First posted June 1, 2020
One hallmark of the Pandemic in the United States is that we seem to be in a slow-motion collapse marked by incredible denial by the government and even the media. While many news outlets take the pandemic very seriously, there doesn’t seem to be any public reckoning of the full scope of the unfolding economic and social collapse. The federal government just prints up and ineptly distributes vast quantities of money, and people keep buying stuff on Amazon and and acting like this is just a temporary setback.
The devastating 1972 earthquake in Nicaragua is credited for sparking that country’s 1979 revolution. It took seven years, but it is widely accepted that the enormous, deadly natural disaster and the kleptocratic government’s response was what led to the eventual overthrow of Somoza regime.
We may be living through a similar scenario in the United States in 2020. While we have a widely complacent and relatively comfortably wealthy population compared to 1970s Nicaragua, we also have infuriating systems of social oppression that have stubbornly stayed with us throughout our history, sometimes morphing into different manifestations, and in some cases getting worse.
Most obviously in the light of the demonstrations organically emerging across the country, systemic racism has eaten at the heart of this country since its inception. Past generations fought slavery, only to have it replaced with Jim Crow and fought segregation and disenfranchisement only to have it replaced with racist policing, prosecution and mass incarceration. When people are out on the street demanding justice for the latest known victim of casually murderous cops, many of them also have the pent up rage from being directly affected by the criminal justice system. This means being treated as less than human at all stages of the justice system, from local cops to prison guards living out their power fantasies to asshole probation officers trying to control their lives when they get out. If it hasn’t happened to them, it’s happened to people close to them. No wonder they’re mad at cops, the street-level symbols of this racist, oppressive, dehumanizing system.
Also fueling anger is the worsening income and wealth gap that epitomizes the United States, a country of unfettered capitalist exploitation. Some of this frustration was exposed in the Occupy Movement. Rhetoric of wealth inequity made its way into mainstream politics. But things have just become worse and there’s no indication that it makes any difference whom you elect to office; the rich get richer and the rest get screwed making the rich richer.
As all of the outrage, generational anger and resentment bubble to the surface, as corruption by politicians becomes more and more blatant, as the facade of democracy crumbles, it may be the 2020 pandemic that people will look back on as the start of the end of America.