Friday, May 1, 2020

May It Be

It's May Day, Labour Day, International Workers' Day... and hopefully more people understand now how important and underappreciated a lot of workers are. Healthcare professionals and other hospital workers, first responders, teachers, grocery store employees, truck drivers, postal workers, plumbers, sanitation workers, and so many more: they're essential. They make the world go round, they make a difference. Not Sir Richard Branson, who wants government assistance to keep Virgin Atlantic afloat, or Elon Musk, who rails against state governments preventing his workers from going back to the factories. Not the governors who are reopening their states for business, nor even the ones who say it's too soon. Not, for the love of the gods, any celebrities. I have my share of favorite actors and musicians, too, but guess what? They're not as important, not as essential to our society, as those workers. Neither are politicians, or Wall Street bankers. Amazon is overrated; I haven't ordered anything from them in over a month and a half. Now that I'm all caught up on "The Tick" and "Good Omens," I may well wave my Amazon Prime membership goodbye.

(OK. Breathe, Andy, breathe.) Thing is, I knew all this stuff before. Some of you probably did, too, at least some of it. But it's becoming clearer to more people, and there are some out there who don't like that fact at all. The idea that "we can't go back to 'normal'" scares the kind of people who made lots of money or got some sort of power from the old 'normal.' So what if 'normal' meant there were a lot of people who were never more than two or three paychecks away from desperation? So what if 'normal' meant that people living in one neighborhood never had to worry about the police, while people in another could never be comfortable around them? So what if 'normal' meant that an illness could bankrupt someone? So what if 'normal' meant that people would obsess over the latest celebrity gossip or outrage or "beef" while important and relevant news died in a vacuum?

Yeah, I don't much like the idea of that 'normal' coming back. I do want to be able to go to ShopRite or Dunkin' or Walgreens again without covering my face. I don't want to keep getting E-mails trying to sell me expensive outdoor furniture or guitars or computer hardware or software at a time when those things mean nothing to me (OK, almost nothing). I do want COVID-19 to fade into the background. I don't want anyone to play it down because "more people die of this, that, and the other thing" (which can't spread the way the coronavirus does). I do want to go to the park or to Greenwich Village, and see and smile at women's faces - and even get the occasional smile back. I don't want to hear politicians taking undue credit and deflecting due blame. I do want discourse and dialog and critical thinking. I don't want knee-jerk reactions and propaganda and entrenched camps that refuse to consider other points of view. I do want the economy to recover, and the Virgin Atlantics and Teslas and Amazons of the world to continue to operate and employ countless people. I don't want it to happen atop the bodies of workers, essential or otherwise, and widen the wealth gap even further.

I don't claim to have the answers, but at least I'm not afraid to consider the questions. And whatever your political, social, religious, ethnic standpoint, for this society to persevere, we need to work together. We need to talk. To argue, certainly, but to have a conversation. With discussion and compromise, or without, change is coming.

Eight years ago today, I marched with Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello and the Occupy Guitarmy in New York City, in support of Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movement in general. Some things have gotten better since then, some things have gotten worse. Change is never easy, and sometimes you do have to take a step back, like it or not, before you can push forward another two steps.

Going back even further, twenty-five years ago (yes, I am) I tried my hand at creating a scene. No, wait, a 'zine: the Extreme. "Sort of an alternative to the established 'alternative,'" I brazenly claimed in the first issue. Well, while I threw in the towel much too early, I did sell some copies, and I did get a lot of submissions. After all this time, I've finally begun the process of digitizing the entire eight-issue run (the material I've held onto has held up surprisingly well). Looking over those old copies of "a magazine for three finkers" has made me nostalgic. And defiant. Maybe the stir-crazy has awakened my inner Skinny the Foo...

Anyway, happy May Day, and thank you, again, to all the essential workers.

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