The Disease of Political Amnesia

(The image above is of Devil’s Bridge in Antigua from July 2019. Local historians and guides tell the story that this is the location where European slave traders “discarded” (i.e., murdered) unwanted human beings because they were no longer fit to be used for slave-labor and profit. Other locals say this is where many enslaved Africans threw themselves to death—because they would rather die, even after surviving the harrowing crossing of the Atlantic, than be used as slaves. Still others say, if you throw a raw egg into these waters, the devil will toss it back at you hardboiled.)

All kinds of authoritarian-like misconduct (I had to look up synonyms for “fuckery”) is happening.

Most recently, The Miami Herald reported the current Florida governor “blocks Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times from coronavirus press conference.”

I know pandemic-related fear and panic is going to reorganize the way we remember or don’t remember events. It has happened in the past, and we know we human beings don’t learn from history, so my bet is that it will happen again.

My Facebook newsfeed has largely transformed from U.S. elections-related posts to COVID-19-related posts. My Twitter newsfeed is more diverse. My Instagram newsfeed is still the best. And by the best, I mean I like cats and food. I get that.

So this is my rallying cry to the Culture Workers Feeling a Loss in Purpose:

Culture workers — Historians, Writers, Humanities Scholars, Artists, ETC. — if you have been feeling a loss in purpose because

  1. You are not the primary caregiver for children, elderly, people with special needs who you are now home with you all the time and you do not have the help you need.
  2. You are now swamped with more work in addition to your paid work — like figuring out how to teach online while finding a job in a once and now impossible market or how to get healthcare when you indeed do (and you will) lose your job and your current company and/or institution has decided that is okay because a contract is a contract.  
  3. Unlike you, your friends — who farm daily to get products to urban centers where urban farming is not a pervasive practice, stock groceries and other products on shelves daily so that we have access, manage construction sites daily including new hospitals because the body count is already overflowing, treat the ill coming in daily in the hospitals we do have, clean daily all of those spaces so that everyone is a little more safe — have been deemed essential workers, and they are begging, PLEADING, that the rest of us stay home so that they have a fighting chance.
  4. You are not already connected to a community organization and the various communities of activists who support those organizations by highlighting their need for support, resources, a voice particularly during this time.  

If you have been feeling a loss in purpose, Culture Workers, then you should know you are most urgently needed to prevent the disease of political amnesia.

If you didn’t know, for example, three states (Kentucky, South Dakota, West Virginia) have just criminalized protesting against the use of fossil fuels amid this pandemic. Protest and civil disobedience are cornerstones of any functioning democracy.

Pick your platform. Do it for your people, your circles, your families, your communities. Do it in your family WhatsApp chats to balance the exchange of photos of newly ordered chickens and creative tacos and new babies and advice on what prayers to say with political consciousness.

I also get the fear very smart friends feel about the trajectory of surveillance and march toward fascism, especially those of us who already have PTS as a result of it.

But we certainly cannot afford political amnesia.

People have died because of it — and will continue to die because of it.

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