Illustration by Mary Kate McDevitt via Curbed.
The American state is deteriotating.
Eighteen people were killed in the last two weeks from two separate mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado. There has been an enormous uproar for stricter gun control in the United States.
The same uproar happened when 17 people were murdered in the Stoneman Douglass School Shooting in 2018.
The same uproar happened when 26 people, 20 of which were children, were murdered at the Sandy Hook School Shooting in 2012.
After every single mass shooting in this country, there is always a call for stricter gun control.
Will we get the regulation of gun sales after the two shootings this month?
I don’t think there’s a chance at all. It’s not even remotely surprising.
In a 2019 poll conducted by Gallup, it was reported that 1 out of 4 Americans have delayed seeking medical treatment for a serious illness due to medical costs. For less serious illnesses, another 8% reported they chose not to seek help due to medical costs as well. This brought the percentage to 33%, 33% of people in 2019 delayed medical treatment due to its costs.
Statistics like these are incredibly alarming.
They show us just how terrible the American private health insurance system can be. In September 2020, a Pew Research survey found that 63% of adults believe that the government should provide healthcare for all. That number has consistently risen within the last decade.
Yet, a plan for free healthcare, Medicare For All, has died in the committee on numerous occasions. But it’s not just republicans who oppose Medicare For All, there are many democrats who are against it, such as our current president, Joe Biden, and Speaker of The House Of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.
Biden has reiterated repeatedly that he wants to improve on the Affordable Care Act, which just isn’t enough.
Millions of Americans lost their jobs and continue to as we deal with COVID-19. That also means millions are losing their valuable health insurance.
I believe free healthcare from the government is a right; simply expanding the chance for healthcare is not enough.
The saddest part is that laws for stricter gun control, Medicare For All probably won’t pass anytime soon.
More people are going to die from gun violence, and more people are going to refuse medical assistance because healthcare is ridiculously expensive in the United States.
During Donald Trump’s administration, he was heavily criticized for his inhumane treatment of immigrants and overall immigration policy. Trump’s migrant facilities notoriously locked children up in cages and it was a point to target for Biden’s campaign. Biden also vowed to reverse Trump’s handling of immigration.
The Line Between Democrats and Republicans
Yet, two months into his presidency, the Biden administration continues to refuse outsider access to his migrant facilities, even after pressure from the public and immigration lawyers.
Biden admin operative cites "dignity & respect" as excuse to block the American people from seeing migrants warehoused in Donna, TX. pic.twitter.com/gb8GsrKmcv— Danny Hellman (@dannyhellman) March 28, 2021
The small number of photos and footage that has come out of Biden’s migrant facilities shows children sleeping on mats on the floor, with foil blankets, tightly packed, in jail like facilities, not too far from the images from the Trump era.
I think we all knew that the Republican Party is in no way, shape, or form, champions of human rights, but I thought the Democrats, like Joe Biden were?
I thought the Democrats were supposed to treat people humanely and with dignity, but Biden’s migrant facilities are the complete opposite of that.
If the Democrats are such believers in human rights and equality, why is Biden still bombing Syria when he vowed to end “forever wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East?”
It is nonsense to defend this bombing as a warning to Iran to “be careful,” like Biden said. The United States has already killed more than 244,000 civilians during these wars in the Middle East following 9/11, according to a 2018 report by Brown University.
These bombings aren’t about sending messages, it’s about continuing America’s ruthless imperialist agenda that continues to take thousands of lives around the world. It’s the same imperialism that both democrats and republicans have engaged in; both parties have gallons of blood on their hands.
Take former president, Barack Obama, a Democrat, for example.
His reign as president was one that fully embraced drone strikes in the Middle East. By the end of his 563 drone strikes, hundreds of civilians had been killed, ranging between 384 and 807, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
One of the drone strikes took place on Dec. 12, 2013; four missiles were fired onto a convoy of 11 vehicles, killing 12 men and injuring 21 others.
The U.S. told the media that this was a justified attack on militants, but it was later revealed by members of the community and human rights groups that this was a convoy for a wedding procession, full of civilians.
