Monday, May 18, 2020

Will it be different after?

Will it be different after?

by Ted Miller
(originally published June 2020 in Tumbleweird)

I think it is grief,
this sadness,
this anger,
this fear.

They say the first phase is denial,
but there is no denying the virus is
no denying it is deadly,
no denying it is real. 

Tell the hundred thousand dead it’s a
Tell their families they would have
died anyway.
Tell the million infected it’s just the
Tell the sick to get back to work.
The virus doesn’t care.

But the virus carries a message, if only
we can hear.
The virus has laid bare the truth, of
what was true long before. 

We are all human, but we are not all
the same.

Some of us are essential, but not
essential enough.

Essential to work the fields.
Essential to butcher the meat.
Essential to nurse the sick.
Essential to serve our food, to mind
the store, to work the assembly
line, to cut our hair, to deliver our
goods, to clean our houses, 
to be invisible,
as our essential wants and needs are

But not essential enough to have
their basic needs met. 
Not essential enough to live without
of poverty, of hunger, of deportation,
of sickness, of death.

The virus knows no boundary
of class, or race, or wealth.

But the virus exposes disparity
among class, and race, and wealth.

Millions now unemployed, no
income, no health care, no
savings, crippling debt
and we blame them for being poor.

“They might get a few extra dollars!”
we cry,
angry that they are undeserving,
while ignoring the billions sent to
Wall Street 
with no strings attached,
believing in the trickle-down that will
never come.

Black, Brown, and Indigenous people
dying at twice or thrice the rate of
and we blame them for getting sick
and dying.

“Make better choices!” we say
while ignoring the centuries of
inequity built into America
denying equal access to health care,
to nutrition, to income, to life. 

And before the curve is flattened,
before the virus is contained, we
carry our signs and our weapons
demanding America be opened again
so we can have our essential wants
and needs
provided by the non-essential

We want our liberty, but we don’t
want the responsibility.
We want our freedom, but we don’t
want to be responsible for the cost
of that freedom to others.

“Tyranny!” we cry. “Give us our

Freedom from tyranny?

Tyranny is the hunger of millions of
children every night 
Tyranny is voter suppression that
denies citizens an equal voice 
Tyranny is health care for profit, while
millions get sick and die
Tyranny is the oppression that has
upheld systemic racism for
hundreds of years 
Tyranny is people dying, while you
refuse to wear a mask

Give me liberty, or give me death
But whose death is the cost of your

I think it is grief,
this sadness,
this anger,
this fear.

Grief for what could have been
if we weren’t divided
by class, by race, by wealth.

Grief can lead to despair, grief can
lead to action
and action leads to hope, now and in
the time after.

Hope that in the time after, when the
world faces pandemic, climate
change, global recession, or war, 
our response reflects we are all
human, essential, the same.