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Apr 18, 20

This Is America #114: We Would Prefer Not To

Welcome, to This Is America, April 18th, 2020.

In this episode, first we talk with people on rent strike in Philadelphia. We discuss how the rent strike came about, the process of getting organized, and so far, how the strike is going.

We then feature an interview from the folks at Perilous Chronicle with an inmate in ICE detention about their participation in a protest and hunger strike against the spread of COVID-19.

Finally, we switch to our discussion where we address Trump’s recent push to “re-open” the economy.

All this and more, but first, let’s get to the news.

Living and Fighting

Trump is calling for the “economy to re-open,” as early as May 1st, stating that the US has “passed the peak” of infections, while various states are pushing to end stay-at-home orders. Trump has also called for the defunding of the World Health Organization, stating that it bumbled the handling of the pandemic while also being ‘too nice to China.’ Trump, who declared recently that his “authority is total,” even went as far to say that COVID-19 cases in New York are “declining” and other cities are “showing great signs of success.” This snake oil is nothing more than a push to force workers back (if they aren’t already) onto the frontlines as the coronavirus pandemic continues full steam ahead.

As one report wrote:

On Tuesday, 2,349 people succumbed to COVID-19 in the United States, in the highest daily death toll in the US—or any other country…The state of New York has reported over 200,000 cases, approximately one third of all cases in the US. = with a death toll of almost 11K. However, this figure does not take into account that New York City has added 3,700 additional people to its list of those who have presumably died from COVID-19 at hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities, but were never tested.

Despite the disastrous daily death toll, the Trump administration and state governments are working to reopen businesses as rapidly as possible. These moves take place despite the fact that the testing, quarantine and contact tracing measures necessary to contain the disease – are not in place.

The next day, Wednesday, saw even more deaths, with over 2,400 deaths reported across the US. Thursday again saw more, with a staggering 4,591 people dying. Currently, over 36,000 people in the US have died in total from the virus. In New York, so many people have died in fact, that the city has begun burying people who’s bodies are not claimed on Hart Island in a mass grave, the same island where the city buried victims of the AIDS crisis.

As Politico wrote:

New York is using refrigerated trucks stationed outside of hospitals to hold the bodies of people killed by the disease, and funeral homes have reported being overwhelmed.

At the same time, despite this wave of death and disease, “the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen by more than 30 percent,” as Wall Street and the big banks have been a wash in bailouts and free money from the Federal Reserve. Meanwhile, more and more data shows that those hit hardest by the virus have been Black, brown, Native, and other communities of color. In Chicago according to the CDC, upwards of 70% of coronavirus deaths have been African-American, even though they make up only 30% of the population. According to Democracy Now: “On the Navajo Nation, there have been more than 800 reported cases and 28 deaths as of Tuesday. In Arizona, 16% of COVID-19 deaths have been Native American, who make up only 6% of the state’s population.” This points to the racialized nature of class society: as poor people are pushed together in tighter living quarters, work in jobs that force them to risk exposure, lack medical care, and already are impacted by existing conditions such as disease, obesity, environmental pollution, and other factors.

Currently, over 20 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits but few have reported receiving their stimulus checks due to reported online “glitches.” Last week, cities also saw thousands of families line up to receive relief at food banks around the country with Pittsburgh reporting an increase by about “543 percent in recent days.” Ironically at the same time, farmers have been destroying food staples in order to drive prices back up as businesses close and the mad dash to hoard food stuffs dies down.

To make matters worse, across the US, there is still a massive lack of infrastructure in place to engage testing for COVID-19, and many suspect that an end to social distancing and a return to business as usual will result in a new wave of infections. Many politicians, such as Indiana Republican, Trey Hollingsworth, continue to push the line that the death of tens of thousands is acceptable, as long as the American economy is saved. As he stated on a recent radio interview:

[I]t’s always the American government’s position to say, in the choice between the loss of our way of life as Americans and the loss of life of American lives, we have to always choose the latter.”

You’re either with death, or you’re against the economy!

But some people have chosen a side. This Wednesday, members of far-Right militias, groups like the Proud Boys, and Trump supporters rallied across the the US in a push to “re-open” the economy, rallied in the thousands outside of state capitols. In Michigan, Proud Boys even blocked traffic in front of a hospital.

The main demand from the far-Right is that the current stay at home orders be lifted and that the economy be “re-opened.” The far-Right is tapping into growing anger at the government and the overall situation, while also hoping to re-direct it back into support for Trump – but instead of demanding a monthly wage, the cancellation of debt, or food aid, they are asking for a return to normalcy – to how things were before the pandemic broke out, despite the fact that poor and working-class Americans will now of course be even worse off.

If we allow the far-Right to be the only ones to express their frustrations, we risk losing people to reactionary politics who are legitimately upset about the #coronavirus but see solutions in bureaucrats and neo-fascists like Trump. We have to articulate our own set of politics: one that rejects the horrific new normal as well as a return back to the old one. That puts faith in ourselves to change our conditions and not the ruling part or the Democrats. We need to articulate that we will not sacrifice our lives for the profits of the rich but that we also refuse to return to normal. Towards that end we can point to the wave of rent and wildcat strikes happening across the country along with the growing network of autonomous mutual aid projects as the way forward.

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