Saturday Night Live: Kate McKinnon is sitting at a grand piano, in a white jacket. Those of us who have tuned in tonight see her as Hillary, because we’ve been watching McKinnon and Alec Baldwin skew Hillary and Trump for the last several weeks, serving up brilliant comedy out of a pre-election season that was often its own version of ultra-strange satire. And we want to know: what is SNL going to do on this post-election night? The unthinkable has happened. Donald J. Trump is our President-Elect. What kind of comedy can they make out of November 8, 2016?
What they do is tell the truth. They bypass comedy, and go straight to the center and soul of what millions of us are feeling. Kate’s hands press down on the keys, the music begins, and she sings.
Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah…
The great Leonard Cohen left this earth one day before the election, and our sadness at his passing was interwoven with the misery and shock more than half the nation was experiencing the day after the election. Kate is singing Hallelujah, his signature song. In this song, we hear Leonard’s compassion, and the depth of mourning in him. It is music that breaks the heart, and Kate’s voice, the feeling she brings to these words, moves me to tears.
As she comes to the last verse, Kate is transformed. She is herself, and she is Hillary, singing lyrics that seem to have been written for Hillary, written for this moment.
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
And then she turns to us and says, “I’m not giving up, and neither should you.”
In that single sentence, Kate McKinnon-as-Hillary has struck the secret chord. It was two days before I first heard it. It happened while I appeared to be walking upright, getting on with life, while inside I was stumbling, wounded, grieving, with my sense of safety ripped away. As a part of the LGBT community, I felt ice in my veins, the same icy cold sent to steal the breath from minorities, immigrants, muslims, women, the disabled, progressives, liberals, and all those who care about the fate of our good earth. I felt under threat in a way I could not have fathomed before this new reality, the reality of Trump-Pence.
Thrown back on my heels, the air knocked out of me, I called friends who were at a distance, and spoke to a few that were nearby. I checked in with my internet tribe. Scanning my Facebook wall, I came across a photo of Trump and Pence with the headline, “Trump will roll back Obama’s LGBT rights, protections, Mike Pence confirms.” A surge of anger and rebellion welled up in me, and I added my own voice to the string of comments posted there: “They can try. We’re not going to let them. Believe me. We won the popular vote. And we will not be silenced. Nor give up the rights we have and deserve to have as American citizens.”
In stating that, I felt the blood begin to course through my veins again, my breath move more evenly in and out, my muscles flex.
That is the chord that must hum in all of us now, that we must stay tuned to in ourselves and in each other. We must band together and raise our voices against the forces that want to strip us of our rights and our love for all that is decent and fair and good. All together now: Hallelujah.