We’re losing breath.
Black lives matter, how could they not. He says I can’t breathe, and my throat closes in sympathy. How have we ignored the numbers stacked against those with darker skins than mine for so long? I think of the campaigns and reports written over the years, of the hundreds of hours of toil and energy to try and bring change. My fear is not that what we are living through has no impact, but that things revert to their usual pattern.
By things: I mean black lives matter, I mean the extra inclusion (for some disabled people) that lockdown has given. I mean the silence and the clean air. I mean the feeling of holding each thing we have as precious and each opportunity as a treasure. I mean living more mindfully and slowly.
But I am afraid black lives matter will remain a hashtag and the protests a few more black people in prison.
I’m afraid the few ways in which society has become more accessible to disabled people will be forgotten, and the barriers to returning to the outside world will increase the barriers we already faced.
And the silence and clean air, it has gradually gone away. The time when we stood still, wasn’t that at all. We were panicking, like ducks on water, the serenity in the blue skies above us not reflecting the storm we faced in trying to keep afloat. Government publishing policy in months that should have taken years, us scrabbling to occupy children, occupy ourselves, fill in the emptiness which our reduced motion revealed.
I see my friends driving to beauty spots to run; I cannot drive.
I see my friends running together; I cannot keep up. Two metres too far for me to be included.
Allowed to form a social bubble? My bubble is far away; in those precious people who taught me about the world and disability and how to be in the earthy world.
The vow to take each thing I have and hold it as precious, seems hollow now too.
In short, we want to escape our physicality. To not be black or white but all leap from the same baseline. None of us hitting the glass ceiling. We don’t want to be disabled, hampered by impediments which mean two metres is too far, or face masks making the world cut off from us. We want what you have and we want it now. Perhaps the blue skies are a sacrifice worth paying for that.
And still the numbers roll on. 41,000. Forty one thousand. Soon to be more. We did not act quickly enough. We thought our bodies, so used to serving us, obeying us, would obey us here, too. Virtual lives and money bought freedom, we forgot our basic humanity is biology. And so we died.
Twenty per cent drop in GDP. What does that mean? Our biology will be found in crumbling buildings, too small houses, roads not fixed, shops filled with obsolete fashion, and us, afraid, because the government messed up. But if we are honest, we messed up too: we didn’t take it seriously. Neither the black lives matter nor the threat of a virus coming to wipe out all that we thought secure. We thought we were safe. We thought we were not racist. But somehow…
The conclusion we hazily walk towards is: if we can’t trust the government, we can’t trust ourselves. We can’t even save our bodies.