Guest Contributor Al Markowitz is a freelance writer, poet, publisher, activist and philosopher. His articles frequently appear in Veer Magazine. He also publishes the Blue Collar Review, Journal of Progressive working Class Literature. More of Al’s writings can be seen on his blog. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Naro Cinema management or staff.

These are certainly the darkest and most ominous of times I’ve lived through. Like many, I have been locked down, living on tinned fish, rice and beans and noodles and drinking more than usual. When I go out, I am masked, gloved and wary of others, It seems everything has changed. As a close friend pointed out, this is as much a plague of the spirit as it is of the body. At the same time, we are seeing an outpouring of generosity as people check on each other, sew masks and give away food. There are tables set up in places like Graydon Avenue, near Colley where neighbors put out cans of food for those that need it. Some even share rolls of that now rare and valuable commodity — toilet paper!

We understand why we as a nation are less able to deal with this crisis than any other modern country on earth. We do not have a public healthcare system. Many of us lack health care coverage. Even if we have it, deductibles and copays aside, our corporatized medical approach treats symptoms rather than causes and relies on over-priced, often toxic medicines and expensive procedures. It is a commodified disease maintenance model designed to rake in profits. And now so many more of us are without basic coverage.

This viral pandemic is only one of the deadly plagues that has infected our country. We continue to suffer the plague of cultivated partisan division. We suffer from a much longer-term disease of racism and the violent suppression of minorities; especially Black people. I have written many essays in this magazine on racism, on racist police violence and on the dangerous rise of armed proto-terrorist hate groups. The attention brought has helped push reforms in local policing policy though much more needs to be done. We still lack a community-based civilian police review board. It is still more likely for Black people to be shot by police than it is for wild animals who would be subdued with drug darts.

The racism and divisions that are tearing our country apart were here long before Trump was appointed president but he has, through steady provocations and ineptitude made our situation far, far worse. From his stubborn resistance to science in handling the spread of COVID 19 to his rolling back of public safety protections and of the CDC defenses against pandemics, to his constant incitement, support and promotion of neo-faschist hate groups, he has been and continues to be a toxic danger and the number one threat to our national security. And I’m no loyal democrat!

This is all a trial run for worse disasters to come, from the horrific destruction made inevitable by the expanding climate catastrophe and the storms we will experience locally to other waves of disease and of possible societal breakdown and civil war.

Given the reality of this moment, we are either witnessing the economic and social collapse of civilization and the rise of brutal fascism inherent in disaster capitalism or the beginning of a new era of progressive fightback as so many find ourselves with no other realistic choice.

So how do we get through this? The protests we are seeing are a beginning. The rising up and standing together of citizens, even amid the dangers of the pandemic and increasingly violent acts of suppression by militarized police at the direct instruction of the president and his attorney general, demonstrate our solidarity against racist violence and against Trump’s destructive actions.

Virginia and our local area are have fared well – avoiding sustained riots and the massive deaths by COVID seen elsewhere, though the numbers of sick continue to grow locally. We have responsible leadership and that saves lives.

It is increasingly obvious that we are now in undeniable need of Medicare for All, a minimum income and the job-creation and climate sanity of a Green New Deal. The time for the Jonestown rule of corporations and billionaires has been unmasked by the multiple pandemics we face and must be swept away by united citizen action to restore the Republic.

Only the committed solidarity of love and community can save us as a nation from rising dictatorship and destruction. The protests around the country and in our area are examples of that. Hate and well earned mistrust can be overcome. Together, as history repeatedly demonstrates, even brutal dictatorships can be overcome when we as citizens stand together in opposition.

Though the situation is too dynamic to make any predictions, this promises to be a long, hot and bloody summer. Let’s do everything we can to be safe, to avoid the worst, to take care of each other and, more importantly, to demand leadership with integrity that puts people first.