In normal times, the average adult human tries to breathe twenty times per minute. Under the pandemic’s lung-crushing shadow, exacerbated by reoccurring acts of white police violence resulting in more unarmed and undeserved black deaths, the simple act of breathing cannot be taken for granted.
America’s Epicenter Pandemic Economy (EPE) inextricably links embedded economic inequality and racial injustice. It repurposes the most economically vulnerable from the back to the front of the line as the newly indispensable for serving others. How to make this a reciprocal relationship? In the EPE vortex, common humanity marked by inhaling, exhaling, the universal color of blood and cemeteries overwhelmed by lonely deaths merit at the very least decent work and wages with uplifting benefits, under much healthier conditions.
Reminiscent of women earning industrial workplace and workforce gains during the last World War only to have to fight for them again, America can reset its EPE social compact to pursue its “best-becoming” self. Flawed and insufficient, mid-pandemic social and commercial re-openings show there is no prosperity without shared prosperity.
This means the tired, poor, and involuntarily huddled masses yearning to breathe economic freedom freely must first be able to survive and thrive while practicing healthy social distancing so that their nation can endure. Uplifting inclusivity frameworks will guarantee all coronavirus contagion inducing curves are flattened beyond any possibility of resurgence and there is a universally effective, accessible, and affordable vaccine. But culture, more than politics, economics or technology holds America hostage.
Has the country socioeconomically progressed over the past one-hundred years or is America still mired in fully avoidable inequality and racism misery, indexed by its past as prologue? Franklin Delano Roosevelt described the 1938 Great Depression indictment, “one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished”.
Today’s EPE-America sports over forty-four million unemployed, more than 124,000 dead and 2.2 million infected (as of 06-24-2020, 09:00 EST). In 1920 as in 2020, elected and appointed officialdom continues the false, zero-sum debate whether “the test of our progress” should “add more to the abundance of those who have much” or whether it must provide “enough for those who have too little.”
More competitive nations have answered this question demonstrating wiser choices by lowered or expunged pandemic risk profiles. In contrast, the ongoing U.S. argument against itself indicates a morally failing, increasing lethally incompetent civic culture. Beyond the ever-rising pandemic deaths and infections, how best to acknowledge a cumulating national pain legacy, scrub it clean, heal America’s self-inflicted wounds?
A new “reconciliation of opposites” is resurfacing outside the media-siloed, polemic mist as the U.S. rebalances from the crazy. White conservative evangelicals may have gotten their thirty pieces of silver, two-hundred federal judges, but they lost most of their thirty and younger congregational memberships across many ethnicities and geographies. At the same time, LGBQIA rights parity emerged from a Supreme Court home team bench with only the current U.S. Secretary of State as outlier advancing a “Lost Cause” defense under the guise of bigoted human rights and one-sided, sharia law-like religious freedom as global policy manifesto.
Inveterate Wall Street addicts may have snaked more special interest tax breaks and regulatory sightlessness over the past four years, but policy betting tables indicate the moral boomerang curve back to decency, fairness, transparency, and freedom from corruption will be pitiless. Surging millennium & centennial generational victims protesting financialization inequalities underpinning predatory capitalism’s never level, never democratic playing fields increasingly vote for candidates reflecting more solidarity values.
Political enablers and their fixers up and down the national and local power spectrum in wedded-to-hip tandem with Schutzstaffel cruelty policy extortionists fixated on deportation-detention-family separation, and children in cages immigration policies could face a domestic Nuremburg Tribunal for crimes against humanity. This social justice platform will serve to defrock mankind’s unchecked capacity for moral ugliness and brutality, just like its predecessor. As prelude to such national cleansing, Confederate slave-states-rights monuments and other repressive symbols of betrayal and treason are finally being stripped from America’s visual and latent civic consciousness starting in the voter suppression lands and ontologies of their origins.
Thanks in some part as an unintended consequence to the Coronavirus Unemployment Stimulus rate of $600 per week in social distancing benefits, the bubbling “fight for fifteen” is already a de facto, multi-sectoral, rising nationwide floor seeking higher ceilings in all fifty states. Variations on this theme will include lifestyle benefits, workplace equity, enlightened and virus-free working conditions, and equal access to comprehensive medical coverage and higher education.
Nature’s resilient environment will experience an abrupt, 180-degree policy and practice reversal that will lock-in justice, inclusivity, and virtuous practice cycles. Without fear or favor, expanding coalitions of lock-step stewards, impact investors, policy mavens and advocacy communities already override pitiful politicians and “hacks for hire” still in thrall to industries destroying humanity’s global and local right to breathe.
Equal access to equal capacity broadband reaching every American urban corner, rural holler and local barrio connecting every last mile no matter where, no matter who, will become the country’s premiere infrastructure project. In tandem, an enlivened, liberated, and rejuvenated United States Post Office will continue to serve all Americans, regardless of geography, at uniform price and quality.
A completely depoliticized U.S. military and Department of Justice will resume their rightful roles as guardians and defenders of the Constitution backed by one-class rule of law for all on behalf of a government of, for and by the people, without exceptions. All future presidential conduct will be codified by law, perhaps as the 28th amendment, to respect re-empowered separation of powers and inviolate constitutional checks and balances. America will emancipate its electoral college from every morally anachronistic reference to slave-state and slaveocracy guard-rails.
These are common ground examples of an anticipated American reinvention, beginning without end. As noted more eloquently by others, the United States can regain moral legitimacy only by striving against the horrific gravity of its domestic imperfections, civic failures, and exploitative history. The challenge is to right and balance a risen people’s republic ship of state, to show instead of telling how a reinvigorated country can pursue exceptionalism in the long and winding process of becoming a more perfect union. Adding inclusivity to integrated national practice can reflect more aspirational, if not yet fully actualized, re-founding principles.
Time to heal a country whose inner strength and outward resolve can trump self-delusion, prevarication, and hopelessness. A country where “winners take all” culture benefitting the “wealthiest seventy billionaires at the survival expense of 34.8 million Black and Latino households” (Institute for Policy Studies) inspires a cultural intervention. Time to show a country of commoditizing poseurs accustomed to deflowering and appropriating anything democratically sacred in their insatiable quest to pursue more power and accumulate more treasure that their fellow citizens have moved on and changed channels. More than 1.2 million Americans tuned in on June 20th to celebrate the resurrection and restoration promise and premise of the Reverend William Barber’s online “Poor People’s Campaign March on Washington” calling for a moral revolution.
If such predictions, reflections and abstractions seem too far-fetched for some, the alternative reality and facts version is still unfolding around first-person pronoun religion where “me, myself, and I” hold court. Flashback to the iconic Irish actor, Peter O’Toole, in the 1972 film, “The Ruling Class”, who, when asked in character why he considered himself God replied, “because every time I pray to Him I find I’m talking to myself”.