A country shifts its setting from horrified to happiness, for the first time in a long damn while.
Four years is a long time to be scared. It’s also a long time to be ashamed, aghast, angry, frustrated, and deeply sad. And while we all kind of “knew” all week, we’d been so trained to expect (and receive) the worst that we genuinely needed it said officially, and out loud. Donald Trump lost re-election, we can come out now. And my god, we did.
After the first texts, I went to my window. Say what you will about the internet, it allows good news to travel fast. Thirty seconds later, my neighborhood was going absolutely apeshit—congratulating each other, strangers all, with cheers and honks and banging pots and pans out of windows. I ran to my roof for a bird’s ear view of Brooklyn, not content to simply sob out my own window. I spent 45 minutes standing there, alone, with a bottle of champagne in my hand, listening to the sound of celebration that had no center, and no end. We blanketed a city with communal joy. I’ve never heard or felt anything like it, and I won’t forget it as long as I live. Because I won’t be able to forget the special hell that came before it, either.
The idea of staying home, even in a pandemic, was farcical. I don’t know what it was like where you live, but in Brooklyn, Every stoop, every major intersection, every street corner with a balcony and an apartment with DJ equipment was absolutely rising. Palpable, and certainly audible joy, was shared by a collective group of human beings really goddamned sick of being scared, and overwhelmingly relieved that four more years of madness did not lay ahead. It’s very hard to describe what it’s like to celebrate with people you don’t know, but who all know the same reason to rejoice, and I’m hoping you did some celebrating yourself, so that you know.
Every car had arms flailing from windows, drivers absolutely hammering on horns. Bus drivers cheering and honking, their passengers banging on windows in agreement and giving peace signs. My favorite were the postal service trucks. You could tell they wanted to come dance with us, too. Everyone who passed by was celebrated just for making noise in agreement. We were all celebrating, and celebrated, as individuals and as a collective of human beings sick of Donald Trump’s shit, and angry that he’d ever been given a platform to spew it. We were celebrating, among other things, the fact that we don’t have to hear his fucking name anymore.
You never want joy to be unfamiliar, but for four years, and especially the last one, it’s been lost. The day after the 2016 election I woke up feeling like I was in mourning, and losing RBG only to see her replaced by a patriarchal puppet took away my hope. Countless shocks, humiliations, and devastations happened in between. This time, the collective trauma of four years of bullshit was at last given a moment’s comfort and release. My favorite part is that we all let it out together.
This wasn’t a stupid, useless rally, full of hate and spite and a nauseatingly similar appearance to Hitler’s affinity for oration. This wasn’t a protest, a collective fight against too-powerful forces threatening our safety and sanity, asking us to guard the democracy that should be being protected by the people we elect to govern and pay taxes to employ. This was what happens when actual good wins over actual evil. This was a motherfucking party.
Yesterday, for the version of myself who wept watching the dream, if not the promise, of the first female President wash away, leaving the foulest sack of waste to ever have a Secret Service detail in charge of us instead, I danced. For a country that’s lost a quarter of a million people to a virus our actual President refused to take seriously, I danced. For millions of people who haven’t actually had an executive branch serving them, doing anything to their benefit, or putting the tax dollars we actually pay to some fucking use, I danced. To remember that there’s a way to live in the United States of America without constant fear, shame, anger, and sadness, I danced yesterday on the streets of Brooklyn with hundreds of my neighbors, and countless more across the country joined in.
From a place of collective joy, we danced, cheered, honked, clapped, and cried. Because at long last, there was a reason to. I still can’t believe that asshole was actually President, and I know there’s an astronomical amount of work to do—on our racism, specifically. But we reconnected with our joy yesterday, and we shared it with each other. That is who we are, that is what we want to be. That is what we want the future to remember of us. It was the most American day of my life.
Shani Silver is a humor essayist and podcaster based in Brooklyn who writes on Medium, frequently.