Countless Americans woke up Sunday morning with the words of the late Leonard Cohen echoing from their night's dreams, "From your lips she drew the Hallelujah. Hallelujah."
Hillary Clinton, performed by Kate McKinnon, played the piano and sang Cohen's masterpiece to open Saturday Night Live. Across the world last week, tributes were offered to the poet who guided us through our individual crises and the shared mourning of 9/11, and now we are comforted by his Hallelujah:
... all I've ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who'd out drew ya
... It's not somebody who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
Then, Mrs. Clinton looked directly into the camera and out of McKinnon's lips came the words we need to hear, "I'm not giving up, and neither should you. And live from New York, it's Saturday night."
Part of the beauty of the scene was that we were experiencing the greatness of American (and Canadian) democracy in a personal sense, bonding with both Hillary Clinton and the artist who was actually on the stage. We were sharing the "secret chord" with the actual woman who had been our Secretary of State. How else could we respond to the emotion when her character sang such lyrics?
I've seen this room and I've walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew ya ...
Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
We will keep up this battle for democracy by drawing upon art, comedy, music, street theater, and smart political tactics to declare that racism and sexism can't take over the White House. We'll step up to the comedy stage, go into the streets, employ social media and not-yet-invented tactics, and draw upon traditional backroom politics to battle for our ideals. Even as other anti-Trump political and governmental leaders work with his administration to avoid worst case scenarios, we must embrace bipartisan coalitions, as well as rigorous investigations of the FBI's possible interference into the election and Trump's business affairs with Russia and others.
We must also reach out to Trump supporters. And that brings me back to McKinnon's brilliant performance. Her statement of determination at the end prompted boisterous shouts at the screen, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" It was the personal expression of Hillary's grief that brought me to tears.
We're destined for some bare-knuckled brawls, but we must be as willing to offer the olive branch as to engage in political battle. To get our country out of this mess, we must also understand the suffering of so many millions of Americans that produced Trumpism. If we can be so deeply moved by a television performance, surely we can be open to the grief of the individuals who voted for the other side.
Trump opponents must openly thrash out our thinking on the dilemmas that all Americans now face, as we must also converse with Trump voters. So, here are my first and contradictory thoughts:
When Richard Nixon was reelected and when Ronald Reagan took office, I was horrified. On the eve of Watergate in 1972 and with Gore v Bush, evidence was already available that something was suspicious about with the way Nixon and George W. Bush were elected. But, few denied that they were our presidents. We didn't challenge their legitimacy until proof emerged and was documented through our time-tested institutions.
Conversely, had Father Coughlin, George Wallace, or David Duke received 270 electoral votes, would Americans have felt compelled to say we hope their administrations succeed?
A clear distinction between Trump voters and Trump must be communicated. I don't know how many of his voters are racists, sexists, and xenophobes, but I know that it is not my job to judge my fellow human beings. Even when Trump voters have deplorable beliefs, that is different than having a president who got into office by appealing to the worst of them. Trump voters have first amendment rights.
Trump, however, sought the responsibility of representing America. Anti-Trump voters have the right to take any legal actions we believe necessary to rid the White House of anyone who proclaimed such hatred.
Who knows what will happen next? All I can say for sure is that a venerable American institution, Saturday Night Live, did its patriotic duty when making us listen anew to the words:
I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah