The tuxedo-clad musicians, over 100 of them, are in their places, tuned and ready. The 2,200-seat auditorium, filled to capacity, is pin-drop silent. 10 seconds of unbearable tension. Then, the legend, the Maestro, 81 year-old Zubin Mehta gingerly walks onstage to an eruption of thunderous applause. He steps up to the podium, faces the audience and, with a heartfelt bow, acknowledges their unabashed admiration. He turns around, nods a greeting to members of his (yes, his) orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic. He looks at each section to make sure they are ready to play. The auditorium is completely silent once again. Then, with a burst of energy belying his age, the Maestro goes into a series of passionate gyrations that instantly bring the orchestra to life. What follows is the most stirring rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” that I have ever heard.
And I’m suddenly overcome with gut-wrenching sadness. The sacred tones of the anthem that for so long has caused my chest to swell with pride today cause my heart to ache with disappointment. Disappointment about where my country seems to be headed. Disappointment about who we have become. Melancholy. Despair. I look over at my wife. Her face reveals that, as happens so often, our minds are in exactly the same place.
But, just two days later, this:
Ravinder Bhalla is elected mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey.
John Nichols, writing for The Nation:
If there is an American elected official who is the opposite of Donald Trump, it could well be Ravinder Bhalla. A Sikh-American lawyer with a record of fighting discrimination, Bhalla says, “I’m everything that Trump hates. A brown man wearing a turban, and a proud American with the know-how to stop his assaults on our country’s values.”
Samantha Schmidt, writing for The Washington Post:
Ashley Bennett didn’t make it to the Women’s March on Washington in January. She badly wanted to be there, but couldn’t take the day off her job, screening a 24-hour emergency crisis hotline in New Jersey. Still, the 32-year-old Egg Harbor Township resident watched the march on television…
... Two days later, a friend emailed her a screenshot of the Facebook post that would change her entire career. A local elected official, Atlantic County freeholder John L. Carman, had posted a meme on Facebook the day of the Women’s March, showing a woman stirring a pot over a kitchen stove. “Just asking?” Carman wrote above the meme, which said: “Will the woman’s protest be over in time for them to cook dinner?”
Bennett was “furious,” she said in an interview with The Washington Post. “It’s 2017. Really? Is that what we’re going to do?”.
… As she vented to her family at home that night, they asked her, “why don’t you run?” Bennett recalled. “I thought, why don’t I run?” So she did. She campaigned for her first race ever, running as the youngest candidate on the county ticket.
And on Tuesday night, she won.
Bennett unseated Carman, a 58-year-old Republican elected in 2014 who has held various positions in local government for two decades.
Helena, Montana’s 16-year mayor, Jim Smith, who was caught attending a presentation by a white supremacist organization where he promised he would not sign off on welcoming refugees to Helena, was ousted by Wilmot Collins, a Liberian refugee. Let me say that again. The racist mayor of Montana’s capital city lost his reelection bid to a refugee. Helena’s new mayor, quoted in Slate:
[There are] more decent people in this state than there are racists. [The citizens of Helena] are not looking at color, at background and creed. The country is still not what Mr. Trump wants it to be.
And this (I saved the best for last):
Robert G. Marshall, a 13-term incumbent Virginia state lawmaker who called himself the state’s Chief Homophobe, was ousted by the openly transgender Danica Roem. Yes, let’s say that again as well. A state lawmaker who adamantly opposes LGBT rights and doesn't recognize the legitimacy of transgender people was defeated by the first openly transgender person elected and seated to a state legislature in the US. Said Roem:
“Discrimination is a disqualifier. This is about the people of the 13th District disregarding fear tactics, disregarding phobias . . . where we celebrate you because of who you are, not despite it.”
Fast Company recounts Roems’ pitch-perfect response to a reporter’s question about Marshall:
After the race, a reporter asked her [Roem] about her opponent. Her inspiring and graceful response? “I don’t attack my constituents. Bob is my constituent now.”
Last Tuesday’s election results were not about the triumph of one political party over another. James Hohmann, writing for The Washington Post:
The results across the country represent nothing less than a stinging repudiation of Trump on the first anniversary of his election.
Last Tuesday’s election proves that we are not a nation overrun by angry white men. We are not a nation of fear, and hate. Most of us represent and treasure the values that elected Ravinder Bhalla, Ashley Bennett, Wilmot Collins, and Danica Roem, among many others.
I’m pretty sure that if I listen to Zubin Mehta conduct the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra playing “The Star Spangled Banner” again today, it would again bring tears to my eyes. But after the election results of November 7, 2017, they would not be tears of despair.
They would be tears of hope.