Better Days

Photo courtesy Natalie Gelman.

“There’s still more work ahead.  But I’ve said many times: As tough as this pandemic has been, we will get through it.  We will rebuild our economy, reclaim our lives, and get back to normal.  We’ll laugh again.  We’ll know joy again.  And we’ll smile again — you know, and now see one another’s smile, look at the smiles on other people’s faces.  Better days are ahead, I promise you.”
–Joseph R. Biden Jr., May 13, 2021.

It was a lovely Thanksgiving from my small corner of the world on the Central California coast. As I had a chance to reflect upon the past year, I felt a curious mixture of gratitude, optimism and trepidation.

A year ago a pandemic raged, and I stayed mostly confined to my home, avoiding risks that could lead to exposure, sickness and possible death. Today, I’m twice vaccinated and boosted and feel free to travel without incurring lethal risks from exposure to those carrying the virus. Today almost all the people getting sick and dying from COVID-19 are the intentionally unvaccinated… and that group (with a very few exceptions) is mostly composed of those who are either intellectually challenged or morally reprehensible, or both.

It is surely unjust and frustrating that the rest of us have to bear the vast social and economic costs incurred because the virus continues to thrive due to the willful inaction of these individuals. It is also distressing that we all bear increased risk from possible virus mutation as the pandemic unnecessarily persists. And I do feel sad for their plight when the unvaccinated get ill, and it is sometimes heartbreaking to watch Darwinism in action, yet we still find ourselves in a vastly better situation than we were in a year ago.

Last year I had a plan for my future based on three possible outcomes of the 2020 presidential election:

1) If Trump had legitimately won re-election, then American democracy as we knew it would have been over for many years to come, and America would have become a corrupt oligarchy like Russia. Americans had a right to make such a change if a legitimate Electoral College majority wanted it, and I would have respected that right.

As a dissident of Jewish heritage, I would have felt at substantial risk if I remained here. My plan was to wait until I was vaccinated and then leave if I still could. Candidate destinations on my list included Costa Rica, Canada, Italy, Switzerland, and Norway. I love living on the Central California beach and I’m so glad I didn’t have to make such a decision for at least another four years.

2) If Trump’s coup attempt had been successful, and he had managed to stay in office through illegitimate means, then I would not have left. I would have stayed and engaged in peaceful acts of significant protest and disruption. Chances are decent I’d be in jail by now. Glad this didn’t occur either.

3) Biden’s win bought America another four years to deal with the imminent threats against Democracy and reality. Had it not been for the early 2021 Georgia election results giving the Democrats (with VP Harris to break ties) a majority in the US Senate, our situation today would be significantly more dire than it actually is now. The Biden administration has in fact enacted meaningful legislation that will make a real positive difference in the lives of so many Americans, and it would not have been possible without him in office along with the victories in Georgia.

Still, the battle is hardly over and the challenges ahead are many. Two obstructionist Democrats in the US Senate are preventing much of the meaningful reform that is so very urgently needed in order to protect our democracy along with free and fair elections. The Department of Justice is moving dishearteningly slowly, if at all, to bring to justice the many who used our government for corrupt or illegal purposes in support of Trump’s autocratic objectives. The US Supreme Court appears to be acting in such a manner as to support a radical and extremist agenda contrary to both the rule of law and the beliefs and desires of the vast majority of Americans. And Congress’s failure to adequately address the US debt ceiling means that a default on the US debt payment is still possible by year’s end. If this shortfall happens, it would have catastrophic implications both for the US and the global economy. The credible fear is, of course, that the Republicans in Congress would rather see the country crash and burn than allow the Democrats to achieve success in dealing with the issue.

As Ian Millhiser wrote on Twitter two days ago: “I don’t know what’s going to happen in future elections and neither does anyone else. But my fear is that the party that supports liberal democracy needs to win every election for the foreseeable future to keep democracy alive, while the other party only needs to win once.” To which I replied: “It is even worse than this. The party that supports liberal democracy must win while respecting laws, truth and norms, while the other party respects no laws or boundaries in the pursuit of authoritarianism.”

There is a possibility that the November 2022 elections will result in the Democrats retaining their majority in the House while two additional Democrats are elected to the Senate, allowing a substantive end to the filibuster. This is clearly an outcome that could most quickly bring substantial positive change in America along with an end to the autocratic threat for the foreseeable future. While such an outcome is far from certain, it is not impossible. The chance that it will come to pass is perhaps on par with the likelihood we saw in late 2020 that two Democrats would take Senate seats in Georgia in early 2021… and that outcome did in fact come to reality.

It is clear that, based on lessons that Republicans learned from the failed coup of 2020, Republican state legislatures are now changing rules to enable their party to override the will of American voters and support a successful coup in 2024. It is distressing that the Democrats have not, at least not yet, summoned the courage and unity to prevent them from doing so.

The repercussions will be dire indeed if the Democrats lose their House majority in 2022, or if Trump or another authoritarian takes the presidency in 2024, either legitimately or illegitimately.

Yet, I choose to remain optimistic. The prospects today are certainly far better than they were 13 months ago. Ending America’s drift toward autocracy will be neither brief nor easy but it is indeed possible. It requires that each of us who cares uses our voices to speak truth, motivate others, and deny those who gaslight.

Yes, it is exhausting. Yes, it is frustrating. Yes, I wish I could go back to not posting and worrying about politics. But we have to play the cards we are dealt.

Living in a world filled with so many horrifically bad actors is indeed disheartening, but truth, justice and goodness are the pillars upon which we each can gain strength and create a better future. Each of us has an opportunity to shine even when times seem so very dark. As Galadriel told Frodo: “May it be a light for you, in dark places, when all other lights go out.”

Better days are coming, if we choose to welcome them. My friend Natalie Gelman, along with Charlie Midnight, wrote the song “Better Days” on this theme during the early days of the pandemic and included light and smiles from all seven continents in her video filmed during the most difficult of times. In fact, my own smile shows up at 12 seconds in.

Better Days

from Moth To The Flame
Written by: Natalie Gelman & Charlie Midnight

Underneath the currents
I will be an anchor
I will plant my feet down
Weather the storm

Underneath my weakness
I keep growing stronger
I’ve been seeking high ground
Since I was born

Better days, better days
Who knows what tomorrow brings
Cast away, cast away
All my sad and foolish things
Hold on tight as the world pulls you astray
For better days, better days

Every breaking wave
In solitude and silence
Is louder than the whole ocean
When it crashes over me

It always comes to pass
Love will somehow be reborn
Never true till it is broken
And the heartache sets you free

Better days, better days
Who knows what tomorrow brings
Cast away, cast away
All my sad and foolish things
Hold on tight as the world pulls you astray
For better days, better days

I won’t wait forever
For the best to come
Sometimes the parts
Are better then the sum

Better days, better days
Who knows what tomorrow brings
Cast away, cast away
All my sad and foolish things
Hold on tight as the world pulls you astray
For better days, better days

Hold on tight as the world pulls you astray
For better days, better days

Follow me
Latest posts by Cliff Kurtzman (see all)

One thought on “Better Days”

  1. Well said. I wish we were so divided but I think music does a small part in bringing people together so I’ll keep trying to do that and speak up when I can too.

Leave a Reply