Two themes I've been thinking a lot about these past few months are toxicity and boundaries. They've come up for me as notable ideas this year, mostly because I think the world has shown that a lot of toxic things, ways of being, and entire systems can't be left unchecked without establishing specific boundaries. Covid-19 is spreading as it is in many places around the US, and continuing to infect people across the world (no, the numbers aren't going down in "civilized" places, either). The virus itself is literally toxic in that it's killing tens of thousands and causing potentially life-long damage for those who recover. And remember, a large percentage of these deaths are completely avoidable.
I also see toxicity in how the world is trying to expunge this poison. The world is vomiting everything out, good and bad. Countries are trying to expel foreigners (part of the reason why I’m still in Canada and not sure about going back to the US/Switzerland). The racial uprisings across the US and elsewhere are another example of healing, angry energy that simply had to erupt. I think this could be cleansing, evacuating all of the sickness, but then is the Western world okay with being empty? Probably not. A driving force in our toxic behavior is, of course, the need to consume.
One of the ways boundaries have emerged as important is masks and social distancing regulations. I see these as boundaries and distance influenced by toxicity, but I’m also thinking about the gap between how people are treated versus how they should be treated. People seem to be so ready to transgress the physical boundaries, yet that gap remains difficult to cross.
It's sad that this is a polemic statement, but you should care enough about other people to change your behavior in meaningful ways. This means wearing a mask. This means social distancing. This means donating money to Black people, also and especially Black Disabled people, Black Trans people and other marginalized folks within the Black community. This also means making space for them in ways that might make your life more difficult.
Bob the drag Queen, in a poignant discussion with Lucy Stoole about the wave of Black Queer town hall meetings that have been happening across the country, pointed out that in order for Black folks to gain people it means that White people have to lose power. Point blank periodt. That makes a lot of folks uncomfortable, but this is truly what restorative justice looks like. A lot of privileged people are going to have to give up privilege, which, to them might feel like oppression. It is not a coincidence that Karen and her friends are claiming oppression, when asked to engage in the slight inconvenience of wearing a mask in public.
I’m not really sure where these thoughts are going. If I were a better academic, I’d try to write an actual paper about this. For now, I suppose I’m just satisfied with having written this much.