The anger, the outrage, the fear that is burning across this country feels like the explosion of something that’s been building for almost four years. I fear for my country. The anger is so big, so righteous, so hopeless, the wrongs so deep, so tightly woven into the fabric of this society, that I don’t see the way forward.
But I heard something in Andrew Cuomo’s voice Sunday that helped me.
I heard frustration.
I don’t know the governor personally, but I’ve gotten a good picture of him, both from inside the state as an employee and from the outside as a journalist. He’s not a guy who takes kindly to not getting his way. And he’s savvy enough to usually win.
But when I tuned in to hear the tail end of his daily address Sunday, I heard him talking about the protests. And he said what’s needed is for protesters to be specific about the reforms they want. And then be insistent.
He suggested what those reforms could be. And that’s when I heard the frustration, when he said he’s been trying to get them done, but he couldn’t get them passed.
Call your legislators, he urged. Tell them what you want, and tell them if they won’t do it, you’ll vote them out. Keep telling them. Over and over. And then vote.
New York’s governor is no saint. He’s maybe not even someone I would like if I met him. But on Sunday, for a few minutes, I heard a guy who knows what’s right, has the power to make it happen, but hasn’t been able to do it. And he was angry. Somehow, that gave me hope.
Maybe it was just political expediency. Or maybe it was an honest moment.
All I know is that he was saying the right thing at the right moment. And in some cities, the cops are marching with the protesters, protecting them from the white supremacists trying to seize the moment for their own ends. Some governors aren’t treating the protesters like a threat. They’re protecting their citizens. They’re trying to motivate them to vote, to demand change. And Joe Biden went to a protest site today to talk to people, urging them to channel their anguish into purpose.
The occupant of the White House was hiding in a bunker, tweeting.
I’m frustrated, too. If there’s a single legislator in the country who thinks the anger of this moment will blow over, they’re sadly misjudging the situation. Frustration can be a powerful motivator.
November is coming. America’s ideals aren’t dead yet.
Read more installments of Village Voices by Susan Barnett.