Before a tsunami hits the coastline, all the water recedes. Where there was, minutes ago, ocean, there is suddenly all that it once covered. The muck and debris, crustaceans scuttling and fish gasping for air all briefly exposed before the wave comes with terrifying ferocity.
One week into the first significant efforts to flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, and it feels like we are waiting for the full force of the wave.
As the water recedes, as society is reshaped by physical distancing, as schools close and millions lose their jobs, we can see with startling clarity what may have been previously obscured. A healthcare system designed for profit, not care. Historic levels of wealth inequality, economic insecurity, personal debt, and homelessness. Corruption and profiteering at the highest levels of our democratic institutions. Growing authoritarianism powered by bigotry and xenophobia, paired with incompetence. The costs of unchecked capitalism. Centuries of structural racial inequalities.
These chronic dangers were all present before the pandemic — millions of families have been living with their consequences for years. With incredible urgency, the pandemic has revealed their interconnectedness, as well as our collective ability to solve them.
In the face of the coming wave we can see with new clarity that our fates are intertwined. Even our current physical isolation is an act of social solidarity. We can see that none of us are safe until all of us are safe. None of us are free until all of us are free.
In our Jewish tradition, water is often fundamental to new beginnings: the flood before a reborn world; a baby Moses floats down the Nile to his safety and ultimately the liberation of an entire people; a sea splits, opening the way towards the promised land; new Jews are welcomed into klal yisrael, our peoplehood, through an immersion in the ritual bath. Another world is possible, and this moment is revealing exactly how necessary it is.
We can build it together.