at some point during this nine-month (!) pandemic, we’ve realized how our systems have drastically continued to fail us. (New Zealand, Taiwan, you can sit this one out for now.)
i’ve had countless times where I’ve had to remind myself that living in this country – where nothing is perfect, as is any other country- comes with its flaws. but lately, it feels like one long episode of Punk’d where i hope Ashton Kutcher pops out of my living room laughing and saying “gotchya! the government actually does care about its citizens.”
to call myself privileged to wake up to the systemic injustices and flaws a couple years ago is an understatement. the education i sought out and the friends i surrounded myself with flourished within the exploration of how and why things were not right, pushing our innate desire to change them. not only with this radicalization that many have in their early 20s, but also overcoming our own traumas and experiences of the intersection of race, nationality, gender, and sexuality shape how we view and interact with our own country.
many of us who’ve spent our entire formative years in schooling are then spit back out into the professional, capitalistic, and individualist world and expected to conform to the way things are done. we’re pacified into accepting less-than-better conditions in the way we’re treated or paid at work, the ways in which our elected leaders behave, the ways in which larger entities destroy our world without accountability.
a laundry list of the things we’ve been expected to allow these past months:
- minimal protection and no hazard pay for essential workers
- lack of empathy towards students who’ve had to adjust to learning in a completely virtual environment
- lack of strong, clear leadership from our elected officials (and attack towards those who do lead)
- lack of protection for those who cannot pay rent and face eviction
- billionaires getting richer, further dividing our wealth and income gaps
- NO recurring stimulus checks ensuring our financial stability
- heavy military spending while our citizens are going hungry
- increased spreading of misinformation online, which has real effects on people’s decision-making
- police, who are expected to serve and protect their communities, continue to kill unarmed black individuals
- elected representatives spectacularly failing to pass legislation to protect their constituents
- expected productivity during a period of global unrest and pandemic
- the general lack of compassion and empathy towards others when asked to simply stay put at home and forego public leisure activities
the list goes on and on.
it’s hard to remain optimistic amongst the very real human costs of this year alone -yet one thing has stood out to me that leads me to believe that things eventually will be okay.
a laundry list of things we can try to accept:
- the U.S. is a young democracy with the seemingly impossible goal of evolving into a heterogeneous, post-racial, just, and equal society.
at the most basic foundation, a country is made up of its citizens. if we keep growing, learning, and implementing behaviors and policies, we can incrementally better our country. it’s amazing that generations before us have already come so far through movements like women’s suffrage movement and civil rights. we have the collective power to change this country’s trajectory in this perpetual unfolding of history and meaning-making.
and the last two elections have made us see that the real work happens after casting your vote. being an American citizen involves more than filling out our local election ballots and forgetting about them the next day.
it means taking care of each other. it means asking for help. it means upholding your end of the social contract.
and when that social contract is broken, it means standing up to injustices and holding those in power accountable.
we can keep pushing against the existing frameworks towards equity. revolts, strikes, and protests are increasingly popping up across the world; a mass strike of millions of farm workers halted India and protestors in France took to the streets in backlash against government surveillance and police brutality. protests for racial justice continue on, not only here in the U.S. with the Black Lives Matter movement, but also in other major global cities. this year, communities showed up for each other, when the government did not, through mutual aid. collective action helps foster community and a sense of unity brings us closer to replacing oppressive frameworks with more equitable ones. community is especially important for our restoration periods when we’re not using that energy in our work.
whatever America means to you, think about how it’s changed during this global pandemic. do you feel more connected to others that you hadn’t interacted with much before, such as neighbors or community organizers? have you found yourself tackling tough conversations in order to reach new understandings?
to me, America has always meant this thematic battle of individualism and opportunity. i noticed how this pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps mentality has brought down our people’s livelihoods during this pandemic. individualism has failed us, but what if more of us were to start embracing community participation and turning to collective organizing?
once things are better than normal, know that we’re hopefully moving towards a better future.