Coronavirus! Coronavirus! Coronavirus!
The United States has become the leper colony of the world as the global COVID19 pandemic rages on. A quarter of the world’s infected resided in the U.S. Despite all this, Congress is still debating how to give its fellow citizens the least amount of COVID relief possible. Despite the massive loss of life and the economic impact on countless millions who’ve lost work across the nation.
Millions of children are going hungry every night as their parents find themselves unsure which bill they can afford to pay. Hundreds of thousands of people will sleep on the streets, in cars, or on a family member’s couch tonight because they don’t have a place to call their own. All while countless vacant apartments and houses sit collecting dust across the U.S. We’ve had essential and healthcare workers fight for basic protections just to do their thankless (and in some cases low-paid) jobs. And we all witnessed our fellow citizens freeze to death in the great state of Texas this winter. Black, brown, and indigenous people still can be murdered by a police officer or a bigoted deputized citizen for simply having the gall to exist. All of this in the midst of the rise of right-wing fascism, racist extremist, and cold-hearted neoliberalism running a-mock continuing to hijack the political zeitgeist.
Some people are still walking around looking like Mortal Kombat characters. While on the other hand, some folks are pretending like everything is still all good. Shout out to Florida! Despite the pandemic still ongoing and continued loss of life, the powers that be have decided to open things back up for business. Because we gotta keep the economy running. Even if Nana dies, because we have Fweedom!
The problems outlined have existed long before the pandemic hit the U.S. over a year ago. The virus has only exposed the U.S. as an empire in a steady decline with a mass population in denial. Even as the life expectancy continues to decline along with our standards of living. Many hope Team Red or Team Blue will come to save us all and get the nation back on track. But as of now, neither the Trump nor Biden Administration has offered true leadership in this time of crisis. Both administrations have continued business as usual while telling an increasingly unhappy and depressed population ‘everything’s fine’ while giving struggling people as little as possible. I’m not immune to this feeling of existential crisis that I can assume many people have felt over the past year. It seems we are on our own.
The Dying Social Contract
Even with COVID, the talks of a universal healthcare program for all citizens have been tabled. And the brunch liberals and neoconservatives have joined forces to tell their fellow citizens now is not the time for such an expensive and costly program. We instead have to spend millions to billions of dollars on political campaigns to send elected officials to our state capitols and the nation’s capital to deny us peasants basic human dignity.
In fact, you’re called a radical if you think it’s humane to provide every person in this country access to healthcare no matter their income, ability, age, or legal status. Hell, a diverse array of nations like the U.K., India, China, Cuba, and Sweden all have some universal healthcare system model. But not the USA! Why, because some Libertarian will tell you. I don’t want my tax dollars paying for some sick kid with Leukemia. They should have been born into a wealthy family so they could afford treatment and healthcare.
Now that same Libertarian would say, I rather have my tax money go to fund the massive military budget to bomb some black or brown nation to rubble so private megacorporations can come in to extract natural resources for massive profits. That same Libertarian will say that I want my tax dollars to fund more police to protect private property over actual citizens. I’m also fine with my tax dollars going to bail out those same megacorporations when the “Free” market crashes once again. Those poor corporations and weapons contractors need those sweet government handouts. Because maybe one day I’ll be part of the billionaire class. But screw those people less fortunate looking for a handout because I got mine, Jack! I kid Libertarians; I’m joking, I don’t. Sadly, most partisan Democratic and Republican voters agree with said libertarian logic.
There’s a reason for the social contract between citizens and government. It means that the citizens give up a bit to create a government that will protect all its citizens’ basic needs, rich and poor alike. But there is barely a social contract in the United States. It’s every person for themselves.
The nation spends massive amounts on military expenditures even though many military families are on government assistance due to low-wages. Yet the United States has a policy of endless war because god forbid if the weapons industry used its technological expertise to improve society or repair the U.S’s crumbling infrastructure. Nope, we as a nation prioritizes bombing, droning, and invading nations in the name of “freedom” and spreading democracy. But has Gen. Smedley D. Butler once said, “War is a Racket“. It would be cheaper and far more humane to wage peace through diplomacy versus force. But our nation is run by sociopaths. And it seems a critical mass of voters are fine with this as long as they have their tiny slice of the “American” pie.
We could guarantee every working citizen a living wage. We could regulate private companies to ensure they pay their employees a fair wage and offer generous benefits like sick days and vacation. When talking about raising American’s basic standards of living, critics argue that if you raise the minimum wage, all the prices go up. Well, Einstein, the prices have been going up, and the wages remain low. We as a nation idolizes the outdated Protestant Work ethic that says it’s noble to work every waking moment of your life until you die. Since there is barely a social safety net, many people have no choice but to work well into their senior years unless they’re one of the lucky Americans who got both a pension and their social security. But those days are long gone thanks to elected officials of both parties gunning to cut social security.
And for the moderate liberals, conservatives, and libertarian types who will argue, the problem is too much government regulation on businesses big and small alike. First off, companies are only beholden to their board members and shareholders not to the public at large. Secondly, companies utilize public roads, bridges, and air travel to transport their goods. When governments didn’t regulate big business, we had five-year-olds working in factories.
In an ideal democracy, the people would regulate the government to ensure that their needs are collectively met. If not, then the people have the right to change the said government. Then the government is supposed to regulate businesses to ensure workers, consumers, and the public-at-large are protected. Because things like clean air, water, and lands are a good thing. But in a hyper-capitalist and individualist society like the United States, many citizens believe this is all a pipe dream. I guess they never learned about checks and balances. But the private and public sectors are both needed to balance each other out. We see this in other democracies and socialist democracies across the globe. But for some reason, it’s not practiced here in the good ol’ USA!
