500,000 COVID-19 Deaths and the Threat of Politics as Usual "Joe Biden" by Gage Skidmore is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

500,000 COVID-19 Deaths and the Threat of Politics as Usual

“You may (God help us all) be the best that will be given us. You may, like John Ehrlichman, once accused, seek redemption and forgiveness by rethinking, retooling, and, like Avis, trying harder. Even more miraculous, those Supreme Murderers in the White House might tomorrow acknowledge that families simply everywhere have gay sons and daughters.

But I fear these are only pipe dreams and you’ll continue to carry on with your spare equipment. The cries of genocide from this Cassandra will continue to remain unheard. And my noble but enfeebled community of the weak, and dying, and the dead will continue to grow and grow — until we are diminished.” – Larry Kramer, Open Letter to Dr. Anthony Fauci, May 1988

Larry Kramer was not one of the now 500,000 people that have died in the U.S. due to COVID-19. But his words written in protest of Dr. Anthony Fauci during the height of the AIDS crisis ring truer than ever, and his death last year as this pandemic ripped through every community was a telling death knell. We lost a self-proclaimed prophet, well worthy of the title, unafraid to call attention to the deliberate suppression of death and sickness ravaging specific affected communities. And now, decades later, that deliberate ignoring, the normalcy of it all, has led us to half a million dead Americans (with slightly less than a quarter of them just since President Biden took office).

In a recent podcast interview, Peter Staley – a veteran activist from ACT UP and the Treatment Action Group –  talks about how ACT UP was able to politicize the crisis of AIDS by moving the scientific establishment and also using media institutions to polarize the issue and get people educated on what was actually happening. They also, of course, had a militant organization willing to take direct action in order to meet those goals. 

Now, despite the largest protest movement in American history for Black lives (and underlying class rage from a hell of a lot of unemployed people and “essential workers” witnessing the greatest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in decades), we have the architect of the ‘94 crime bill as our President, and despite some good initial moves, the façade is crumbling. 

More deportations (nearly 26,000 already).

A promise to not entertain 50,000 dollars in student debt cancellation, despite clear legal authority to do so. 

We might even see taxes incurred on unemployment from last year, instead of the stimulus checks that were promised on ‘Day 1’ by Democrats up and down the board during the Georgia runoffs. 

As socialists, we of course should have been steeled for this from the day that Bernie left the primary. It’s hard to keep one’s chin up when strikes are still at a historic low, though, to say nothing of all the other morbid symptoms that the climate crisis is uncovering (like the freak winter storm that threw all of Texas under a winter storm advisory and laid bare the terrible results of privatizing the electric grid.) Our job is to keep organizing, and to also acknowledge and hold and talk about when we feel low and when political conditions seem insurmountable. 

And yes, to light a candle for the 500,000 dead.

Mourn the dead, fight like hell for the living!