I’m a US-American living in Italy. One of my best friends here is an ICU nurse. We’re not one of the most-effected regions, but still a lot of people are dying—mortality rate in Italy is between 5-7% and there are over 500 cases in my tiny region alongside 40 deaths. Each day, authorities send trucks around fixed with loudspeakers telling people to stay inside or face serious penalties. There are no buses on the roads, no planes overhead, nor people on the streets. I haven’t left the house for over 7 days.
Let me be clear, I feel FAR safer here than I would in the United States (in fact, little over a week ago I had the choice to go “home” to Italy or “home” to the US from London: I chose Italy). My days are filled with worry not for what will happen here, but for what will happen back home. I do not believe Italian authorities have “made mistakes” that others didn’t (Italy was the first European country to institute strong quarantine measures), “acted too slow”, or “are leaving people to die”. To the contrary, the response here has been as fast and effective as possible considering the circumstances. Despite the severity of the outbreak, we have testing, we have care. We have supermarkets fully stocked with fruits, veggies, soap, and, yes, plenty of toilet paper. People here are not losing their jobs—stores and cafes are simply just shutting down for awhile. I’m not saying it’s perfect (prisoners are still in prison), but the overall atmosphere is calm.
Still, I see US and UK media, politicians, and individuals lamenting Italy as a cautionary tale to avoid. Don’t let them fool you. If/when my husband gets laid off—we will have months of unemployment coverage. If/when someone in our family gets sick—we will have full, 100% free care. Nobody here is hording, peddling snake oil, or trying to convince their followers that the virus is a hoax cooked up by the opposition party.
Hundreds of Italians are dying by the day, but we are not letting this catastrophe tear society apart. USA, on the other hand, appears to be plummeting down an abyss of it’s (our) own making. Trump fascists are rapidly outflanking Biden neocons, dangling paltry thousand dollar checks in front of desperate people in exchange for a “loyalty” such as to stop the next election. In the UK, until just a couple dozen hours ago, it was official state policy to simply let the vulnerable die while everyone else takes the infected tube to work.
To my friends and comrades in the USA, UK, and countries modeled after their systems—you need to go big or go home. This is the time to call for revolution—and I don’t mean a Bernie Sanders “political revolution” because sadly boomer democrats already quashed that by deciding their own cultural and political hegemony was more important than the lives of their children. I mean a serious, fundamental change in the society’s dynamics of power so that local governments are seized, empowered, and democratized by free, radical citizens, regardless of their migration history. Every minute, I hope to God there isn’t another outbreak of the severity experienced in Italy (perhaps the virus has mutated here, who knows?). But for that to be avoided, people need to pull their heads out of the sand and realize just how dangerous the situation is.
There appear to be loads of mutual aid networks forming right now in the US—here’s a link: https://docs.google.com/…/d1uP49OQGhosfBN4BOYQvyy_Mu3mpCSOY…
There are also many reasons to be hopeful about the social changes possible during the coming period, but we must have courage. Remember: it’s not “social distancing”, it’s PHYSICAL distancing and social solidarity.