Taking Care of Each Other, Colltalers
Over 160,000 cases worldwide; 6,000+ dead; nations in lockdown; doctors, authorities, even celebrities infected; travel restricted, a looming global recession. As Americans wonder how many got the coronavirus or will be tested for it, the leader of the free world says, ‘I do not take responsibility.’
Yet when markets crashed last week, the Fed injected $1.5 trillion into the banking system – and slashed interest rates to near zero. State bailing out a private enterprise is the kind of ‘socialism’ not available for 140 million with no health or labor guarantees: Congress can’t ‘find’ an $8 billion relief.
Despite a heartless Trump, who is indeed responsible for the jitters and misery caused by an unbound virus wreaking havoc wherever it’s coughed on or spat to, it’s on these occasions that humanity excels. Empathy and compassion were all over last week but look no further than Siena, Italy, where rather than cursing (or affluent people knocking on cooking pots for missing privileges), one heard home songs a capella sung by entire neighborhoods.
Such is the way that common people, otherwise known as heroes, cope with adversity: they rise, they sing, they volunteer. Even when facing imminent danger, as in the case of nurses and medical personnel, they still stop to offer help, run towards the fire, hug to comfort a stranger. We won’t forget this.
By the way, boards of elections across America are begging poll workers to show up during this busy voting season. Gerrymandering, draconian rules to keep people of a certain race and class from voting, and millions of dollars flooding campaigns, the exercise of democracy is having yet another tough call to make: how to protect thousands of skilled workers and more, how to assure they’ll get the professional, free medical care they may need.
And the answer is, like most U.S. government agencies and institutions, starting by the top, no one knows. Few have committed to free-of-charge care and/or vaccines when one becomes available, and the healthcare industry has all but said that they’re not on board for it. This crisis has shown why free universal medical coverage is better: everyone is accounted for, so everyone is cared for.
How such a basic human right came under so much criticism?
At least, the human rights of one person were restored this past week and it’s a reason for rejoicing: Chelsea Manning, the ex-Army intelligence officer who leaked proof of American war crimes in Iraq, was finally released from prison. It’s not quite justice: U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga’s refused to vacate a $256,000 fine pending over her head. But for someone who’s spent seven years in prison and has been detained since May, it is something.
Manning, who attempted suicide in jail, was court-marshaled for passing footage of U.S. forces killing civilians and journalists to Wikileaks, which published it in 2010 and 2011. It’s founder, Julian Assange, has had his own ordeals through the years, but Manning suffered the indignity of having a major personal transition while in care of prison wardens. She was detained for honorably refusing to testify against Assange. Welcome back, Chelsea.
Another good news of sorts – we take all we can get – is about the lawsuit the victorious U.S. Women Soccer Team’s moving against the Federation. Its head, Carlos Cordeiro, has resigned after it was revealed that his defense against par parity, or equal pay for equal work, was based on such a rancid misogynous argument, not even his board would support. Again, not justice; there shouldn’t even be a need for such a suit. But something anyway.
Brazilians, who are also facing an unprecedented institutional crisis, with a president who may or may not be infected by the coronavirus – does it sound familiar? – had Saturday a moment to pause and revolt. Two years before, Rio councilwoman and LGBTQ activist Marielle Franco was executed by still unpunished hitmen, and the chorus throughout the country is, ‘who ordered her murder?’ Many fingers point to a Bolsonaro’s involvement.
Franco was more than an activist. As an elected politician, she immediately captured people’s imagination with her personal story of redemption and push to challenge powers that be. To her supporters, that did her in. But now, with her murderers, and their links to the government being uncovered as part of the public record, she’s also become a symbol of Feminicide, the assassination of women which has been rampant in Brazil and Latin America.
It ‘could happen next in Rome, or a week later in France or in Germany. The U.S. might be a week or two behind that. It looks as if the same shifts in perception, the same shifts in political discourse, are taking place everywhere, delayed or accelerated only by a country’s ability to face the facts.‘ That’s Italian journalist Monica Maggioni about the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused Italy’s lockdown and marked its record 368 single-day deaths.
Trump says he’s been tested negative for the virus, but like the Brazilian president and other strongmen at the top, he may be lying. Unfortunately, no one ‘s shocked by it. It’s not that the president stood shoulder-to-shoulder and shook hands with people who later were found to be infected. It is as if, like when he stared at the sun during an eclipse, he’s purposely trying to prove some deranged point against science by defying its safety guidelines.
Trump’s closed agencies and fired almost every scientist in charge of the U.S.’s medical and biodefense preparedness, besides hacking the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s budget. And then replaced them not with a trained doctor but with science-skeptic, climate-denier VP Mike Pence.
Worst, amidst the confusion he helped to sow among Americans, it came out that the administration was considering to bail out the.. oil and fracking industry. With declining oil and gas prices, all the White House considers is the ‘suffering’ of industries directly responsible for the climate emergency we’re facing. Never mind a likely mass contagion at makeshift immigrant camps or overcrowded U.S. prisons; the priority is to keep burning fossils.
‘It’s socialism for the rich. Everyone else is treated to harsh capitalism,’ wrote economist Robert Reich last year. Or as Rev. Dr. William Barber II tweeted, ‘Overnight they found $1.5 trillion for Wall Street, but they can’t find money to provide healthcare & living wages for 140 million poor people in America.’ The coronavirus is now the biggest argument for Medicare for All, and for having a new president in November.
A lot of what makes living bearable is being canceled: the performing arts, sports, restaurants, bars, even the St Patrick’s Day parade is off. As we wonder what else we’re about to lose to COVID-19 – wash your hands! – we must seize this opportunity to reach out and being there for others, friends, family, and neighbors. We’re better together. Often we’re all they’ve got and we’re forever in their debt. Ce la faremo, amici miei. WC