I do not believe in inevitability. I think very few outcomes are completely unavoidable, but I do believe in patterns. We all behave in patterns, personally as well as culturally, but I also believe these patterns change frequently. We see it all the time. People change the way they eat. They leave toxic relationships. They quit a terrible job. But the first step, as cliché as it sounds, is acknowledging the pattern. If the pattern isn’t acknowledged, behavior is easily predictable and that predictability can seem like inevitability. And right now, it feels like the end of life as we know it is inevitable.
For five years, a shitty old bigot got in front of every camera he could find, pointed to the Black president and ranted and raved about how he wasn’t from around here and definitely wasn’t one of us. Then this shitty old bigot ran for president with the promise of keeping the Black and brown foreigners out. Then the shitty old bigot became the president and started keeping his shitty old bigoted promises. Then the shitty old bigot faced a crisis. This crisis required the citizens of the country be led to trust one another and be generous with one another and sacrifice for one another. But the shitty old bigot doesn’t trust, he’s incapable of being generous and he lacks the ability to understand the very concept of sacrifice. He has nothing but his base instincts of fear, hatred and greed. He is expected to lead, but since he can only whine and lie and exploit, that is what he does instead.
And so here we are in a perfectly predictable circumstance. The president is made aware of a pandemic and he bans people traveling from China. In true broken-clock-right-twice-a-day fashion, the spread of the virus in this country slows. But because all he is is a racist who seems to think that striking out against Asians is all that’s necessary to prevent the pandemic from coming to America, he takes no other action. He then hubristically and falsely proclaims victory at every opportunity for two months. But now COVID-19’s exponential growth and rising death rate is becoming more and more difficult to ignore and the president is forced into letting his administration actually attempt to take action.
The president continues his patterns. He now gets on live TV in the middle of the day and reads a speech someone else wrote about plans other people have made to battle a pandemic that is infecting people on a massive global scale. Individually, people are dying alone and being buried at funerals which no one can attend. Since the president is not capable of leading or strategy or even basic decision making, he adds the only thing he knows how. He does what he always does. He expresses his entire being with cruel and petty racism: “Chinese virus.”
As is the pattern every single time he spouts racism from his weak, little mouth, hatred across the land spikes and now Asian people are being attacked all over this country.
Naturally, the president is not alone. Because his political party is just as racist as he is, they defend his escalation of hate crimes as though it’s anything else. This is perfectly predictable as well because it’s not just the president and his ilk who like to point the finger at foreigners. In fact, I would go so far to say if you think the president is risking his next term with this behavior, you are not only ignoring every single scandal that has left the president unscathed (including his impeachment—remember that?) but also nearly all of American history. Because, while it may seem like an aberration in this moment, this country has almost exclusively only ever blamed immigrants and people of color for diseases.
The patterns are all there, but again, they don’t have to be. The president’s daily lies and racism are still welcomed by too much of our country, and that feels especially overwhelming at this particular moment. But please know that they are not the majority. They’re just the loudest right now.
Cruelty is a choice. It’s a weak choice and yes, some people are so weak they will choose cruelty no matter how easy it is to be strong. But if you can manage to look away from them for just a moment you will see real strength. You will see the world coming together as never before. People are looking out for each other; they are taking care of each other. People are singing from their windows.
If there was ever a time to be strong, it’s right now. Please be strong.
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3 thoughts on “Patterns are predictable but we can overcome them”
Beautifully and powerfully said, Samuel James.
In the United States, one pattern is always predictable: as our national history shows, we only react after the fact of a crisis ; in our social and public policy, we never proactively plan for such crisis. We see this working again in the current public health crisis, whereby sound public policy has been replaced by hysteria; of the funny sort, stocking up on “toilet paper”, of the most serious, at the first sign of a common cold, flu like symptoms gotta get that “test for coronavirus ” done. Totally oblivious to the facts that you are not only tying up critical health care facilities but in good health, can deal with the actual virus just like any other one and stay at home. As predictable as well is that “whiteness” is having a difficult time dealing with what has been the lot of “colorness” for eons: lost of jobs, no safety net, etc. And once we get over this current crisis, I can predict that we will just go back to our old ways of doing things – that is, we as a nation, never learn.
We do learn, incrementally, sometimes in history, during extraordinary circumstances. And we might have no choice but to learn new ways of doing things during this extraordinary circumstance. Because it has never been more clear that we are all in this together.
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