Love In The Time of Cuomo
Let me state up front. I am not a Cuomo-sexual. In spite of being amused and delighted by Randy Rainbow’s hilarious parody tribute to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, I was a little unnerved he had gone so mainstream because, honestly, I noticed him first. What I mean by that is although a Nashvillian, I’m a former upstate New Yorker from Massena, a small town on the St. Lawrence River that might have completely disappeared off the map if not for NY Senator Chuck Schumer and Governor Cuomo’s determination. Several years ago, they infused the area with millions of dollars to stave off economic collapse after massive job layoffs. Having grown up fishing for perch and walleye in the beautiful St Lawrence River, I’ve loved him ever since hearing about his fierceness to save my hometown. After tuning into Cuomo’s Coronavirus briefing today and watching him take Mitch McConnell to the woodshed for his smug and cruel suggestion that states heavily impacted by the Pandemic simply file bankruptcy, it hit me what Andrew Cuomo symbolizes and is reflecting back for all of us. On March 2nd, my East Nashville TN neighborhood was hit by a Tornado. It wasn’t just a hit. It was a thrashing of epic proportions. And it wasn’t just my neighborhood that got pummeled. The destruction was widely and randomly distributed throughout Davidson County--and spread throughout the state. As tornadoes are known to be, it was brutal, reckless, indiscriminate and merciless. It left 26 people dead and thousands of Tennesseans grieving. Neighbors and strangers from other states rallied to support and comfort residents sifting through rubble hoping to recover precious remnants of their previous lives. The exquisiteness of these compassionate acts is burned into my mind’s eye. And the patch quilt of blue tarps on roofs still barely covered is a reminder that nature is boss—and always has been. Speaking of bosses, on that very first day after the Tornado, Governor Cuomo and New York City Mayor, Bill De Blasio held a joint press conference to confirm that the first Coronavirus case was reported in Manhattan. As a former Upstate New Yorker, I watched with special interest as they reported the news calmly and reassuringly, clarifying that the woman who tested positive did not require hospitalization. The tone was concerning but not worrisome. Just three days later, as the virus started spreading quickly, Governor Cuomo began daily Coronavirus briefings to inform New Yorkers—and anyone with an internet connection-- the status of the virus. Cuomo assured New Yorkers “this isn’t our first rodeo”. His voice was calmly commanding and his tone was paternal and comforting. His use of the word ‘love’ throughout the briefing inspired tears I hadn’t been able to shed since the Tornado. Like many Nashvillians, I was too busy in my neighborhood to pay much attention to Coronavirus and thought it was merely a bad flu. Along with a couple of friends, we started running a coffee cart around the neighborhood to get to know people who were impacted and helped to coordinate temporary housing and other immediate needs. The coffee wagon served as an admission ticket into their lives and some days we were no more than a listening ear for traumatized residents who needed to verbalize ‘that’ moment just before their lives forever changed. Every day was exhausting, heart wrenching and strangely inspiring. I’d never seen so many caring people clamoring to help a stranger. It made me think of New York during 911. And it made me proud of Nashville. Each night after scanning headlines about healthcare workers fighting for our lives--and losing their own in the process, I would turn on the Cuomo briefing from earlier that day to hear his reasoned, Joe Friday “just stick to the facts” demeanor. And while his jokes may be corny, his words are heartening and uplifting. And there is something oddly reassuring that he chose Melissa DeRosa as Secretary to the Governor, a woman who delivers information with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker. The briefings were (and are) like sipping a night-time tea that calms nerves and staves off nightmares. And strangely, it's when I allow myself to cry. Since the shelter in place recommendations were announced weeks ago, finishing my baseball film was put on the back burner. Like everyone else, I’m in limbo. My days revolve around morning Cuomo briefings brimming with information, facts with difficult questions and answers. They have been the perfect counter to the sting of White House briefings that are increasingly (and alarmingly) more confusing, bombastic and bizarre. Political attacks against anyone who confronts the President with facts. And it turns out, Joe Friday is his worst nightmare. The only momentary relief seems to be when Dr. Anthony Fauci is at the microphone. And since his increased popularity (for his clear and direct reassurance) his appearances have now diminished. No longer a distant intruder, the Coronavirus has made massive house calls and most everyone I know is mourning the loss of friends and family. With over 50,000 dead, the passing weeks have revealed the insatiable longing Americans have for a compassionate voice from intelligent and reasonable leadership. And while Governor Cuomo is getting the majority of sunlight, there are other Governors around the country who are shining stars. Maryland’s Republican Governor, Larry Hogan and California Democratic Governor, Gavin Newsom are both fierce leaders of compassion and reason. And it is heartening that Governors across the country (bi-partisan) are united in their efforts to deal with a rogue Administration that is treating them like unwanted stepchildren. I’m sure Cuomo is no saint and has plenty of enemies. In fact I feel sure of that. No one can speak as bluntly and truthfully and not have adversaries. Regardless, he has served (and is serving) as father/brother/son to a nation navigating a tidal wave of confusing and overwhelming emotions. Hearing about his daughters Michaela, Mariah and Cara and their nighttime discussions, his mother, Matilda, his brother Chris and his dog Captain all make him seem accessible and charming. Some suggest it is merely political theater. Maybe that’s true. Maybe not. Without selling religion or proclaiming godliness, the word 'love' bookends all of Cuomo’s briefings. And even more importantly, love seems to be the starting and ending point of his decisions. His actions seem to match his words. And that is a rare and precious commodity in the age of 'fake news' and horrendous political partisanship. And while he’s probably too bossy to be my boyfriend, he’s just the right amount of bossy for New York and for the rest of the country. And he’s the perfect amount of compassionate for a nation desperate for tough love. So yes, Cuomo is well loved. Because he loves so well. Just the facts, ma'am. Molly Secours is a filmmaker/writer in Nashville Tennessee. And yes, she remembers Joe Friday.