We’ve traded the New Deal Keynesian economic model, which is the fine balance between private, public, and strong social safety net to ensure most citizens get a fair shake. Instead, we’ve traded it for the Friedman economic model that equates free market to complete deregulation of the private sector and everyone for themselves. Well, that is until those ‘too big to fail’ corporations come begging the public for a bailout. Because the free market has never been free. It’s always been manipulated like a puppet to benefit the rich and keep the poor poor. As Brotha Cornel West says, “Rugged individualist capitalism for the many, and socialism for the rich.” The United States, since the Reagan era, has rapidly become a so-called third-world nation with iPhones, internet porn, and flat screens TV. USA! USA! USA!
The Nihilistic fools and Another World Is Possible.
The average citizen will claim that someone like me is delusional, or worse yet, a baby who wants everything to be perfect overnight. They’ll say that someone has to suffer (rather it be a Syrian child who just witnessed their village being bombed by U.S drones or some poor person living in a trailer park in Indiana) for them to live the high life. Just log in on Instagram, and you can see the folks who’ve created the social media persona of living their best life. But as George Carlin once said, “It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it!”
I’ve been in Atlanta for almost six years, and I’m still not a part of 2Chainz’s or the Migos entourage. Even when I met Killer Mike, he didn’t offer me an invitation to join his crew. Probably because I’m not a rapper or want to be one and I suck at it. Even for those Americans who make six-figures and above. I’d argue that the billionaire class doesn’t care about you either. And even those people are just one job loss or healthcare crisis from total financial ruin themselves. If Bill Gates or Donald Trump woke up with the average middle-class family’s net worth or had to survive off $7.25 per hour, they’d woefully jump off the roof of the tallest building they could find.
But Lornett, this is the best we can do! This is America, buddy; like it or leave it! We all suck! Yes, many of my fellow countrymen are fine with getting their tiny crumbs from the pie that is the U.S. Empire. As long as they have a few more crumbs than the other guy. We are all ’empire babies’ where we believe that the USA is #1! Where freedom doesn’t exist anywhere else but in the United States. Many of these people have never lived or traveled outside the U.S. Some can’t afford to, and for others, the nation is pretty large, and they have lots of places to visit inside the country itself. So why visit anywhere else?
The USA is #1 in prison population, COVID deaths, #34th in childhood poverty, and #27 in healthcare and education. So no we aren’t #1! Upward mobility would be much easier in this country if we adopted policies that many of our fellow Western nations adopted years ago. But we are an empire in decline, but we have nukes, lots of them. So, we’re still number one!
I don’t blame you. There are days when I think, too: why should I bother caring about societies, like America and Britain, that can’t seem to care much about themselves? Why should I bother caring about a world that can’t seem to care about itself? Maybe I’m the one who’s wrong. Maybe foolish, weak, stupid things don’t deserve to be cared for. Maybe weak things just…die. Ah, my friends. How close to the line we come. Because if we cross that line, then we have become the very things we fear. Monsters, laughing as other monsters snatch kids at night, and put them in the camps.
For my fellow unapologetic radicals and leftists out there. This political journey can be quite lonely. You’ll feel gaslit at every angle. You start to question things. I know I start to question my political leanings and beliefs. Why is it considered radical to guarantee all citizen’s healthcare? Why is it radical for students not to go into massive student loan debt to go to college or trade school? Why is radical to say public colleges and universities should be free for all citizens? Why is it radical to abolish student lunch debt? Why is it radical to say that working people deserve a living wage? Or defunding the police and defense budgets to instead invest in education and universal childcare considered radical? Why is it radical to have sensible gun laws? When the norm is mass shootings every other week? Believe me I’m all for the 2nd Amendment, but they have guns in Australia and it’s not mass shootings every other week. But in declining U.S. empire, its citizens have become numb to mass shootings no matter the amount of carnage.
Why is it radical to say that LGBTQ people have a right to exist and thrive in our nation? Or that people of all religious faiths have a right to believe and worship as they please as long as it doesn’t harm another human. Why is it radical to say you don’t believe in a religion? Why is it radical to demand that the government use our tax dollars to provide basic needs for its citizens like clean water and air, affordable housing, and, dare I say it, a universal basic income? Why is it radical to say that a person’s value isn’t based on how productive they can be for some job or corporation? Why is it radical to think that we can live in a world where Black Lives Matter is not a controversial phrase for some? Why is it radical to say to say “Defund the Police“? Or that women and girls worldwide and in the United States should have equal access to education and contraceptives. Or that climate change is real, and we need to hold the corporations plundering the planet for profit accountable.
Yes, another world is possible, and a declining empire gives us a chance to make it so. We just have to imagine it first and fight like hell to bring people around to realizing change can happen. It won’t come overnight, but giving up before you start is self-defeating. A nation founded by wealthy white male slave owners wasn’t gonna be the fairest society created by humans. But human nature isn’t inherently bad or evil. Our society has taught us that since day one, we hold indifference towards injustice and suffering. That goes against inherit sense of fairness as humans. Human nature is whatever we make it, just like the world. The earth is real, but the world is just an agreed-upon ideal. And ideas change all the time.
I know I painted a grim picture of the United States. But there is a critical mass of people in the U.S. that want better. I’m just happy enough to be a voice for those who don’t have the privilege to voice it themselves. And now we have comrades across the globe that have fought against the U.S. empire using various collective methods, and they’ve won. We can win too! But for now, I’ll stay tuned in to the Series Finale of the United States of America; it might be the longest episode ever.