This is Governing

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefing, usually set in the State Capitol in Albany, took place today in Brooklyn, where his message was to encourage New Yorkers to wear a mask and to get tested at one of the 700 sites now available throughout New York State. But, he said, he could not get this message out alone.

Government cannot do this.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York State

He clarified. He could tell people to stay home, to wear masks, to socially distance.

My job throughout this pandemic has been to communicate, to give people the facts.

Governor Cuomo

The consistent repetition of all the facts builds trust, and trust builds compliance. Even among New Yorkers. But, Cuomo said, government cannot force the behavior, especially by 19 million New Yorkers, he said.

Today, he admitted he needs help in communication. His three daughters, isolated together with him in the Governor’s Mansion a couple of blocks from the Empire State Plaza, my old stomping grounds, have critiqued his performance. One said he needed more “edge.” Another said he wasn’t “cool” enough.

I disagree. I think I’m cool. But when you’re in Brooklyn and you want to talk to this community, you need really cool people from this community like Rosie Perez and Chris Rock.

Governor Cuomo

Enter star power, celebrities “from the block” Rosie Perez and Chris Rock, speaking to their fellow Brooklynites about “doing the right thing.” Perez encouraged New Yorkers to “stand up” for themselves and for others by getting tested and wearing a mask. Rock suggested that testing be a festive occasion. Take the posse! Take the family! But get tested, as he did this morning on his way to the briefing. He couldn’t resist adding that he barely passed with a 65.

Perez and Rock, who will also be doing PSAs, were practically gushing in their remarks about Governor Cuomo.

Our governor is a rock star. He makes me proud to be from New York.

Rosie Perez

Rock prefaced his remarks by saying that Cuomo has brought him calm every day. And then he added:

You bring me joy every day.

Chris Rock

Imagine that: an elected official who brings joy during the Coronavirus pandemic. By telling the truth. Consistently. Calmly. Sticking with the facts. Taking responsibility. Sharing the limelight. Taking actions, like partnering with the health care industry to provide better care of at-risk, poor people. Like getting masks and PPE to emergency workers, to essential workers. Like issuing an executive order that enables stores to prohibit the entry of unmasked persons.

It was almost as if the two stars were discovering the good in government.

Trump and McConnell have worn Americans down so far that we are beginning to expect nothing good to come out of Washington, I think. Thank God for governors, whose approval ratings over the past three months have soared, maybe especially in contrast to the tanking White House numbers. And for mayors, and county leaders, and boards of commissioners, and school boards, and Homeowners Association boards, all community members willing to be the target of the never-content populace because someone needs to get things done for us.

Yes, government employees are essential workers. Public hospital nurses, aides, cleaners. Police officers. Transit workers. Teachers. Road crews. Building code enforcers. OSHA enforcers. And the people doing what I used to do in the NYS Budget Office, assessing how much less revenue city, county, and state governments will have this year and how they are going to keep producing the critical infrastructure to get us through the pandemic. Because they have to.

I hope when this is all over that you’re still with the government.

Chris Rock, addressing Governor Cuomo

The Governor smiled.

Me, too.

Andrew Cuomo

Me, too.

Finding Meaning in this Moment

It can all seem so meaningless. Some random biological mutation sweeps across the globe, murdering thousands, lacerating families and pulverizing dreams.

David Brooks, NYT

Like a science fiction movie in which the virus turns its victims into zombies.

The plague today is an invisible monster, but it gives birth to a better world.

David Brooks, NYT

In his daily briefings about the coronavirus in New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks sweetly about the long, unhurried conversations he’s having with his daughters and his mother. Take advantage of having time, he says.

Bennett Raglin/Getty Images

Already, there’s a new energy coming into the world. The paradigmatic image of this crisis is all those online images of people finding ways to sing and dance together across distance.

David Brooks, NYT
The Norton Museum do-it-yourself painting a la Jackson Pollock

In Palm Beach County, where I live, cultural organizations are using social media to connect with and grow patrons. The Norton Museum (#NortonFromHome)challenges us to create art a la Jackson Pollock and Joan Miro. The student and faculty art show at the Armory Art Center that was ready to launch just as the coronavirus shut them down is available for virtual viewing here.

A winning entry in the Armory Art Center exhibit

Already, there’s a shift in values coming to the world. We’re forced to be intentional about keeping up our human connections.

David Brooks, NYT

Yesterday, my sister in Colorado and my daughter in Gainesville and I joined cousins in Minnesota and Oregon in a relaxed chat on Zoom, the easy-to-use video app that is the pandemic’s social connection savior. We saw each other’s kids and dogs and compared notes on how we’re all doing. We no longer have to wait for the grownups to organize a summertime reunion. Oh, wait, WE are the grownups! Sign up!

There’s a new introspection coming into the world as well. Everybody I talk to seems eager to have deeper conversations. So, yes, this is a very meaningful moment. As it is this very meaning that will inspire us and hold us together as things get worse. Meaning is a vital medication for the soul.

David Brooks, NYT

Amen.

Norton Museum yarn rendition of a Joao Miro piece