2020 Relief

Biden’s Victory Brought Joyful Noise Back to Seattle

Saturday's political revelry should revive an early pandemic ritual.

By Benjamin Cassidy November 9, 2020

banging kitchenware

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Seattle received one hell of a wake-up call on Saturday. Well before brunching hour, and after days of vote counting and false claims by Republican incumbent Donald Trump, CNN and the Associated Press declared Democrat Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election. Our overwhelmingly liberal city reacted to the news as one would expect. Bleary-eyed Seattleites clanged cowbells and kitchenware from their porches and balconies, mixing cries of joy with actual tears. This video of U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s celebration about sums it up:

Gradually revelers migrated to the street. Impromptu dance parties broke out everywhere from Capitol Hill to West Seattle. Pedestrians cajoled cars to honk and waved American flags after enduring four years of an administration determined to sully any form of patriotism. The city wouldn’t escape the weekend without tragedy—a 31-year-old man, MarQuies Demone Patterson, was shot and killed near Cal Anderson Park following the festivities. But many will remember Saturday as a day of revival. Of relief.

It was hardly the first time Seattleites had occupied the streets in recent months. Since June, activists have beaten the drum for racial justice during marches and protests, and those chants of dissent will continue as Biden takes office. But this weekend's percussive outpouring evoked a different cause, one that faded almost without notice as Black Lives Matter protests swelled this summer.

For weeks, city residents made a "joyful noise" every night to support frontline workers during the coronavirus pandemic. When the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture first promoted the idea in late March, it didn't appear likely to catch on; an earnest cheer sounded a bit dissonant in a city known for gloom and grunge. Sure enough, though, it became a ritual, a daily dose of connection in a socially distant realm. People shouted words of encouragement, banged pots and pans, taped signs to their windows.

Perhaps because cases of Covid-19 dwindled, perhaps because protest chants amplified, the joyful noises went away at some point. But the pandemic never left, and now it's raging for a third time. The five highest coronavirus case counts in Seattle have all occurred in the last five days. Recent tallies at the county and state level have also broken records. Though hospitalization and death rates haven't yet spiked, it's possible that hospital capacities will be tested once more this winter, especially if other areas of the state can't handle surges and need to send cases our way. Public Health—Seattle and King County health officer Jeff Duchin is back to issuing scary quotes, calling for a "Covid-19 reboot." Basically, we're in April again, except it's getting darker and colder this time.

Which is all the more reason why Seattle should bring back its most vociferous form of support for essential workers and, less explicitly, each other. We know this winter will be rough; we should seek any way to lift our spirits. A little more cowbell can't hurt.

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