Thinking about Pandemic Time and Space

Alejandro Wolbert Pérez

I used Vine Deloria, Jr.’s essay, “Thinking in Time and Space,” from God is Red (1973) as a reference to inform my thinking around space, time, and our relationships with one another. As I have said elsewhere, the global pandemic brought upon through the mishandling and (in what is presently the United States) inept management of any sort of competent response is, to me, a metaphor for late capitalism and the failings of the neolibral state. The crisis we are all experiencing right now, in one form or another, has laid bare already-existing national and global inequalities across so many levels of society. In the states we are witness to the real dangers of a lack of a cohesive, national healthcare system, through access to resources (testing, protective equipment, medical care) and across the communities and areas most affected (Black/brown folks, those who are incarcerated or in detention centers, the unhoused). At the same time, the president and his acolytes have called for states to “open up.” In several states and localities, including where my parents live in Texas, it seems like things are going back to business as usual, no matter the dangers. And just yesterday (April 30, 2020) armed protestors in Michigan, my home state, stormed the capitol building in Lansing demanding an end to the restrictions. Let’s call them terrorists, and recognize how their investment in white supremacy not only motivates their presence–witness the confederate flag on display–but also shields them from the violent response of the state so often applied to collective movements for equality and restitution.  In California, where I now live, we have been asked to shelter-in-place, and for those of us with the privilege and ability, to work from home, unless we are essential workers. Where is the compensation or even safeguards for those “essential workers” who are literally risking their lives right now?  We are practicing social distancing, which, again, to me speaks of late capitalism and a neoliberal desire to reduce all of us to individual units, on our own, always in competition. What about community-building and collaboration, mutual aid and solidarity? If we are no longer able to recognize the physical distance between us then what is left?