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How Progressives Should Talk About COVID-19

Anthony Torres
Mar 14 · 4 min read

Authors: Nicole Carty and Anthony Torres

The Moment

COVID-19 is spreading around the world. In just a few short months, novel coronavirus has become a public health crisis that demands clarity and global cooperation. The response to the threat of COVID-19 will mark the media landscape for the near future and it is already creating widespread uncertainty and anxiety. These moments contain both opportunity and danger for us. On one hand, it will create space for the advancement of good progressive policy that will become urgent, necessary, and obvious in the effort to keep the public safe; on the other hand, this moment of uncertainty will be seized by authoritarian governments to clamp down on rights, concentrate power, distort the truth, and push extremist policies, a move already foreshadowed by the Trump Administration.

In order to successfully weather this crisis, we must have a public framework and coherent message that:

  • Adequately prepares the public for action, minimizes panic and delivers a measured, scientifically-informed approach.
  • Alerts people to the coming right wing, authoritarian crackdown, expose to the public and inoculate them from easily bending to their campaign of disinformation and power grabs.
  • Leverages this moment to advance progressive policies that bolster our communities, that help us care and relate to each other and keep us safe in positive ways nationally and globally. By leaning into our interdependence, we can use this moment of capitalist slowdown to model the world we should be living in instead.

Suggested messaging:

Most of us do what we can to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and healthy. Now, as we see an outbreak of novel coronavirus spreading across the globe, we are worried about our families and our communities. We are scared, but the only way to fight this virus is to come together to confront this crisis head-on as one, united, global community.

This virus is revealing to us the interconnectedness of our world in a very personal way. It is showing, conclusively, that the health and well being of one is intimately bound to the health and well being of all. Novel coronavirus has given us an opportunity to rise to the occasion and care for each other and support one another. We can take action to protect our loved ones and the most vulnerable in our communities who will be hit hardest by this virus, such as those whose health is already compromised, those who cannot or are denied access to medical care, those who bear great risk in asking for help, and those on the frontlines of poverty and pollution. It is our responsibility to come together to protect the lives of those around us by limiting the spread of this disease as much as possible.

There will be those who will try to seize such a crisis to further entrench their own interests and divide us against each other based on where we come from, what we have, and based on our perceived health and worthiness. They will try to harness panic to crack down on borders, scapegoat Asian Americans, grant huge tax breaks to corporations rather than invest in public health, and limit our rights to vote and dissent. They will not keep us healthy and they want us to operate from a place of fear. But, our fates are tied. Only by working together will we defeat this outbreak.

We are greater than fear. Now is the time for action. As individuals, we can wash our hands and check in on our neighbors. As a collective, we can demand our government do everything it possibly can to protect our public health: provide paid sick leave for people to stay home with their families, compensate those who must be quarantined, guarantee quality health care and a warm bed for all, protect the rights of workers who care for the ill in our homes and our hospitals, and ensure testing and a vaccine, when available, are free and readily accessible to everyone.

This moment is scary and seems daunting, but we’ve been here before like when Act Up and LGBTQ activists united to confront the HIV/AIDS crisis in spite of corrupt CEOs and irresponsible politicians. We are all better off when each and every one of us is treated with dignity and respect. The things that will help us fight novel coronavirus are also good for our long term common well being and will model the cooperation we need to address other global challenges like climate change. Now is the time for us to come together, to unite across our differences, and to protect one another in pursuit of a better brighter tomorrow.

Additional Resources:

Here is a list of more specific demands of our governments: https://transformativespaces.org/2020/03/04/demands-from-grassroots-organizers-concerning-covid-19/

Some helpful Coronavirus-related articles:

Anthony Torres

Written by

Political ecologist, climate justice activist, systems thinker

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