This cannot be excused as just a “mistake” by the U.S. military because things like this happen all the time.
No matter if it’s a Republican or Democrat, it’s still always going to be the same American imperialism.
Still, I do think it is worth noting that I appreciate the efforts of the left wing of the democratic party. I would be lying if I said that I did not support many of the policies of Alexandria Oscasio Cortez, Bernie Sanders, Cori Bush, Illhan Omar and others.
They meet the needs of the American people far more than moderate Democrats: supporting Medicare For All, a $15 minimum wage, and the expansion of voting rights, among others.
I’m a supporter of the left-wing of the Democratic party without a doubt, but even they don’t go as far as I’d like.
I believe the working class deserves better than what left wing Democrats have to offer, in fact, I believe we can imagine a future beyond capitalism.
I believe we deserve a country where corporate interests don’t influence the law and use our politicians as puppets. The massive lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association, for example, is one of the reasons why it’s so hard to pass gun legislation in America even after 19,223 people were killed by gun violence last year, according to NPR.
Of course pharmaceutical companies are not going to support Medicare for All, which eliminates their chances of charging whatever they want for pharmaceuticals. As a result, they pour millions of dollars into lobbying politicians to vote against it.
Now more than ever, it is clear to me that there is not much of a difference between the Democrats and Republicans in America.
While the Democrats may seem to favor human rights more than the Republicans, they have failed to deliver the type of change that could transform our society and lift millions out of suffering.
This whole two-party system is a facade. Neither party has the average person’s interests in mind. It’s about what benefits the billionaire corporations the most; it’s about serving the wealthy elite and leaving everyone else behind.
It’s not surprising that during this past year of COVID-19, where millions of people became unemployed, thousands of people died and millions were at risk of eviction, that the billionaires in the United States gained about 1.3 trillion since March of last year, according to inequality.org.
It doesn’t surprise me because this is just how our capitalist system is supposed to be working — the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer.
For far too long, our government has failed to vastly improve our material conditions. While people of other countries have enjoyed monthly government payments to help deal with COVID-19, the U.S. has only issued three direct payments.
It really makes me think, are we really the best country in the world?
If we cannot depend on our elected officials to deliver change that is going to benefit the overwhelming majority of this country, it is self-explanatory that the people may have to take matters into their own hands.
All massive changes in the history of America have started with everyday people banding together for a cause that they believe in. It does not start with the government. In the push for civil rights for Black people in the ’60s, change came to be with grassroots organizing.
The same can be applied to the changes that we want today. Since we cannot depend on our government, we have to depend on each other.
Mutual Aid, What Is It?
One of the most effective ways to organize your community and eventually build power as people is to engage in what is known as mutual aid.
Mutual aid can be defined as a network of people working together to meet the needs and improve the conditions of the community. While it may be confused with charity or community service, it is different because mutual aid focuses on the root of community problems, rather than their symptoms.
This type of direct action forms long-lasting solidarity with those in need, rather than a one and done deal that other forms of help may offer.
Mutual aid also does not only apply when a natural disaster happens or during a crisis, it offers constant help regardless, recognizing that our communities are in a constant struggle.
While charity is indeed a viable option to help those in need, people may be more interested in writing off charities for their taxes instead of actually showing solidarity.
Take billionaires like Jeff Bezos, someone who consistently advertises his donations, which are always a minuscule percentage of his wealth.
It can make you wonder: does Bezos really care? Or is he only doing this to help his public image?
In contrast, there are no strings attached when it comes to mutual aid. It comes out of your own time and service, you can directly help others without any incentive other than your solidarity with those in need.
Mutual aid can come in a myriad of ways.
Take the Marmion Safe Haven Temporary Shelter as an example, which provides chronically homeless people with temporary housing in New York. Their system is simple — providing housing to those who need it, unlike city run homeless shelters which often have requirements such as established sobriety.
Clients are provided primary care services, meetings with psychiatrists, laundry, meals, overdose prevention services and more. Additionally, the rooms at the Marimon Safe Haven are much less crowded compared to city shelters. There’s, at most, five people in one room.
