5/30 Covid-19 Update: "Like making it easier for us to breathe"
"I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain." -James Baldwin
Warning: political rant. Please feel free to ignore/unsubscribe.
I'm not sure I remember another week feeling as heavy as this one has. Every day, the air got thicker and the pain cut deeper and the sense of dread grew. I'm writing this now to the sound of so many sirens outside my window -- more than I've ever heard before in my life. It sounds, and feels, like an emergency.
It is an emergency. This country was a tinder box and now it's catching fire.
This week, Trump warned that he'll set "vicious dogs" on protesters, said "when the looting starts the shooting starts", and claimed the military has "unlimited power." The official White House twitter account was censured for inciting violence. Unemployment is on track to be at 25%, which will match the highest rate in American history. 40% of mothers of children under 12 said that their families don't have enough food to eat.. In America. The US coronavirus death toll passed 100,000 people, and there was no moment of national mourning. Trump terminated our relationship with the WHO in the midst of a global pandemic. We still don't have the ability to adequately test, trace, or quarantine people, four months after the outbreak here started.
And black and brown people continue to die at the hands of a country that just doesn't seem to value their lives very much. 23% of reported Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. are African American, even though black people make up 13% of the population. I keep thinking this week about the Ta-Nehisi Coates quote in Between the World and Me about how we shouldn't be surprised when black bodies are destroyed, because this country was founded on the destruction of black bodies. It's our heritage and DNA.
"It is not necessary that you believe that the officer who choked Eric Garner set out that day to destroy a body. All you need to understand is that the officer carries with him the power of the American state and the weight of an American legacy, and they necessitate that of the bodies destroyed every year, some wild and disproportionate number of them will be black."
I've often wondered what it would have felt like to be alive in 1968, with so much pent up anger and frustration and sadness boiling over into political violence. I've wondered what it might have felt like to watch Bloody Sunday in Selma on TV in 1965 -- did seeing those police dogs attack those peaceful protesters really change the hearts and minds of the people watching? Were they somehow more convinced than they were five minutes earlier that black people were just as human as them, and as worthy of freedom and protection?
And now 1965 and 1968 are happening outside my window. And here I sit.
I'm donating to the bail funds of the Minnesota protesters, which feels like an absolute joke of an act of solidarity with stakes this high. I don't know what it means to be an ally right now. I don't know what it means to use my privilege for something meaningful. I believe with everything in me that racism is a problem for white people to solve -- it is not another burden to be added to people of color. But everything just feels like moral posturing. Nothing I'm saying here is original. It all just feels empty. Don't talk about it, be about it. What does that look like? I don't know what to do.
Besides vote this motherfucker out of office in such an overwhelming landslide in November that he can make no claims to fraudulent mail-in ballots or "fake news." I know that does nothing to address the centuries of racism and oppression, but I think it has to be the first step in atoning for how normalized we've let white supremacy become. This can't be who we are. This can't be who we are. The house is burning down and there's a deranged, sadistic, narcissistic toddler who likes to play with matches in charge of the fire department.
Maybe this is some sort of national rock bottom. Maybe things are finally bad enough now that we can no longer deny we have a problem. We can't turn away from the racism and greed and oppression and inequality and feigned ignorance that infected us long before covid hit our shores. Maybe this virus is shining a spotlight on things we turned a blind eye to for too long. Maybe the way we bring good out of this god awful pandemic and the criminally inept government response to it and all the needless death is by finally acknowledging the truth, and committing to change. The moral arc doesn't bend on its own. I don't want to have to tell my nieces that I was a bystander to history when they grow up and have no memories of this year and ask what it felt like to be alive in 2020, when the world was falling apart.
"Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world." - Howard Zinn
A Small Needful Fact
Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.
~ Ross Gay