I wish that I could offer hope or optimism, but I’m not feeling tremendously hopeful or optimistic. I wish I could say that we’re all going to come out of this relatively soon and stronger as a nation. Unfortunately, I am pretty sure that’s not the case. It’s my belief that “safer at home” measures are going to last for at least a year. Probably more. There is no vaccine in sight, and once there is, there needs to be extensive trials before it is made available.
And I think it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. I hope I’m wrong.
Our country’s brand seems to be yelling “We’re number 1!” at the tops of our lungs, while sticking our heads in the sand when anything that might contradict that claim rears its head (which, by the way, is all the time. See: the levies breaking during Katrina, see: the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, as well as other cities across the country, see: the banking crisis and resulting Great Recession. And that’s just in the last couple decades.). Those of us whose patriotism isn’t worn on our sleeves, who insist, despite all logic, to remain optimistic, or believe that “the pendulum always swings the other way eventually,” are being just as willfully ignorant as any MAGA idiot waving a Confederate flag and holding a tiki torch from Home Depot.
While we have made massive strides in the country toward equality, we are still failing our working poor and our shrinking middle class. Many of our laws support and uphold the White Supremacy this country was built on. Our healthcare system is a joke. Our education system is embarrassing. We have the highest rate of incarcerations of any country in the world (We really are #1!). If anyone truly believed that every single one of the 2.3 million people currently incarcerated were guilty of their crimes, or actually “deserved” to be there (whether a human being deserves to be held in a cage is a different conversation), wouldn’t that necessarily prove that America is not the greatest country in the world? How could the greatest country in the world produce the highest number of criminals? See? The logic doesn’t hold.
We have some massive structural problems in the country that won’t be fixed without some sort of complete collapse and rebuild. Some people are urging us to envision the kind of society we want to rebuild once this is over. It’s a nice thought. It’s a comforting fantasy to think that some societal positive will come out of all this. But I don’t believe this is our bottom. I think what happens next might be.
After the Great Recession, when big banks were bailed out with tax-payer money, rather than take the opportunity to reflect on why they had failed and what they might be able to do better, they foreclosed on home owners and small businesses, and developers marched in and began a boom of building “luxury” condos all across the country. And yet, AND YET! What I’m noticing just by using my eyes is that despite these hideous grey boxes going up everywhere, more people are living on the streets. When I came back to Los Angeles after only four years away, the number of people living in tents all over the city had grown exponentially. Recently I heard a Virginia lawmaker say that in his state there are 11 vacant apartments per one person experiencing homelessness.
Whether or not you think people experiencing homelessness should be housed in available housing, the issue is that rather than figure out how to close the gap between rich and poor, or how to use the tax-payer bailout to help…the tax-payer, banks and developers used a crisis to line their pockets. I don’t think this time will be any different. I don’t think our lawmakers are going to suddenly be struck by a case of morality and upend the system (Even if Bernie had won…).
Capitalism and Racism are far too entrenched. In order to create real change, there would need to be the kind of collapse that is scary and not easy to live through.
I don’t know that I love this country enough to stick around for that. I used to think that if you disagreed with the way your country was being run you should stick around to help fix it. But I don’t know that it is fixable. And I know that abandoning this country would mean leaving behind those who don’t have the luxury to get up and relocate, and I struggle with a lot of guilt around that concept. But I don’t think I want to try to make it through the revolution. Especially not with a kid.
For now, I breathe, and parent, and partner, and nap, try not to look at the news, and just get through this day.