Patricia M. DeMarco
My heart feels heavy with the weight of the thousands who die daily, often alone in isolation wards, separated from the comfort of family. I weep for the families who are bereft not only of loved ones but of the ritual of end of life passage as funeral services are constrained or shut off. There is no replacement for hugs and shared tears. There is no on-line version of hands held together across generations in prayer.
The isolation and protective separation in the face of a respiratory virus for which there is no vaccine, no cure and few palliative treatments, is becoming reality across the globe. Here in America, the defiance toward behavioral directives runs rampant, often with spikes in infections at a two-week lag. As masks become more common, we miss the exchange of smiles, the unspoken interactions among friends and strangers. Life feels more impersonal, less welcoming, more easily objectified.
Worst of all, leadership to inspire unified response to protect the weakest among us is absent. In the face of the daily toll of thousands of deaths, we are becoming numb. COVID-19 deaths join the ranks of systemic crises for which we ignore systemic solutions. The hand of narrow corporate and self-serving political interests is on the rudder of the ship of state. And it is steering us into the rapids without heed for the looming disaster. This is the most alarming development in this American experience of the pandemic. Where is the outrage? Where is the demand for equity and justice? Where is the empathy with the bereaved and shared sense of loss? How can we recover if we do not grieve? Once again, economic priorities, be they ever so short term, steer the response of government.
Instead of harnessing the capacity of the nation to expedite food distribution, the politicians tremble at falling economic indicators and call for a return to “normal.” Farms where crops are being plowed under and milk poured into the manure pits could be assisted by the government purchases with the National Guard mobilized to bring food to people in need. Schools closed and sent students home to study on-line…but many students lack internet access or instruments to use. Many lack adults with the time and capacity to help with home studies. Universal internet should be available for everyone in America, with basic service free. We are not taking care of each other at the national level, and states are pitted against each other for critical supplies, equipment and assistance. As the local business base struggles to survive, many communities face dire financial projections for later this year.
The Poor Peoples Campaign has called for a moral revival to save the heart and soul of our democracy. Among their Principles: “We believe that people should not live in or die from poverty in the richest nation ever to exist. Blaming the poor and claiming that the United States does not have an abundance of resources to overcome poverty are false narratives used to perpetuate economic exploitation, exclusion, and deep inequality.” The failures and inequities of our current conditions in America are highlighted in this time of pandemic. The pall of the COVID-19 does not fall equally on everyone. Those who live with constant air pollution, environmental injustice communities across the country, communities of color, the many deemed “essential workers” at the bottom of the wage scale – all of these are experiencing more severe instances of COVID-19 illness. Testing is completely inadequate nation-wide and policies continue to be established with the explicit or subtle objections of the doctors and scientists, epidemiologists, who know best how to address this kind of aa pandemic.
It is time to restore our humanity, to celebrate our best instincts of care and concern for our whole community, nationally and globally. All of us must come together to withstand the social and economic fallout from this pandemic. We must recognize that there will be no hope of having healthy people without having a healthy planet. Our living Earth provides the balances that contain such pandemics within their appropriate balanced ecosystems. When we destroy habitat, exploit wildlife and pollute the air and water, we set up the conditions for such viral pandemics.
We must insist that our society correct the huge distortions that have accumulated with deliberate policy support. We must choose to re-build our economy, our society and our institutions on a platform that serves the best interest of ALL of the people together. We are more alike as human creatures with needs for food, fresh water, clean air, safe shelter and dignity than we are different in cultures, religions, races, genders, or even political persuasion. Let us grieve together for the lost and work together to protect each other. Let us stand in solidarity with those who are most vulnerable. Let us take back the power of the People to work for the People, not the vested interests of multi-national corporations. Restore the beating heart of America with the cleansing power of moral outrage at the injustice imposed by greed at the hands of professional bullies.
Do these five things every day:
1. Call or reach out in person to someone who is not close in space to offer comfort and friendship.
2. Check in with neighbors who may live alone and offer a word of cheer, help with errands, or simple friendly acknowledgment.
3. Call or write to your Senators and Representative every day to demand a science-based response to COVID-19 putting people before profits.
4. Find a place in Nature to celebrate life and spend time connecting with your personal grief and collective sense of loss. Take solace from the resilience of Nature blooming all around us.
5. Thank the people who are there to serve and care for us – they are putting their own safety at risk for us. Wear your mask.
July 11, 2020 at 11:21 am
Thank you for your words. I am working with a group of people on a re-Imagine Appalachia project building a future that heals the land and moves away from extractive industries as the base of the economy. We need a new economy and a new way of governance that works for ALL of us! I welcome your thoughts.
June 4, 2020 at 10:23 pm
Dear Dr. DeMarco,
Thank you for a very good article. When I was reading this, it brought to mind a song I heard by the group Aerosmith: Living On The Edge which came out in 1993. The recent events of police violence coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic have been too much to deal with at times. The American Dream may not be dead yet, but it sure is on life support, and fading fast. If our nation does not make wise choices in our lifestyle and vote for leaders who can make a difference… .beginning at the top….then this dream could fall over the edge, crash and then burn. Even if that should happen, there will be a determined group of Americans who will pick up those pieces and rebuild. Though it may take many years, a new America will emerge from the ashes. In the meantime, we must continue to work for racial and economic equality, justice for those who are poor and disadvantaged along with your calls to action. This nation will need a lot of help from the older generation and the new graduates from the class of 2020 to make this happen.
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May 10, 2020 at 10:14 am
5th paragraph, third sentence- I think you need to change “does not have” to “has”.
Otherwise, I agree with most of your sentiments and all of your call to actions. The challenges with and in our society and the American culture are complicated with no simple easy solutions. We must continue to keep working for equality and justice. Don’t lose hope.