S. a daughter of immigrants, her eldest sister born in the old country, was a bookkeeper by trade and earned her associate’s degree at night while running the family business and raising her four children. I guess you could say it was your typical American story. Yet, the thousands of times I passed the statue that my childhood self-called “cool,” including the four years I spent commuting to Wall Street for my first job out of college, it took my own son’s first grade class trip to finally get me to stand before her at the age of 35. Yet, even at that moment, with my small boy by my side, glancing at my family’s name in the Ellis Island museum, I still did not completely grasp the inexorable and momentous connection I had to the very fabric of our country. Yes, it was on that “forever Tuesday” that I remembered these seemingly inconsequential events of my childhood and the innocent boy that enjoyed the luxury of taking for granted the myriad of freedoms that this country has afforded him.
But let us not fall back to sleep into the dream of complacency because the “forever Tuesday” is still not over. On this Tuesday, December 15, 2020, three years to the day of my father’s passing and the day after the formal Electoral College victory of Joe Biden, a normally perfunctory event that should have been a footnote in our chaotic news cycle, there are still far too many, including our lame duck President that still contest the outcome of the election. While it is easy to wish to declare this “forever Tuesday” over simply because of the protracted concession of our current senate majority leader Mitch McConnel, let us not become contented. Let the bright sun of this Tuesday morning shine brightly on those that would still tear at our democracy.
As long as elected officials continue to spout conspiracy theories on national television and support citizens gathering in what can only be described as an attempted coup, the “forever Tuesday” continues. We must not forget the sickening feeling that muted our jubilation at the victory of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris with the realization that 74 million of our fellow citizens voted for an autocratic leader. As long as science and facts are ignored and proposals such as building walls and blaming others are presented to the masses like an elixir promising an elusive cure, this “forever Tuesday” persists.
Who knows when and how this “forever Tuesday” will end? But the optimist in me is hopeful. In our short 244-year history this is certainly not the only bump in our road towards forming a more perfect union. The last four years has certainly made clear the potential of what an awakened consciousness can do. We have seen, as the late John Lewis declared, some “good trouble” in peaceful protests and marches. We have seen voter contributions to campaigns that have shattered records. We have seen like-minded and respectable Republicans such as members of the Lincoln Project unite for the common good of saving our country.
So, let us err on the side of being Panglossian and not write off those goosebumps we feel as simply a cold draft in what is expected to be a difficult winter. Let us stand in the warmth of the inspiring and optimistic speeches of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Let those tears shed when we hear the courageous and selfless acts of our first responders saving lives amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, and let us even feel the lumps in our throats listening to the national anthem and seeing the fireworks this Fourth of July when we can, with the help our scientists, medical professionals, leaders, ordinary citizens, and even the grace of God, collectively rip off our masks and come together and hopefully celebrate the end of this “forever Tuesday.”