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There’s More Going on than COVID-19

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We Still Must be Organizing. Just More Carefully.

Published in BlackCommentator.com on April 9, 2020

The U.S. is months into the worst pandemic the world has seen since the 1918 Spanish Flu. And still there is still no national comprehensive, coordinated plan to stop the deadly virus. The number of U.S. COVID-19 cases now exceeds those in China and there’s no end in sight. Your president thinks the virus will be over by Easter and we can celebrate with an Easter egg hunt.

The failed leadership is also being seen on state and local levels, but most notably from Republican governors and mayors. The drip-drip of conflicting information over the last several weeks and the inability to take decisive actions is causing confusion, panic and worse, the loss of human lives.

The last hold-out Republican governors are listening to trump’s unscientific nonsense. After a massive, grassroots campaign, Missouri Republican Governor Parsons finally issued a stay-home order this week. A national stay-home order called in February would have save thousands of lives in this country.

The trillion dollars stimulus package turns out to be hollow despite trump claiming it was going to be bigggggg. Left out to a great extent were farmworkers, college students, sex workers, immigrants, seniors living with their adult children, parents with joint custody, recently divorced, people who owe child support, people who owe on their student loans, those who owe back taxes, those receiving Social Security of disability. It begs the question: Who does get a check?

While we are running around trying to find hand sanitizer and food, trump and his posse are continuing their havoc behind the scenes. This is only what has come to light.

The devious trump administration has withdrawn from Iraq and moved to military exercises with the United Arab Emirates. It has gotten chummier with the Taliban. Fossil fuel production has escalated based upon trump’s big bank investors under the guise of energy independence. The Department of Injustice is trying to expand emergency powers that would continue to undermine civil liberties under the trump regime.

I can see why some conspiracy theorists believe we are on the brink of an apocalypse. There is global turmoil between the haves and the have nots. The planet is being destroyed by human actions and inactions. Democracies are being dismantled law by law or with sweeping authoritarian powers. And now COVID-19. Surely, the theorists say, we are being punished for something by someone.

I have been reflecting on the type of organizing that has been done, say since Hurricane Katrina. Disasters–natural or man-made—have a way of exposing or intensifying contradictions and cracks on many levels. I have zeroed in on if the masses of Black and Brown people are more prepared in 2020 than in 2005. A generation later, with less safety nets and responsive, humane systems, people of color are ill-prepared for COVID-19 on psychological, economic and political levels.

For organizers and those fighting for transformative change in the U.S., our organizing must go deeper and wider. Digital organizing is appropriate during a pandemic, but we are and have been missing opportunities to educate and organize people for leadership in their communities in real time and in real spaces. We knew what  Republicans meant when they talked about their plan to make government smaller. They meant eliminating social programs and benefits to free up our tax dollars for their gratification in the forms of corporate welfare. In hindsight, we could’ve been more effective in fighting for livable wages, for Medicaid expansion, for access to food (stamps), etc.

We are not all in this together—at least not in the same way.  We have seen where the COVID 19 testing sites have been set up. We have seen which hospitals are crying for supplies and equipment. We know where stores are better stocked with food. We lived that reality before the virus. Black and Brown families will have to fight extra hard for access to medical services and to other necessities during these uncertain times.

Social movements must intensify our organizing efforts with the people who are almost always at the brunt of the oppressive boot. These man-made systems and policies are not fixed and unchangeable. How we learn from this ugly time will depend on our collective scrutiny on where the cracks in the system lie, and not just the health care system. It is a fight for democracy because the whole damn system is guilty as hell.

Let’s start envisioning a society to ensure that inequities and disparities get addressed in a fair and humane way, that people have what they need before a crisis knocks them to their knees. Let’s organize now for life beyond COVID-19.

 

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