Published on December 23rd, 2020 | by Candace Simpson0
Whose Fault Is It Anyway?: Focusing Our Rage and Our Resources
When I was a child, I used to watch an improv show called Whose Line Is It Anyway? with my mom in the kitchen. Throughout the series, actors would improvise skits and songs. Often inappropriate but frequently sharp, the troupe would take whatever prompts the audience and Drew Carey would give them. I marveled at their wit, their quick-thinking, their use of physical comedy.
I feel like I am living in a dystopian version of that show these days. Except instead of improvising with skits and songs, we are improvising ways to survive. And nothing seems to be sufficient on this side of capitalism. If I were to rename this version, it would be called “Whose Fault is it Anyway?” Because that seems to be the only question I can come up with these days.
I’ve been through every stage of anger this year. I was mad at my city for telling us to wash our hands and go to work in February. I was mad at the government for giving out $1200 once to only some of our people. I was mad at religious leaders for insisting on gathering in person. I was mad at people having reckless weddings (although I’ve seen some that were done with care.) I’ve been mad at political leaders for telling me to “vote” as if the virus will bow to a Democratic president (and I haven’t been convinced that the incoming president will do what actually needs to be done to get this thing in check). I have been mad at flat-Earthers, at conspiracy theorists, at “this is judgment for the LGBTQIA+ agenda” losers, at the “I’ll be fine because I’m young and I have to live my life” folks. I’ve been mad at the people making money off this thing. I’ve been mad at myself for “wasting time” on Netflix (when it was really just a normal response to uncertainty). I’ve been mad at people gathering on Instagram and at people booking flights to Tulum.
But whose fault is it? And how do we manage our rage when it feels like everyone needs a time out?
This holiday season, we’ve seen viral photos of airports filled to the brim with travelers. I have to admit, I was horrified because I had hoped that people would stay home. But airports reported an uptick in holiday travel compared to the rest of the year. Though this number represented a much smaller quantity of travelers compared to last year, photos of people standing in line are sure to make anyone nervous.
In a Twitter thread, Dr. Steven Thrasher argued that the commitment to still travel isn’t something we can just shame away. Airlines are trying to make their money, fuel companies are trying to get theirs, and the government has refused to do anything except issue vague (and constantly changing) messaging about personal responsibility. But how does personal responsibility measure up against generations of myths about what this nation is about? Even though people have taken the time to correct the history about Thanksgiving, people still see this particular Thursday as a day of gathering. Those beliefs and behaviors don’t get erased overnight. And perhaps, beloveds, this is why we should divest from the violent founding myths of this nation altogether. This country has always been bloody, and people have tried to warn others for years.
I admit, I’m scared about what happens “after this.” It will have been a year (by all conservative estimates) that I’ve been out of the loop because I chose not to go to the baby shower, the birthday party, the church gathering, the “small event.” What happens when this is all over, and we try to find our folks? So much time will have passed; I’m not sure if I will know anyone anymore. I’m not even sure I will know myself.
As we lurch toward the end of this hellish year, I want to remind you that you—as an individual—can be cautious, but you are not solely responsible. If there is any argument for the abolition of police and prisons, let it be this: While police forces across the nation were dressed for some Star Wars-like battle, hospital workers had to fashion personal protective equipment out of trash bags. If this does not convince us that our government doesn’t care about our livelihood at all, I do not know what to tell you.
The nation has invested in death and dying. The government has chosen to invest in death-dealing forces (like the 1033 program for police departments and advanced weaponry on our multiple military bases across the globe). The nation does not care about the numbers of incarcerated people who cannot reasonably distance, nor does it care about workers whose bosses force them to come into the office for work. Ultimately, the blood of the now confirmed 260,000 dead in this country is on their hands. With this knowledge, we must be vigilant.
Shame doesn’t work as a tactic. It doesn’t make people do anything but hide their behaviors. Finger-wagging at individuals is just going to drain us because there are millions of people in this nation doing things that they/we probably “shouldn’t do.” It is a far better use of our time to aim our anger, rage, and clapbacks for the people actually responsible.
We need to pay people to stay home, so that fewer people are out and about. We need to invest in community care and make sure that especially vulnerable people (like people with chronic illnesses and elders) can receive groceries rather than risking a trip to the store. We have to have a community-based appreciation for mutual aid, rather than charity (sorry, Giving Tuesday). We need to support the emotional, spiritual, and psychological needs of people that would otherwise manifest as “I just needed to get on a plane.”
If you are feeling helpless and hopeless, you are not alone. But we are also not the first to struggle like this, and we won’t be the last, either. So, whatever we do today, may it be a lesson to future generations. May they say of us, “Our ancestors housed, fed, and supported each other when the government wouldn’t, and that is how we are here today.” So many religious and cultural rituals are built around this very premise. Even when we are under attack, we can still care for one another. May it be so.
Candace Simpson is an educator, minister and writer. She believes that Heaven is a Revolution that can happen right here on Earth. She invites others into that philosophy at www.fishsandwichheaven.com