On power dynamics in a time of pandemic

I’ve been spending some time this afternoon thinking about power dynamics.

Specifically, I’m terrified at the power that corporate right-wing America is exerting over our national politics in this moment, as played out via starving workers of resources in places where they have the power to do so — so the choice that workers have in those places is either to starve or to “get back to work!” under life-threatening conditions. The more right-wing the state leadership, the more consolidated the corporate power, and therefore the more rushed the “getting back to work!” So of course this is playing out not in states that care about their more vulnerable citizens, like where Shannon and I live, but in right-wing states, where, also, by the same design, the poor are poorer and more resource-starved and exposed to begin with. It’s a vicious circle.

Shannon and I have so many terrified friends in other parts of the country experiencing this, many from the perspective of being the people who are being forced to “get back to work!” And, presumably, in five to six weeks, they, and the other places like where they live, will be experiencing a new wave of entirely preventable deaths. All so that right-wing corporate America can keep its boot on the neck of the American workforce. Because that’s what this is about: the raw exercise of power, as a reaction to right-wing corporate fear of workers discovering their power in this time to effect political change in their favor.

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I wish, so much, that people could collectively realize that this time is exposing – so clearly! – how right-wing corporate power, as exercised via government, is just a construct – and that this construct could be changed! That there are other equally plausible constructs! That we don’t have to live this way! That it would be equally feasible to have a government whose primary aim is to work in service of its citizenry! All of this is possible. And it feels so close, with the curtain lifted so far back … and also it feels so far away. As though to even dream of fighting a power this strong and longstanding is futile.

Shannon and I will be fine, one way or another. I have faith in that. It’ll be dicey. We’ve been on the edge of financially vulnerable for decades. But we’re a different flavor of vulnerable – we’re a special case – because we have a tremendous community around us, and we therefore have a support structure available to us that other people don’t. But there are millions and millions of people in this country who our right-wing corporate power structure necessitates be expendable. Interchangeable. And it tears me up inside. It’s like watching a slow-motion car crash about to happen that I’m powerless to do anything about.

There’s no reason, other than preserving right-wing corporate power, that our federal government isn’t paying people to stay home in this time. Our country can afford it without either short- or long-term fiscal repercussions. It’s just a choice that they’re making. We are going to need sustained nationwide work stoppages if this is going to change in the short-term – although how would people feed their families while striking? They’ve been very effectively trapped in their servitude – either that or a lot of Covid-19 deaths. And even widespread preventable deaths probably won’t change things, because the right-wing corporatists in charge of our government have already told us, explicitly, that a lot of poor people dying is an acceptable outcome for them in this time. It’s the foundational assumption of their mandate to “get back to work!”

I don’t have answers. There is a moral rot at the center of the corporate right wing in this country that’s been there for centuries, and it feels so overwhelming and massive that I don’t even know how one would begin to try dismantling it. But I do have one small flicker of hope: that maybe, just maybe, more people are having an awakening in this time. That maybe there will be the beginnings of a widespread rejection of right-wing corporatism this November. That maybe, just maybe, there will be the beginnings of an undeniable, unavoidable demand — that our government work for its citizens, not against them. We can hope. Hang in there.

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