I’m Jewish and I don’t believe in idolatry; it’s just a crush in the midst of COVID-19.
Let’s face it — at one time or another in our lives, we have all had celebrity crushes. This is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, when not taken to the extreme it can be a lot of fun. These passing infatuations often distract us from the reality of our existence and provide a necessary respite from the chaos of everyday life. Needless to say, in recent weeks since the beginning of the pandemic, our lives have changed in ways we could never have imagined. This has caused this 53-year-old, masters degree educated female along with many others (of both sexes) to have fallen quite hard for the brash, brazen and unapologetic Governor of New York. No, not in that romantic way, but in a way that has many of us obsessed with him because we seek comfort and reassurance during these uncertain and unprecedented times.
Governor Andrew Cuomo is now that celebrity and that crush. A month ago, if you weren’t a New York resident or working in the tri-state area, you probably didn’t even know who he was, although his father Mario, preceded him as a three-term governor of the state. In less than two weeks, he has become one of the most well-known and trusted individuals appearing daily on our TVs, smartphones and computer screens.
Some would say my crush looks like idolatry and I beg to differ. As Jews we are taught not to worship idols. However, in times like these, people seek the idols and the saviors among us for nothing but solace because idols are viewed as perfect beings in the minds of their worshipers. But this is not idolatry, as Governor Cuomo is far from perfect in so many ways. As a matter of fact, many see him as an extremely polarizing figure in American politics. But for many others, that opinion has now evolved into something quite different.
So, why is that? Why are so many people drawn to this man, this stranger — the person who has suddenly become that friend we will never know — that crush we’ve never met??? The answer, my friends is very simple.
It’s because Andrew Cuomo is human. And he is real.
As the governor of one of the largest, most densely populated states in the country, Andrew Cuomo’s state and New York City in particular, has been deemed the current epicenter of our coronavirus pandemic. Suffice it to say that this disease has hit his constituents in a very hard way; and to say it’s been a gut punch, is just a blatant understatement. Recently, he has all but shut the state down and made the three words, “flatten the curve” a likely winner for 2020’s phrase of the year. And for the most part, people are listening to what he has to say. While Governor Cuomo is busy with his team trying to save his state by making the difficult decisions leaders do, people across the country like me have had to stay at home to work and school our children. We have also started to set our phone alarms waiting to hear the Governor’s spirited, information-packed, press briefings with bated breath, in the same way we wait to hear from our newest crush.
Governor Cuomo’s straightforward, no “BS,” realist attitude and intentional leadership is what we long for right now in a time of crisis. We do not want the overt grandstanding and theatrics we often see in other press briefings about coronavirus. While the United States senate is in political gridlock about how best to help the American people, he’s actually getting stuff done (like reaching out to our president to direct critical resources and meeting with the Army Core of Engineers to convert large buildings into hospitals).
When he comes to the dais every morning to speak, he’s often dressed in a business suit and sometimes in a state of NY branded polo shirt, flanked by his operations team. Once the cameras start to roll, Cuomo begins to speak truth to power. We then see a split screen between him holding his PowerPoint presentation remote in one hand and the slides he’s presenting in another. We listen attentively while he imparts some scary statistics and new directives, all in a comforting, albeit very firm way.
Cuomo has said he has no regrets about his decisions regarding the Coronavirus Pandemic and if someone is upset, he says that’s okay. He takes full responsibility for his actions and says the buck stops with him. That’s leadership, folks. It is exactly what we want and should expect from those empowered and entrusted with the governance and safety of our country.
At the same time, he also makes those around him feel comfortable by addressing the reporters in the room by first name and allowing them to ask questions. He unabashedly expresses his unhappiness for certain situations, talks about his kids and recites family stories. These press conferences (“pressers” as they call them in the biz) have become a regularly scheduled program in many of our homes and workplaces and are now being televised nationally. Some view it as an effort by the mainstream media to provide the American people factual information in a succinct way with a reassuring tone. Although his policies and mandates don’t apply to most of us, he has become a model for the grounding, settling force of nature we all long for during a time of crisis and solidarity. Often, Governor Cuomo’s briefings have “themes” and yesterday’s briefing was about ’settling in’, because he explained we have a long road ahead of us.
As I personally “settle in” to my newfound normal of self-isolating, drinking lots of coffee, working remotely in my PJ’s and “Zooming” with friends and family on the reg, my crush continues. I will watch and listen to the Governor every day, as he shares his knowledge, his passionate leadership and his dedication as a public servant in an effort to make us safer and healthy in the time of a national emergency. Governor Cuomo is our “Man of the Hour,” if not our “Man of the Year,” and is definitely the person we should have a crush on right now.