Like everyone else three weeks, four weeks, two years? what is it exactly? into Quarantine I’m finding the emotional strain to be a bit much. I fear I am losing my faith in humanity. The strain of quarantine is wearing on everyone and we are being inundated with images of people who seem to believe that their right to infect me, um to ignore their effect on other people, er um to live in denial for as long as they can, trumps any obligations we have to each other as members of a community. Even in weighing personal risk we are subjected to the evidence humans are terrible at assessing risk.
Here we are victims of a pandemic where the only way to protect ourselves is to protect each other. Invisible fault lines are suddenly clear. The historic fault lines along race, disability, age and poverty where social histories of redlining and relegating the elderly and disabled out of sight out of mind allow us to believe in a fantasy world where everyone is treated the same. It is increasingly clear that the outbreak hotspots tend to cluster in spaces where people spend amounts of time in close quarters. Nursing homes, meat packing plants, and other “essential businesses” where low paid workers are employed meets that definition. In response to the COVID-19 spike at the JBS Beef Plant in Green Bay, Wisconsin Chief Justice Pat Roggensack opined that the surge “was due to the meatpacking—that’s where Brown County got the flare. It wasn’t just the regular folks in Brown County.”
The racism used here makes it palatable to white Wisconsinites for Trump to order the plants to stay open and order vulnerable workers back to work without protections. In addition, Republicans are calling for an addition to the next COVID relief bill that protects employers from being sued if workers forced to work in unsafe conditions contract and/or die from COVID-19. “Please, sir, may I have some more?” Yes, we are being pushed back to Dickensian working conditions, where effective labor struggles have been so forgotten they never happened.
Here is what we could do:
Equip essential plants/businesses with the personal protective gear employees need.
Slow the line down and move workers further apart—(yes, eat less meat if we have to or buy from local producers)
Extend and increase direct payments to individuals for the duration—(or longer).
Institute a rent and mortgage moratorium.
How will we pay for this you ask? We could, actually just print the money—called Quantitative Easing when we do it for corporations (we did it for Jamie Dimon). We could change the tax code to be a progressive tax code that favors workers and the marginalized and does not redistribute income and assets upwards.
And to the protestors/white racists who are so convinced that looking out for their fellow human beings impinges somehow on their constitutional (?!) freedoms, I have this to say, “Suck it up, Buttercup.”
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