It's Time to Turn Your Back
Those of us on the left, the hearts on our sleeves, community-good over individual-profit folks, face a profound dilemma these days. We are paralyzed in place, working at home to avoid non-essential human contacts, wearing masks to protect our fellow human beings from Covid-19.
We need a voice, an action, a way to protest the overwhelming loss of life unfolding around us without endangering the very community we are trying to protect.
Nine weeks into the thick of this pandemic the presidential lack of leadership in this country continues to boggle minds. And yet, that is not even the worst of it. Instead of holding fast, following public health guidelines intended to protect lives, the current White House occupant leans into his profound privilege of daily testing, spreading falsehoods and unsound medical advice through media appearnaces, and has begun engaging in ego stroking public appearances, with recent visits to a medical equipment plant in Allenstown, Pennsylvania, a mask-making facility in Phoenix, Arizona, and most recently a trip to a plant producing ventilators in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan.
Despite the close quarters of manufacturing plants being a fertile breeding ground for Covid-19 outbreaks (also see my post on meatpacking plants) Trump refuses to abide by health officials advice and local and state requirements to wear a mask when in situations where you will be in contact with other people.
It shouldn’t surprise us. Not really.
Wearing masks in a global pandemic is not about protecting yourself, it is about protecting others from you if you are an asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic Covis-19 carrier. If one thing has become abundantly clear in the past two months, it is this: Trump doesn’t care what happens to the rest of us.
So what do we do to register our dismay, our outrage, our despair to a man who only cares about his own appearance, his own life?
Perhaps we should be looking outside our borders for inspiration. Perhaps we should look to Belgium.
Last Sunday, May 17, 2020, Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès toured the UMC Sint-Pieter hospital, currently handling a vast majority of the Covid-19 cases in Brussels. Like in the United States, Belgian medical staff face unprecedented burdens, lack of protective gear, overwork, mental health pressures.
One of the Belgian government’s responses has been to suggest recruiting “unqualified staff to provide support to nursing personnel, rather than pay for trained professionals.” Before her arrival at the hospital, the staff lined up single file on both sides of the driveway as if forming an honor guard to salute her.
It was anything but.
As her car made it’s way up the driveway, the staff turning their backs on her. (Watch the video here.) (NVA #54: Turning one’s back, NVA #32 Taunting individuals NVA #11: Records, radio, and television)
It was a beautiful, profound, powerful action that clearly delivered the staff’s message.
In the US, our situation is far more dire than that in Belgium. With 1,588,322 cases and 95,276 deaths as of this writing, the things we need to happen, mass testing abilities, fully supported healthcare professionals, basic income guarantees for our full population, reorganized food distribution systems to protect farmers and consumers, are fast approaching insurmountable odds of success.
We need to do something. Let's look to Belgium. Imagine how powerful the action taken by Belgian medical workers would be against a president as self-absorbed and appearance oriented as ours.
Turn off his falsehood laden briefings, ignore his appearances.
Find a way to turn your back.
Nonviolent Actions employed:
NVA #54: Turning one’s back
NVA #32 Taunting individuals
NVA #11: Records, radio, and television