Even in despair, I try to find hope. And it was during one of those brief and fleeting moments when I learned that for the first time since the COVID-19 global pandemic, San Francisco General Hospital reported zero coronavirus hospitalizations. The communal effort to reach this milestone cannot be overstated enough.
In a city where our Latino/a/x community—one that is largely working class—was and continues to be disporopotantly impacted by the virus, an incredible debt is owed to our health workers and the good people of organizations such as the Latino Task Force, among others, who have tirelessly dedicated themselves to community service. I think of the beautiful selfless people who volunteer their time at testing, vaccination and food hubs scattered throughout the city, serving people who the city had forgotten about when the shelter-in-place orders took effect nearly 14 months ago.
And now with vaccines being available to children ages 12 and above, it appears that a semblance of “normal” is on the horizon. And while that is something many of us crave, it must not be where we stop.
For more than a year, we have dedicated much of our recent coverage to the pandemic. And as a community newspaper that was founded 50 years ago literally out of struggle and by people who were products of colonization and diaspora, we cannot ignore the plight of people suffering under the rule of a colonial oppressor.
Like many, my mind and heart have been with the people of Palestine and Colombia, where those in power have unleashed the violent might of their military and police against a populace that has grown tired of oppression.
Sound familiar? It should.
Providing a voice for those who don’t have one has been among the guiding lights that has burned brightest for us these last 50 years. Which is why in our latest issue of El Tecolote, we’ve made our stance clear.
And after 11 days of unrelenting airstrikes that left at least 240 Palestinians dead, a ceasefire has been called. While many celebrated this pause of destruction and carnage, the cruel reality is that a return to “normal” for those living in Palestine means a return to living under brutal colonial apartheid rule.
Normal has come to mean the United States supporting Israel with military aid to bomb civilians and journalists in Gaza, while not prioritizing the needs of children here at home. Normal has come to mean the United States supporting right wing Colombian regimes with militarized police aid under the guise of narco trafficking, only for it to be turned against civilians protesting unfair tax reforms. Normal means privileged parents demanding overworked, underpaid and underappreciated educators return to classrooms during a global pandemic without addressing the racist, sexist curriculums that fail so many of our public school students. Normal means increasing local police budgets, but cutting community college programs like ethnic studies and laying off professors.
To address these injustices and inequalities that exist in our world, we must first admit that they are there. That they exist. Only then can we propose solutions. And by doing that, we must think of others.
I am no poet, but I’ve found solace, peace and healing in the works of various artists. So I’ll end here with some words from the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish that resonated with me. Perhaps, they’ll resonate with you too.
As you prepare your breakfast, think of others
Do not forget to feed the pigeons
As you wage your wars, think of others
Do not forget those who fight for peace
As you pay your water bill, think of others, those who are nursed by clouds
As you return home, to your home, think of others
Do not forget the people of the camps
As you sleep and count the stars, think of others, those who have nowhere to sleep
As you liberate yourself with metaphors, think of others, those who have lost the right to speak
As you think of others far away, think of yourself and say “if only I were a candle in the night”