The Trans Needle Exchange (TNE) is a service that provides transgender people with hormone replacement therapy to transgender people who cannot afford it. This nonprofit, ran by a transgender person named Oliver, sends out over 150 packages a month throughout the United States with sterile syringes, bandages, alcohol pads, filters and more.
TNE also provides harm reduction supplies, such as menstrual and sexual health products. People can fill out a submission form, and TNE tries to get the necessary supplies out, free of charge.
Invisible Hands is a New York based delivery service that handles groceries, medications and other necessities. It started off last year in response to COVID-19, initially bringing together less than 30 volunteers. Today, Invisible Hands has brought an astonishing 10,000 people to its cause.
The system of delivery is simple: a person in need requests a delivery form and is eventually linked with a local volunteer, who picks up and drops off the necessities free of charge.
This, just like the other organizations mentioned, are consistent efforts of direct action. Simply, they provide what people in their community need.
One of the most famous examples of mutual aid is the Free Breakfast for Children Program of the Black Panthers. The Panthers took notice that poor black children often could not learn to the best of their ability because of poverty and hunger, so they took it upon themselves to feed the children.
They served free breakfast and lunch daily, also intaking donations from other organizations within the community like churches and other businesses.
This program spread all around the Black Panther chapters across America, eventually reaching 36 cities by 1971. In 1969, 20,000 children were fed across America through this program.
It was admitted during a 1969 U.S. Senate hearing in California, that the Panthers did a better job of feeding poor children than the state did.
The Black Panthers breakfast program is a prime example of just how mutual aid can benefit communities. They took notice that the government was not doing their job to adequately educate, feed and house Black people in America, so they did it themselves.
How to Engage in Mutual Aid
In the midst of a global pandemic, some may be hesitant to engage in mutual aid in person.
One of the most helpful ways you can support and be involved is directly donating and providing supplies to mutual aid organizations to ensure they keep running.
But if you are willing to participate in person, it will take some researching to do so. There is no central place to find mutual aid networks, therefore you have to find them yourselves.
This means looking into local news, googling about mutual aid efforts in your area and following mutual aid networks on social media.
In various cities across the country, it is possible to find sites dedicated to highlighting mutual aid efforts and their services.
You may even be interested in starting your own mutual aid network for your community if you can’t find the services right for you.
We Are in a Constant Struggle Together
At the foundation of mutual aid, it is simply about uniting against a constant struggle. Whether that struggle is poverty, workplace safety, lack of healthcare, or anything else, the people have to come together to address them.
The government continues to fail to address our needs, and in fact it should be clear by now that they are not serving us, but rather the wealthy elite.
We are only left to be dependent on each other.
With mutual aid, comes solidarity, which can eventually become the development of class consciousness.
Class consciousness can be defined as awareness of one’s place in a system of social class, especially as it relates to class struggle.
One of the saddest parts about American culture is that we put so much focus on the individual rather than the group. American culture is all about hyper individualism, competition and doing everything on your own and to serve yourself.
Too often when people see a homeless person on the street, they begin to condemn the individual and say something like “just get a job” or “they need to work harder.” I think this is a direct result of the individualistic mindset that is so unique to Americans.
It is much more productive to think about why they are homeless in the first place and the capitalist system that enables it, instead of thinking about what they could do better.
Mutual aid, along with the development of class consciousness, allows us as a society to think of each other — the working class — as one.
In the struggle against the continually failing and oppressive government of America, it is an absolute necessity for us to look at each other as allies, rather than enemies.
I do not see a bright future for the material conditions of the everyday people in the United States, especially for all oppressed groups, including people of color, the LGTBQ+ community, disabled people, undocumented immigrants and many more.
Mutual aid is only one of the first steps to imagining a future completely different from what we have today. What’s disappointing is that many people have accepted the poor conditions of America, like having the largest prison population in the world, predatory health and pharmaceutical companies and mass shootings every other week.
I believe it’s possible to move forward and think about how we can change for the better. When dealing with structural problems like the poor conditions that means we may have to deal with and dismantle the structure that enables many of our problems — capitalism.
To do so, mutual aid is necessary.