Braids and hearts

Dear President Biden,

The center panel of the above-the-fold section of the online WP this morning holds three stories about Black men who were killed or brutalized by police. From top to bottom they include: 1) the story of Anton Wright, a 19-year old mentally ill young man who died under the weight of three police officers and possibly one civilian, but whose death was ruled a tragedy related to his mental illness by the former Maryland medical examiner giving testimony today in the Chauvin trial as a defense witness; 2) updates on the Chauvin trial, and 3) the incident involving the two police officers who pulled over Caron Nazario because they allegedly didn’t see the temporary plate on his new car and proceeded to threaten, pepper spray, and otherwise brutalize him.

If we were to think of the three columns of the paper as strands of a braid, this central one would be crossed from the left by stories about the shitty issues with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, another about how the world is struggling to roll out vaccines, and one about how a mass shooter’s phone was unlocked. The column/strand that would be coming from the right includes stories about Bernie Maddoff’s death (in prison, which is at least something) and your decision to pull out of Afghanistan, which will likely leave the women and girls there to endure yet another Dark Age.

In many ways if these stories were plaited together into a braid it would look like a tangled mess, but really, it all makes a certain amount of sense, doesn’t it? All these storylines are inter-related; they all stem from man’s insecurities and how they frequently manifest (hmm….) in coercive, violent, deadly expressions of power and control.

I didn’t, however, start out today wanting to write about how stories were arranged above “the fold” in the WP this morning or how oppressions overlap like messed up braids. I started out wanting to tell you about England’s National COVID Memorial Wall that I saw in Colossal last night. It’s about two and a half meters high and 500 meters long and it holds 150,000 little red (and some pink) painted hearts that people have been writing messages in and around to honor their loved ones who died from COVID-19. It’s so sweet and so sad. The article says it takes 10 minutes to walk the length.

According to the world-o-meter website, we are at nearly 580,000 COVID deaths in the US and if we were to have a similar wall of hearts, it would be well over a mile. It would go on and on and on. As I thought about what it would be like if there were a COVID memorial akin to England’s here in the US, the first thing that occurred to me is that it’s highly likely to be tagged with graffiti almost immediately. I’d really like to be wrong about that, but I don’t think I am. I wonder though, if maybe we could have a long, long, long metal wall with hundreds of thousands of hearts (or maybe circles signifying the holes those who died left) cut out of it there in DC with the cut-out shapes made into sculptures for each state where the number of those who died from COVID in each state represented in the respective sculptures. That’s probably a crazy idea, but I think we need something permanent to honor those people and to remind us of how fragile we all are.

I also think we need a monument honoring those killed and/or brutalized by police. Obviously, infuriatingly, such a thing would have to be able to be added onto every year, but seeing a visual representation of it might help us get serious about figuring out ways to stop this horror show that’s been on an endless loop here in the land of the free and the home of the brave for centuries and counting.

May we all be safe.
May we all be free to pursue happiness.
May we all be healthy and strong – and alive.
May we face what we need to face.

Tracy Simpson

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