The Return of the Jedi Moment
This year has not been an easy one.
It seems like every day there was something new to get discouraged about, and we have spent way more time indoors, away from others, worrying about our country, the virus, social justice and everything we watch on the news each night.
We needed a win.
This election wasn’t decided on the first night with a solid blue map, as some had hoped and even predicted. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday ticked by, with slightly more hope for those of us rooting blue, but still nothing was official.
These days, on top of this year, on top of the election in 2016, and on top of the last 4 years of watching this reality show celebrity turned national leader take much of what we loved about our country and turn it to mush, were a lot on our hearts.
The delay in knowing the results felt personal. Like all of the friends and neighbors we felt were on our side let us down.
We even questioned the media, wondering if they hesitated to claim victory for Biden because of knowing how Trump would react.
But they were just being cautious.
Waiting for the moment when they felt that no one could take it back. No court, no recount, no random influx of red mail in ballots would change the outcome.
Honestly, they were a big part of the swelling of emotion felt by the country, because I think their hesitancy to call it early gave us confidence that when they did officially put it on the screen, it was real.
Like a hose that had been jammed, once it was released, the sense of joy was euphoric.
We felt it in our house, tearing up with the people on the news that a brighter day was on the way. The hope we had for our nation that had decided to choose a calm, empathic leader over a blustering, lying, worst side of America leader.
Then we saw the celebrations.
It apparently wasn’t just us that felt this surge of relief, as soon after, CNN and Twitter and others started reporting on the massive celebrations across the nation.
People took to the streets, cheering and dancing, playing music and ringing bells. Once gathered, crowds chant and bid Trump farewell.
It feels like something out of a movie, like the moment in Return of the Jedi where the whole Star Wars world celebrated the destruction of the Death Star.
It is the end of Independence Day, and others where the need to commemorate the occasion is such a stark contrast to the fear of the previous days, the most natural thing in the world to do is to celebrate, as a collective.
But up till now, it has only been in movies, as far as I know. Sadly, in the real world, we tend to gather in protests, in moments of shared frustration, and less in celebration.
Today changed all that.
We knew there was still Trump supporters out there, but we didn’t know how many existed.
The last election, in 2016, warned us not to expect victory. Even with the COVID mismanagement, the “law and order” stance and everything that a lot of the country saw as the worst kind of president, we could only hope for a victory that the polls said might come.
The rebels had Luke and the barest chance of a victory, we had Biden and the knowledge that only a victory in the election could end this man’s reign of making decisions that benefit himself more than the rest of the country.
Election Day, Tuesday, was dark, because all we could see what Trump wanted us to see- the large quantity of Trump votes in battleground states.
Still we waited, knowing that we had the ballots sent safely, weeks before, through the mail.
It was our side’s slim path to victory, one that Trump called a fraud before a single vote was cast, but we pushed on. We trusted our country more than the president, that each ballot in its envelope was our path out of this dystopian world.
These ballots were our Ewoks, small, underestimated fighters, when in big enough numbers could be part of the path to winning the states needed.
When Georgia flipped, then Pennsylvania, we cautiously hoped, but couldn’t celebrate yet.
It took the media, even Fox news, calling the election to get bring our victory bubbling over into the street.
As beautiful as the second Death Star’s defeat, seeing the screen call a victory for Biden was fulfilling in a way that I didn’t think was possible.
It was knowing the end of an era was over, for now. No longer will a person filled with hate get to make decisions that affect the millions of the people living in this country, including the majority of people who didn’t choose him in 2016.
But it was also seeing that Biden got the majority of the popular vote too, once the votes were in, because that meant our country was filled with more people who didn’t support hating people of other colors, other religions, or from other countries. It meant that a ton of the country still wanted things to be different than they have been.
It is exactly what the Biden campaign has been talking about- hope. We know Biden can’t fix everything, and he might still be held back by Congress, but we have hope that things will get better.
Someone who cares, who listens to science and makes thoughtful decisions is going to be in charge.
So we celebrated, in the cities all around this country.
Like the Return of the Jedi, however, we can’t stop fighting.
The Empire didn’t cease to exist the moment the Death Star was destroyed. There were still several movies afterwards that showed it was still a part of the evil that had to be pushed against, now as the First Order.
The elements that brought out MAGA and Trump to power still exist.
As the Atlantic warned, authoritarian leaders have not all been erased from the country till the end of time. Instead, seeing how well Trump did, they are going to be tempted to be the next to win all of his voters. But the next authoritarian leader will be more careful about how they do it. Instead of tweeting out hatred, they might keep it behind closed doors.
The scary truth is that even in this victory, it was something that took days to be certain of, and the wins are not overwhelming in most states. Sure, the popular vote has a huge margin, but as long as the electoral college continues to be a antiquated relic that governs our elections, it is very possible that someone like Trump (or Trump in 2024) could win the next time.
Stay strong, stay vigilant, and continue to vote in mass, but enjoy the win, for now.