On the surface, our lives are changing. We’re staying home. We’re practicing social distancing. We’re wearing masks when we go out. Many of us have lost jobs and maybe our health insurance as well. People are suffering and dying. I don’t want to diminish any of this.
Yet how much is really changing? Two of my dad’s sayings come to mind: the more things change, the more they stay the same; and the rich get richer and the poor, poorer. The latter saying defines our coronaviral moment.
The Trump/Congressional stimulus package favors corporations, banks, financiers, and other forms of big business. Ordinary people will be lucky to see a one-time $1200 check, maybe not until this summer. Once again, the trickle-down philosophy rules.
The stimulus bill itself is a grab-bag of special interest legislation. Did you know there’s a “provision in the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package [that] allows Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to seek congressional approval to waive parts of the federal law protecting students with disabilities”? Crises are always a good time to attack the most vulnerable while extending the privileges of the most favored.
Meanwhile, truth-tellers are being vilified or punished. Did you hear that “Dr. Anthony Fauci has been given added security after receiving threats”? His “sin” has been to tell the truth about the perils of COVID-19, thereby contradicting all the spin and happy-talk of the Trump administration. That pisses off the most fanatical of Trump’s cult, leading to threats against a medical doctor who’s trying his best to save lives.
Speaking of being punished, consider this report: “The Navy removed the captain of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, saying an outbreak of the virus aboard his ship had ‘overwhelmed his ability to act professionally.’ Days earlier, Capt. Brett Crozier had sent a letter asking for help, using an unclassified email system.” According to Reuters, the move could have a “chilling effect on others in the Navy looking to speak up about issues they are facing at a time when the Pentagon is withholding some of the more detailed data about coronavirus infections for fear of undermining the perception of American military readiness for a crisis or conflict.”
Here’s what Navy Captain Crozier had to say before he was relieved of command: “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset – our sailors.”
Crozier made two “mistakes” here: he cared too much about his sailors while highlighting the uncaring nature of his chain of command; and he dared to say “We are not at war,” when the accepted wisdom is that America is always at war (how else to justify gargantuan “defense” budgets?). By embarrassing a callous and mercenary military abetted by the Trump administration, Crozier had to go. And as he left his ship for the last time, his crew chanted his name in a rousing sendoff.
Today’s final lesson to illustrate how “the more things change, the more they stay the same”: the story of Christian Smalls, a brave Amazon manager who spoke out against unsafe conditions at a fulfillment center. For his honesty, Smalls was fired by Amazon, which then considered smearing him as not smart or articulate in a leaked memo. Smalls just happens to be Black, so Amazon resorted to racist words (not articulate, not smart) to imply he had nothing to say of any value. Interesting that Smalls worked for Amazon for five years but only became dumb and inarticulate when he began to protest unsafe conditions related to the spread of COVID-19. I watched Smalls in an interview, and he made a great suggestion: stop clicking and buying from Amazon, America. That’s the only language Jeff Bezos understands.
I’ll close with some words of wisdom from one of my readers. This is what she had to say:
No reason to complain however, we are the lucky ones. As with all pandemics, it will be the poorest and weakest in the pecking order who will bear the brunt. People in countries engulfed by war, refugee camps, metropolitan slums, prisoners in overcrowded prisons stand no chance against this medieval plague.
Excuse my French: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.