covid-19: yes it's political, no we're not all in this together
“everything is art. everything is politics.” this is a mantra for chinese artist & activist ai weiwei. one that he most recently used as a motto for a 2019 solo show in dusseldorf yet seems to be ever so relevant right now.
as i write this post the world is deep in the clutches of the covid-19 pandemic. yesterday i peered out our store windows at a handmade sign posted on the other side of the street. the sign was recently erected by a church and reads “we’re all in this together.” it’s a statement we hear on repeat right now and they turned it into a cute little sign made from paper plates whose colors cover the entire spectrum of the rainbow. if by “we’re all in this together” they mean “we’re all susceptible to this virus because we’re human beings” then this statement is true. but i doubt that’s what they mean.
we’re not all in this together. the reason covid-19 cases continue to rise in the u.s. is on account of the inaction, policies and capitalist interests of our elected officials. the u.s. response to this crisis is near the bottom of the global pack and, make no mistake, that all trickles down from the “grown ups” in charge. everything is indeed politics and right now a sign that says “we’re all in this together” is nothing more than cute.
low capacity for medical supplies, treatment and testing alongside high healthcare costs has made the u.s. one of the most vulnerable countries to this virus and marginalized communities in the u.s. are at highest risk. the mortality rate of Black people in the u.s. infected with covid-19 is 2.6 times that of white people. with a population of 175,000, the Navajo Nation's covid-19 infection rate has surpassed all but two u.s. states.
politicians decide where public funds are distributed and how much we pay (and who pays) in taxes. now with the reopening of cities and states to get our economy back on its feet, there is a greater threat to those who do not have the privilege to stay home. while a group of people in this country believe that we are being stripped of our rights by being asked to stay home, there are people dying at an exponentially greater rate. and those who are protesting the lockdowns are not met with the same punishments.
these disparities exist because of inherent racism built into our political structure.
we cannot talk about these issues and the disproportionality of those affected by this virus without discussing the history and current perpetuation of systemic racism in this country. there have always been health disparities among Black, Indigenous and communities of color and there is no exception during a pandemic. lack of healthy food options, safety and recreation are rooted in redlining and other governmental restraints on marginalized communities. and of course there is flat out medical racism.
Rashawn Ray of the brookings institute states:
"health problems in the Black community manifest not because Blacks do not take care of themselves but because healthcare resources are criminally inadequate in their neighborhoods."
our government telling us to get back to life as usual not only provides a presumption that others have not been working through this pandemic, but also does not mean it is safe.
- we have no vaccine and we know community spread contributes greatly to the spread of covid-19. the only proven prevention method is to not contract the virus and even with practices like social distancing, there is risk.
- there is little understanding of immunity once someone has already had the virus.
- there is no proof that light and warm weather will alleviate this: cities and states with hot climates are seeing no sign of this virus stopping.
there is no way of telling if we would be in a better position at this moment if the nsc’s directorate for global health security and biodefense hadn’t been dissolved but moves like this have certainly not done the american people any favors. instead we were left with a pandemic response team led by someone that knows about as much about emergency response/health and human safety/ventilators as our president knows about the risks associated with ingesting household disinfectants.
you can throw a rock and hit a bad political policy in regards to the covid-19 pandemic but you might not hear about some of the policies that are in the works behind the scenes. these are directly affecting the people who need the most help during times like these:
- the continued attempts to repeal the affordable care act and institute stringent work requirements for medicaid. this can make it virtually impossible for people to receive basic treatment if they test positive.
- pushing forward to kick more people off food stamps. we already have a food crisis and this will ensure that those who need it most won’t be able to get it.
- the “public charge” rule. this discourages immigrants from seeking public services like healthcare by threatening their immigration status.
and now people in 41 states are being asked to go back to work while these states have not met their own criteria for a ‘safe reopening’ and thousands have continued working through the pandemic (many of which are disproportionately Black and people of color, and women). it has also recently been reported that the trump administration has “shelved” the cdc's step-by-step advice on how and when to reopen restaurants and other public places.
so why are we being told it’s safe to reemerge when it may not be? because of...
subversive thread states:
“capitalism’s purpose is not to mitigate or even to fight crises; it’s purpose is to create and manage crises towards whatever end is most profitable.”
right now we are seeing that play out like some predictable magic trick right in front of our very eyes.
large corporations and businesses are taking advantage of government programs while swaths of our population can’t even get a stimulus check, many of whom are harvesting our food through this crisis. as of april 21st, the u.s. government distributed at least $243.4 million of the total $349 billion to publicly traded companies.
we have been told numerous times now that our government has accepted that there will be lives lost during this pandemic in order to keep our economy going. but that economy intrinsically uplifts the wealthiest 1%. we have just seen that the senate is trying to implement orders into the next stimulus bill that will protect businesses like amazon from legal troubles if employees or customers get sick. and for amazon their business operates around the bottom line. the pandemic has helped their revenue surge to $77.5 billion but they’ve also seen an increase in expenses due to unexpected costs such as ppe. if bills like these pass they will be protected when they decide to decrease ppe expenditures. revenues will continue to rise, expenses will drop and that’s more money in the pockets of the world’s wealthiest man as his employees and those in his supply chains continue to suffer.
we can’t just point our fingers at the suits in washington d.c. all you need to do is look no further than your state capital. states like new york, california, texas, florida and georgia are weighing potential economic impact versus lives lost. data from rand research organization projects that these five states alone could suffer over 300,000 covid-19 deaths by september 1st if they practice little to no safety restrictions, restrictions that state politicians say are preventing them from getting their economies back “on track.”
it’s hard to believe that elected officials have our best interests at the forefront when they are rewarded for insider trading by being appointed to the reopening task force or when the topic of a much needed, substantially broadened round of stimulus payments evokes responses like “well people in hell want ice water, too.”
healthcare, taxes, basic human rights or necessities to survive a pandemic and daily life are all dictated by politics. and when not all of us are given these rights we can’t say “we’re all in this together.”
here are some actions we are taking and would love to hear more from you:
demand more from elected officials: visit this site to find and contact your elected officials and demand real action around the pandemic.
stay at home if you have the privilege to do so.
help those that need it: research local mutual aid funds and gofundme’s supporting marginalized communities.
stop supporting amazon and companies like it if you can: there is a laundry list of large businesses out there forcing employees to work, not paying workers through the crisis, and contributing to the spread and harm of covid-19 in vulnerable communities.