In this pandemic world of ours, there’s a pattern that couldn’t be grimmer. Odd that more isn’t made of it. The three true Covid-19 disaster zones on Planet Earth — the United States (583,000 dead, 32,000,000 confirmed cases), Brazil (428,000 deaths, 15,000,000 confirmed cases), and more recently India (258,000 deaths, 23,000,000 confirmed cases, figures considered gross undercounts) — were or are still governed by men whose inaction added up to murder. All three were autocrats-in-the-making of a similar mentality, preening self-regard, and, of course, men — the pandemic records of women leaders having been strikingly better. Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, and Narendra Modi are, one might say, birds of a feather (if, that is, you want to insult birds).
Now, Trump is gone, at least to Mar-a-Lago, where he still controls much of the Republican Party and continues to threaten an increasingly threadbare democracy. The other two leaders, however, carry on with their disastrous pandemic behavior, continuing to transform their countries into hellholes; in Bolsonaro’s case, helping spread the disease across Latin America; and, in both cases, possibly providing the perfect conditions for the development of a more vaccine-resistant variant strain of the virus. All three men paid next to no attention to science (though Trump at least fast-tracked vaccines), fought the simplest urge to mask or social distance for safety, held giant maskless super-spreader rallies, promoted bizarre cures for Covid-19, and were clearly responsible for the deaths of staggering numbers of people. As Arundhati Roy recently wrote of Modi (though it applied to all three of them), his actions were nothing short of “a crime against humanity.”
In a sense, the three of them also created the “essential” worker. That’s the polite, even flattering, way we have of describing those who have none of the advantages of Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, or Narendra Modi but, in part thanks to them, have been thrown, often with little in the way of protection, directly in the path of a deadly disease. And as TomDispatch regular and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign Liz Theoharis makes clear today, so many of the victims of those three preening “leaders” were women. Tears, as she says, should be shed in their honor. Tom
The Fierce Prophetic Vision of Poor Women
One hundred and fifty years ago, in the bloody wake of the Civil War, the abolitionist Julia Ward Howe issued a “Mother’s Day Proclamation.” The world, she wrote, could no longer bear such terrible violence and death. She called on women across the country to “rise up through the ashes and devastation” and come together in the cause of peace. Forty years later, her daughter Anna Jarvis created Mother’s Day.
In the midst of another national trauma, with the latest Mother's Day just past, perhaps it's an auspicious moment to celebrate not just mothers, but women more generally. I think about countless women like my mom (who died nearly a year ago) enduring tremendous adversity to make ends meet and care for those they love. During the pandemic, after all, women have found themselves on the front lines in so many ways. They make up more than 75% of healthcare workers, almost 80% of frontline social workers, and more than 70% of government and community-based service workers. Add in one more thing: women have been hit first and worst by the economic crisis that Covid-19 set off, as female-dominated industries like retail, leisure, and hospitality were decimated.Read More