I’m stuck in my house and blessed to be able to be stuck in my house.
I realize this is a double edged sword of blessings. I am privileged enough to remain at home and therefore feel it is my responsibility to CONTINUE to stay home. Yet by staying home, I am dealing with confinement in a small apartment and the memory loss that comes with this monotonous routine.
Now, we are in this strange lull because people have been staying home and the privileged areas in which we live are not the ones ravaged by COVID-19, like East Boston and Chelsea are. So as someone who is allowed to stay home, what is it that I see?
Please note that throughout this letter, the given is that we are on our own. Massachusetts guidance and federal guidance and local guidance are all a hodgepodge and people are all talking to different experts and we know generally that the ones allowed in the room to make policy recommendations are usually the ones with the most $$.
So then what have I noticed? I have noticed two different approaches to how we move forward at this time.
One is that Massachusetts is eager to reopen because of “the economy.” This rubs me the wrong way in many regards. Because we aren’t re-emerging to be with family and we aren’t re-emerging to be civic minded. We are re-emerging to buy goods and services. And a lot of those goods and services employ low wage workers who then have to put their lives at risk. In this reopening, all of a sudden there are no masks and restaurants are at 50% capacity and the social distance that was required yesterday is no longer required today. Why are we putting people at risk for this. We don’t have a vaccine. We don’t have adequate testing.
But what about the small business owners? Or those workers, don’t they want to earn a wage? Surely if we can figure out how to bailout corporations, we can figure out how to bailout everyone. Surely, it is possible to imagine something better given what this is putting us through…
Which brings me to the second thing I have noticed. We are all watching — and we are watching our community. Things are both smaller and larger than they once were. But the overall feeling is that the government really doesn’t care about us. The employers who are lobbying to reopen don’t care about us. We’re watching bailouts going to billionaires while congress argues that giving workers an extra $600 is tooooo much. We’re watching cops murdering Black people without consequences. We’re realizing that we have to look out for each other.
The mutual aid that has been seen in the protests across the country is also taking place on a different scale. We purchase our goods from small businesses, we donate food, we sew masks, we are checking in on our neighbors. We do this because we want to, but also we have time to. This pandemic has altered time and the meaning of urgency. What does that spreadsheet really mean when a friend is in the ICU and I can’t speak to my grandparents? As one teammate said, “Fuck work. Why do I care about registration when people are dying in the streets.”
We acknowledge that there is more to life than work. There really is. And people are feeling this. And right now, the push to make us work is threatening our lives.
And i agree that there are a lot of folks across the country who don’t feel this way. They want their haircuts and manicures. They think covid is a hoax. They think masks are a form of oppression. I do not know what to think of these people. At my worst, they deserve to die. At my best, I feel sorry that they are so misinformed and that their ignorance puts others at risk.
I am encouraged by our willingness to share. To offer up what we can. To talk about what matters, because there has always been so much noise. Now, amidst birdsong and quiet streets, I can think. I can think about what it means to be a citizen in my community and how our public spaces need to be reclaimed.
We look out our windows, we hear about the murder, and the mayhem, and we realize we have this time, we can and should do something about this. This tension between being rushed back to work to serve some sort of capitalistic fetish versus staying home and organizing for the revolution. People are more inclined towards the latter, because that actually has their interests in mind.