Have you noticed? The world is on fire. The virus is lurking, it’s spreading its tentacles, it’s shedding its skin, it’s slithering into perfect lives, disrupting routines, exploding in living rooms furnished with white, tufted couches and oriental rugs. It’s bequeathing sparks of chaos, which ignite unexpectedly. It’s created discomfort, inflamed fear, ignited the rise of vile and dangerous conspiracy theories. It’s exacerbated panic, aggravated chaos. It forced us to a halt.
It’s been around for a long time. Always waiting, striking whenever, pouncing steadily.
The rise of extremism, sexism, racism, every ism. Synagogues burned, Jewish cemeteries defaced, rabbis taunted and harassed in the streets. Believers gunned down in their places of worship, assaulted and shot in broad daylight. White supremacy soaring, seeping into everyday normalcy. Women raped. Women harassed. Women thrown from buildings. Women denied opportunities, called bitches, dm’d rape threats and dick pics. Rapists are protected and appointed judges. Rapists doing standup in Philadelphia. Incels rising and spreading their wings, infecting others with their ideology. Burrowing into the core of society. Reading fluff pieces about themselves in the New York Times and enjoying being seen, feeling validated and important. Protections eradicated and erased from the LGBTQ community. Dimissed from serving. Can’t identify without repercussion. Deeper hatred of trans people. Deeper rejection of understanding, a rebellion against openness and acceptance. We won’t allow it. Refuse to see it.
Did you hear that mother crying in the corner? Her baby died. He was shot. In the back while running. Or while walking. Or was he standing? Oh, he was simply drinking coffee. Apparently, he looked dangerous, or did he have a weapon. The important thing is he could have had a weapon. And he looked dangerous. Or did he not follow orders? He was Black, yes, but that’s not why. All lives matter, remember?
Have you heard? Humanity is suffering and the world is burning. You know it was scorching before this, right? Way before. At what point did we collectively decide we were okay with ripping families apart — after they fled war and violence and possible death — because we believe they don’t belong on our land? The land we stole. The land we emigrated to. The land we used and continue to use to enslave, to imprison, and to exploit. When did we collectively decide internment camps, detention centers, private prisons (whatever term you fancy, whatever euphemism you prefer) and separation of families (you know, taking toddlers away from their mothers) were fine? When did we decide we could simply avert our eyes? That we could look away and just make our world smaller. When did we humbly shrug and say and believe, “There’s nothing we can do”?
Has it always been this way? Always so tragic? Were flames always engulfing everything at all times? Children dying in their classrooms. “Thoughts and prayers” is our only suggested cure, a fake cure, a non-cure, a do-more-harm-than good “cure.” Fire drills, hurricane drills, intruder drills, lockdown drills. It’s all the same now. Part of the everyday. Colin brings a gun to school every Thursday and kills a dozen kids across a few classrooms. Thoughts and prayers until next Thursday. People who have never read the Constitution now quote the Constitution. They cry infringement upon civil liberties so they, too, can annihilate 20 kindergarteners. Every Thursday.
Are you paying attention? People are hurting and the earth is sweltering. Teenagers are killing themselves. They are hanging themselves. Teenagers are dying, of their own free will. They are deciding this life is no longer worth experiencing. They are choosing to no longer exist than to continue to exist in a world that causes them insufferable pain. Adolescents with their underdeveloped brains are ceasing to live. Mental health is a privilege. Maintaining it is only afforded to some. It’s unavailable, unaffordable, and inaccessible. It’s money over mind.
We’ve shut our eyes and buried our heads into our own tiny world. We’ve ignored the privatization of prisons and schools and the consequences of all of that. We’ve sold our children and those we imprison. We don’t even understand what we did. We’ve disregarded the drastically increasing tuition rates, escalating drug prices, and climbing healthcare costs. Yet we’ve chosen to pay attention to the DOW, interest rates, a “healthy” economy, stock portfolios, and liquid assets. We’re forgotten about our planet. We’re choosing to end it, to pollute it, to make our water undrinkable and kill one another with natural disasters. We’ve used up all its resources and now we’re mad and are digging for more. We keep taking without ever giving or changing our lives. We don’t want to inconvenience ourselves. Why wouldn’t you use a straw; you need a milkshake. We’ve shut the door on our homeless, our poor, our sick, and our hungry. We’ve submerged ourselves in our privilege and our comfort. And we validate our behavior by telling ourselves we’ve earned it; therefore, we deserve it. Whatever, our “it” is.
But now we’re living through a legitimate pandemic. Not an epidemic, like the opioid epidemic or the teen suicide epidemic; the twin epidemics, likely bound by pain. This pandemic is on our footsteps, our doormat, our front lawn. This is here, in our homes. This is universal. This does not discriminate based on social class, or race, or ethnicity, or gender. This does not care if you’re a liberal or a conservative, if you have an advanced degree or if you dropped out of high school. This scoffs at our external differences because it knows inside we are all made of the same vulnerable systems, the same guts, the same pre-existing conditions. It knows it can collectively bring us to our knees. This is happing to all of us.
Now we all care about something. We all care together. Yet, once again, we still don’t care quite enough, right? We care, but only as long as we aren’t too inconvenienced, right? We care, but, like, only enough to stay home during the week when the weather is not so great…until the weather is nice and we forget that we need to care. We’ll never learn. We’ll never change our ways. Even a pandemic cannot make us truly care about one another. Even a pandemic cannot force us to forfeit some of our privilege in order to assume our social responsibility. Because we don’t see ourselves as part of a society, we see society as something outside of us, not our responsibility.
So, we’ll keep burning. The fired with continue scorching us and our lives. And we will never change, never adapt, and never, ever pay enough attention.