Only some of us are in this together
The COVID-19 pandemic makes connections visible, like a three-dimensional holograph that includes space and time. So do certain traumatic images. The virus has managed to travel the world, demonstrating how our fate is connected to the fate of people in countries everywhere. The image of George Floyd on a street in Minneapolis, pinned there by a policeman’s knee pressing his neck has traveled all over the world as well. It triggered a response from demonstrators who came out in frustration and protest in dozens of cities in the US—including Seattle.
We are experiencing historically unprecedented unemployment alongside lethal risks that are distributed throughout the population along the same lines of race and class as preexisting disparities. Washington State Department of Health study published in April reported that non-Hispanic whites represent 68% of the total WA state population, but only half of diagnosed COVID-19 cases. Hispanics represent 13% of the population, and 29% of confirmed cases. Non-Hispanic blacks represent 4% of the state population, and 7% of confirmed cases. The figures for the rest of the country demonstrate an even greater disparity.
This pandemic that consumes our present will inevitably shape our future, but no one knows yet exactly how. Today, in city after city we are hearing from a part of the population that was silent these past two months – and neither heard nor seen for generations before this. It is increasingly clear that lives are at stake—whether from climate catastrophe, COVID-19, or at the hands of the security forces.
Will it be a future that recognizes our shared humanity? Will it be a future where we strengthen our networks, nourish our existing links and build new ones in order to bring about a world not based on oppression but on our new understanding of what—and who—is essential?
Many stories in this issue are about the fact that solutions to our collective problems start with acting together to increase our collective strength. Some testify to the urgent need to redistribute power into the hands of the people performing the essential work that keeps our society functioning. Others emphasize the right to be safe and decently compensated for growing, harvesting and preparing our food; the right to live in a healthy community and raise a family without fearing that you’ll lose your home; the importance of wresting housing policy from profit-driven investors and the politicians they support; that it’s time to recognize and reward people who care for the children of those doing essential work. That idea also infused the neighbors who together assembled on Olympia’s Fourth Avenue bridge to honor the nurses who have given their lives caring for those infected with the coronavirus. (See cover.)
Other stories are about acting together to resist and to protect. Mexican wimen march under the banner “together we are all” —“juntas somos todas,” demonstrating their refusal to allow men to get away with murder. Three students at Olympia High School started with the idea of helping coronavirus victims and then found out they could organize students from five high schools for broader goals. In Grays Harbor, members of the community persist in their determination to resist the damage of development and protect their wetlands. Another story reminds us that in a time when physical separation is required, we are responsible for connecting through authentic dialogue.
The need to keep the coronavirus from spreading has rewarded us for staying separate in public and isolating ourselves in private. That must not keep us from seeing one another and acting together. We hope you will write about the ways we can see one another and act together to bring about the better world that is still possible. We need all the help we can get. Lives are at stake.
Unintended consequences. Deadline June 17. We invite you to think about “unintended” consequences that could have been, should have been predicted. The explosion of protests in May, after years of second-class citizenship for black and brown people enforced by violent policing. Collateral damage in our wars. Or maybe even some positive outcomes from actions you didn’t know would be so meaningful.
When money is the measure. Deadline July 16. If we “privatize” everything, everything will be bought or sold. Everything will have its price. And then what? Do you think we’ve gone too far down that road?
Hoping, doping, coping and shopping. Deadline August 16. The signs are: the ever-widening chasm between the ultra-rich and everyone else. Mass protests. Political upheaval and social division. Breakdown of institutions. Betrayal of the social contract. So how do we function? By coping…hoping…doping…or…shopping. Which one works for you?