What do we do next?

Many veterans of the Black Panther Party have remained friends for life. That was very much the case with Aaron Dixon, left, and his close friend, the late, fabled Elbert “Big Man” Howard, relaxing here in the home of Big Man and his wife, Carole Hyams-Howard, who took this classic picture.

by Aaron Dixon

One morning we wake up and find ourselves in the middle of something that is killing people worldwide. It feels so strange, so unbelievable. Many of us are in shock, angry and depressed.

This pandemic has interrupted our lives in so many ways. If you live a hundred years, you are going to experience something that will disrupt the world. Like world wars or natural catastrophes or pandemics. Or international slavery or international colonizing.

We don’t have a perfect world by any stretch of the imagination. We could and we should, but such is the way of the human mind. 

Most of the dramatic interruptions are usually the cause of humanity. Something we did over time or something we didn’t do, something we ignored and refused to confront.

Many of the great catastrophes should have caused a shift in the conscience of humanity. Some have, but the shifts were not permanent or long-lasting enough to move us in the direction of creating a peaceful, loving, sustainable world.

After the Vietnam War, there was a slight shift in conscience that said very clearly: No more war. But that did not last very long; 10 years later we were back, preparing for a bunch of mini wars and big wars. 

After the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, our thinking shifted to understanding the need for our government to provide jobs, food, housing and safety nets for all Americans. This shift in ideals lasted 40 years.

Over the last 30 years we have seen America become one of the wealthiest countries in the world. A world with hundreds of billionaires and millionaires. 

In the process we have seen a demise of our culture to the lowest it has ever been, perhaps in the history of America. We have become so narcissistic, greedy and selfish that we have allowed our country to imprison almost two and a half million people, most of whom are Black and Latino. 

In this growth of wealth, we have seen the growth of poverty and, worst of all, unimaginable homelessness. Los Angeles has the second-largest homeless encampment in the world. New York City has almost 70,000 homeless. And in many cities across America, people are sleeping in tents or cardboard housing or under freeways. 

Where did our compassion and rage go over the last 30 years? It seems to have disappeared down the shit hole of selfishness.

Millions of kids go to bed hungry. Millions of Americans are without health care or sick leave. 

But how could this be if we are one of the richest countries in the world? This great disparity has become crystal clear as this pandemic moves forward. And not just in America but throughout the world. 

We recently just ended a 19-year war in Afghanistan that recklessly killed thousands of civilians, women and children. Which added Afghan refugees to the mass of refugees from Iraq and Libya. Which is a result of war or military interventions and mass bombings. Not to mention the billions of taxpayer dollars that were wasted on these stupid wars.

This pandemic has hopefully awakened us to fight to end all wars and military operations. And to make sure that the wealth of the US should be spread out so that every human being, every family, has a decent home to live in, the best in education and free medical care.

This should be our shift as human beings: to create a safe, beautiful world for everyone. Not this ugly, selfish world that we have now.

This pandemic has forced us to not do what we recklessly do far too much, and that is driving and polluting the air and waterways. And we consume and buy more than what we need without thought for others. 

We board cruise ships that overpopulate the oceans, polluting and killing sea life as we go along. And at every stop, we’re leaving destroyed environments as we drunkenly party on to the next destination to destroy some more. 

Millions of Americans have acted horribly during this dramatic state of emergency, hoarding food and toilet paper, fighting over bleach and paper towels, standing in lines to buy guns as if somehow guns were going to protect us from the virus.

The pandemic has given us cleaner air, cleaner lakes and rivers, quiet streets. And more time with our kids and families. And most importantly, time to contemplate, which we seem to never have. 

So what will we do when this crisis is all over? And will it end just as all things usually end? 

Will we have that shift that the world is so hungry for? Or are we just going to continue on in a dizzy stupor, unwilling to stand up. Unwilling to demand and fight for change. 

Where did our compassion and rage go over the last 30 years? It seems to have disappeared down the shit hole of selfishness.

Aaron Dixon is the cofounder and captain of the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party. In 2006, Aaron ran for the United States Senate in Washington state on the Green Party ticket. He is an educator, activist and the author of “My People Are Rising: Memoir of a Black Panther Party Captain” with a second book soon to be released. He can be reached at aarondixon1@comcast.net.