Throughout the past four months we’ve heard the word “together” a little too often. “We’ll get through this together,” “We’re in this together,” and so on. As if hearing the word repeated will compensate for our touch starvation and our claustrophobia, as if it will bring our 100,000 dead loved ones back to life. “Together, together, together.”
But most of us know it’s nothing more than corporate branding, as vaporous and unobtainable as “the American Dream.” The truth is, we’ve never been together. From the days when America was stolen and industrialized for free, we have existed in a state of bare-knuckled capitalist competition where the few get a private jet and the multitude settle for a hamster wheel. This illusion of social harmony, the boulder we’ve been pushing up the mountain since the Summer of Love, is not as tangible as the mantra of “all for me and nothing for you.” The cases of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other unarmed black men, should serve as evidence.
Twice, within the span of a couple of months or so, the omniscient camera eye has witnessed a black man being murdered in broad daylight by white bigots. Arbery was shot while jogging on a country road in Georgia by a father and his son. Floyd had his esophagus crushed by a rogue police officer on a suburban street in Minneapolis. The latter has caused a violent reaction throughout the country strong enough to shatter glass and burn police cars, as the privileged sit in their ivory towers, shake their disapproving heads and mutter, “Those awful thugs rioting in the street! Shame on them!” Well, you don’t like athletes kneeling during the national anthem or actresses peppering their award speeches with truth bombs, so you get what you get.
You have been programmed to believe that speaking out against racism is, in itself, racist. And now you feel like you’re entitled to decide how angry we should be about our sons, our brothers, and our fathers being lynched. It has probably escaped your attention that most of the damage is being done by out-of-town agitators with links to white nationalist groups, but even if that wasn’t the case, I ask you, what gives you the right to measure anyone’s reaction to oppression? Why must we always kiss the ring on the hand that is constantly punching us in the face? Why do you always whip out the “honey versus vinegar” argument whenever we express how fucking sick and tired we are of witnessing the slaughter of our people? Why are you not equally outraged at paranoid sociopaths carrying AK’s to their state capitols demanding their “right” to a haircut and a pedicure? Why is it always minorities and indigenous people who have to be silent while we marinate in our own blood?
You want non-violence? Okay, we can do that too. I have a proposition for you.
I don’t know if you’ve forgotten, but we’re in the middle of a 100-year event. Despite declarations of reopening by your governor or other officials, there is still no vaccine and no cure for COVID-19. It is not over. In light of recent events, it might even be hazardous for me to participate in the limited activities I’ve been doing lately.
We’ve been ordered to stay at home for four months. Now let’s volunteer to stay at home.
Don’t buy from Walmart. Don’t travel anywhere. Put off buying that new smartphone or TV. If you’re employed, demand that your employer allow you to work from home so that you won’t buy so much gas. Only buy from local businesses. Put your money in a credit union.
In light of all that has happened recently, do you really want to keep supporting a system in which you are monetized but not valued? Or as Devo puts it, “Why believe in things that make it tough on you?”
We’ve seen how fragile the “greatest economy in the world” can be in the throes of a pandemic. Imagine how sweaty the powers-that-be will get when they realize that consumerism is not mandatory, and that millions of angry people demanding justice and peace can be just as powerful.
After all, you can attract more bees with honey than with vinegar. How sweet it is.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the recent death of Breonna Taylor, who would have celebrated her 27th birthday June 5 of this year had it not been for the incompetence and inherent prejudices of Louisville MPD. She joins a long list of black women whose lives have been ended, if not forever scarred, by police brutality. Her life matters.