CW: COVID-19, social isolation, suicide, abuse
I’ll be honest–I feel pretty panicky right now. One of my many fears is that in a moment when we need everyone to participate in political processes more than ever, we’re losing access to a lot of the ways people are used to doing that. So I made a list of some ways to take political action, right now, even if you need to limit your physical contact with other humans.
- Call, email, tweet or otherwise DEMAND better from elected officials. Better in what way, you wonder? So glad you asked.
- Check this list of horrifying anti-trans state bills that try to deny trans kids participation in sports, use of facilities, access to healthcare, and life. Especially if you live in one of those states, call your legislators to urge them to stop these bills, and call your governor to ask them to veto! Trans kids are already far too vulnerable to suicide and abuse. The social isolation coming with the response to Coronavirus is making that worse. And these bills are making it way worse. Save trans kids’ lives and stop these bills.
- Tell Governor Cuomo that he needs to use his clemency power to release all prisoners vulnerable to coronavirus, including those who are elderly, pregnant, or living with any serious chronic illness. Also, tell him that he needs to pay all incarcerated workers, including those making hand sanitizer, at least minimum wage. And while you’re at it, tell him to institute a moratorium on evictions and utility shutoffs. Tell DeBlasio too. And let outreach teams give hand sanitizer and socks to houseless people.
- Tell all executives to make plans for how to protect incarcerated people from Coronavirus. Restricting visitation is not the answer—not only is it cruel, but it’s totally ineffective (many times more staff than visitors go into and out of facilities every day). The plans should involve releasing prisoners, starting with the most vulnerable ones; increasing sanitation and access to hygiene supplies; and increasing access to healthcare. And moratoriums on evictions should happen today.
- Tell the NY legislature that now is the time to protect incarcerated people and decrease prison populations as much as possible. Protect bail reform, and pass voting rights for people in prison (A8909/S6905); HALT Solitary Confinement Act (A.2500 / S.1623); Elder Parole (S.2144/A.9040); and Fair & Timely Parole Act (S.497/A.4346).
- Tell all legislatures that now is the time to reduce incarceration drastically and ensure the best possible conditions for people behind bars.
- Tell Congress to pass the NO BAN Act (lifting the Muslim, refugee, and asylum bans) WITHOUT the communicable disease amendment. Ableism, anti-Muslim racism, and nativism are ALL always wrong.
- Tell Congress to pass the Pregnant Worker Fairness Act. Especially now, some pregnant workers need temporary accommodations to be able to keep their jobs without sacrificing their health or increasing their risk of miscarriage. And there are a lot worse ways to celebrate Women’s History Month than by making it harder for employers to fire people, or force them to quit, because they’re pregnant.
- Tell Congress it’s about time to pass a bill requiring paid sick leave too.
2. Phonebank and Textbank for Bernie. I’m all in for Bernie. He’s far and away better than Biden and Trump on climate justice, reproductive justice, healthcare, war, racial justice, immigration, and the criminal legal system. Votes for him are votes that could save a LOT of lives. If you check out his campaign page, you’ll find that there are a lot of different ways to volunteer without leaving your own home, including hosting virtual events, texting people and making calls.
3. Join the Digital Climate Strike. People often denigrate online activism, but that’s ableist bullshit. It can be powerful stuff. On September 20, 2020 people around the world will walk out of jobs and school to demand action for climate justice. But you don’t need to join an in-person gathering to join in. If you run a web site or blog, you can shut it down for the day or add a banner for the Digital Climate Strike. You can spread the word about the climate strike on social media. You can add a climate strike overlay to your profile pictures. And you can join in demanding that global leaders take bold action for a just transition. Learn more and get tools to do all those things at the Digital Climate Strike site.
4. Connect. Isolation is bad for people. I mean, seriously bad. Those of us already inclined to depression or other types of extreme mental states are vulnerable to things getting a lot worse. People who have never experienced madness before may start experiencing it. Without contact with other people, those who suddenly fall sick or get injured are also less likely to get help. Those vulnerable to violence from someone where we live–whether that’s a significant other, parent, roommate, landlord, prison guard, or someone else–are that much more vulnerable when always in that place, away from witnesses and possible help.
Connecting can help people stay safer. It can literally save lives. It is also a profoundly important political act. You can become pen pals with someone who’s incarcerated, and maybe in solitary confinement, today. If you’ve decided to spend less time with people in person, set up dates for video calls, send texts, write cards, etc. Even playing games together online is something. If someone you reach out to doesn’t get back to you, reach out again. Do whatever you can to maintain, broaden, and deepen social connections. This piece has some beautiful advice on having sexy fun during “social distancing.” This piece talks about living fully while navigating fear and illness.
And as (more) people near us start to fall sick(er), I think we also need to be generous with care. Some of us have good support networks of people who could and would care for us if we were sick. Some don’t. To the extent we can, we should be checking on neighbors as the illness spreads, and helping each other out with cooking, cleaning, and company–all of those most vital forms of care work. Some of it can be done even without any direct physical contact–we can leave a home-cooked meal at someone’s door, let them know it’s there, and leave before they pick it up. We can get through this, but we need each other to do it. Many mutual aid networks are springing up–here’s one for NYC.
5. Make a plan to vote. In many states (not NY, unfortunately), it is possible to get an absentee ballot for any reason. Some states also have vote by mail and online voting options. Some have early in-person voting options, which can help break up the crowds. If you have a primary (or other) election coming up, learn what the options are in your state, and make a plan for how you will vote.
6. Volunteer. Even if you cannot or choose not to go to public places with other people, you can often volunteer from home. Some places need volunteers to do transcription, translation, data entry, or letter writing, for example. Some are looking for people who can lead webinars to educate folks about different topics. Check out some local groups, and see what they need.
7. Create. Arts and crafts can be life-affirming and very political. If you end up with more alone time on your hands than usual, consider whether you can use that time to paint, write, sculpt, knit, build, embroider, make, or design something, and find a way to share it.
8. Organize accessibly. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–pay attention to the genius of mad, sick and disabled people who have been doing multimodal, accessible organizing and activism for centuries. And talk with other organizers about how to adapt to changing conditions.
9. Share money if you have it. One way to make change is to fund the people making it; there are tons of great organizations to give to. And also, in this moment, it’s perhaps especially important that we give money directly to people who need it. Some of us can work from home without losing income or job security. For many in low-wage, gig, or underground economies, that isn’t true. When universities close student housing, some students become homeless. Many small business owners are facing real loss of income right now too. Keep an ear out for folks who need help and be as generous as you can. For a few general ideas, here’s a way to donate money for autistic people of color in crisis. #SettlerSaturday collects info from Native folks accepting rent payments. The Okra Project pays Black trans chefs to cook for Black trans people facing food insecurity. And you can also donate money to be used as emergency funds for sex workers. Also, any bail fund is a GREAT place to give money right now–getting and keeping people out may save more lives than usual in this moment. Abortion funds need support too. And this thread shares some info on supporting independent bookstores without going there in person.