Trump has elected to lift the stay-at-home rules that slowed the spread of COVID-19. It’s simple, really. To him, the needs of a small number of CEOs and high-wealth families are more important than your life, or mine.
He’s choosing unchecked capitalism and bailouts for his friends over the health and safety of ordinary workers. The people who wait tables. The people who drive for Lyft and Uber. The people who care for our kids and parents. The powers that be are pretty much willing to sacrifice everyone who doesn’t have the luxury of continuing to work from home.
If we are called back to work before the proper time, the answer of every patriotic American must be a loud and forceful, “hell, no!” If Trump doesn’t care about our safety, we must take matters into our own hands. Stay home. Stop the spread of this virus. You have a right to save your own life.
Listen to public health experts and doctors. They are all saying that it will take longer than a few weeks of social distancing to curtail the virus. Recently, Trump touted drugs that were supposed to treat the virus. Now, he’s saying that people will be able to self-swab and test themselves. A magic cure. A simple test. Problem solved, back to work, cries the carnival barker.
The president has not solved this health crisis, and frankly, it doesn’t seem like he intends to. The federal government is taking little or no role in making sure that doctors and nurses have the personal protective equipment they need. Trump has wholly relegated the coordination of purchasing masks, gloves and gowns to the states. The problem? Well, places like New York and California, with their large budgets, can outbid smaller and rural states like Alabama, Georgia and Kansas. Sadly, leadership’s response to this has been to co-sign the survival of the fittest around approach.
He’s choosing unchecked capitalism and bailouts for his friends over the health and safety of ordinary workers. The people who wait tables.
I’d say we are on our own – but we are not. We have each other. The current occupant of the White House seeks to destroy us or allow us to be destroyed but our founding fathers had this guidance for this situation from the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness … whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Here are three key elements to instituting a new government:
First, we must accept the fact that the federal government has abandoned us and turn our advocacy toward state and local governments. Governors and mayors have led the way in fighting the virus and we must continue to keep the pressure on. Call, email, be active on social media. Demand that they continue to enforce the stay-at-home guidelines. The experts tell us this is how we will stop and slow the virus. Once we have the public health challenge in check, the economy will recover.
Second, we must organize a shadow government to lead and support us. Alternative leaders are rising to the surface, whether they’re existing elected officials or candidates running for office. They may also come from the ranks of good corporate citizens, fired civil servants, the heads of charities and nonprofits and — most critically — everyday people who know how to get things done in their communities. Already, people are self-organizing into mutual aid societies to look out for the most vulnerable people in their neighborhoods. Leadership is blossoming at every level, from the grassroots to the treetops.
Third, we must stand together. Social distancing has made many of us remember that we are hardwired for human connection. If there is a silver lining in this pandemic, it is that we are finally learning the lesson that our fates are bound together. I cannot be well if my neighbor is sick. The virus does not see lines along race, class, immigration status, gender or anything else. Neither can we discriminate or be divided. We will only live if we recognize, at long last, that we are all in this together.
The current occupant of the White House seeks to destroy us or allow us to be destroyed.
Beyond these starting principles, we must hold corporate America accountable for protecting their workers. We are learning which companies refuse to pay sick leave, including for workers who contract the COVID-19 virus. For example, Amazon, owned by the richest man in the world, is experiencing a surge in demand, but is not giving part-time employees and contract workers paid sick time. In the coming days, we will also learn which companies call workers back without providing protection from the virus. We must expose these companies and use our power as consumers to stop supporting them. Unchecked capitalism must have consequences.
The virus has exposed how broken America’s health care system is. How could we be the richest nation in the world, but not have enough ICU beds or ventilators? How could the much-praised free market be so slow to make the things that hospitals desperately need? On a policy level, being in this thing together means that everyone must have health care. And all of our kids must have the same access to quality education – from pre-K to post-grad. Another silver lining is the growing realization that if all kids had internet access and laptops or tablets at home, everyone could benefit from the curriculums of the best schools in the country.
We will get through this, but only if we stick together. And when we are on the other side of this pandemic, we will have built the political will and collective power to transform our democracy, make sure everyone has what they need and finally live as brothers and sisters, as we were intended to. It’s a future worth fighting for.
LaTosha Brown is the co-founder of Black Voters Matter, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the political power of Black people, and a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
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