As we all work to navigate our collective experiences of the coronavirus, we’re trying to learn what’s available to us along the way. We are curious about how our systems, services and organizations may be permanently changed after the virus has run its course. We certainly didn’t ask for this, and we mourn the hardships and loss that all of us are facing, but we’ll take any lessons that we can as we continue to pursue our vision of an equitable world free from violence.
Much of our work in pursuit of that vision has focused on promoting safe, stable and nurturing communities where all people feel connected and supported. Though it may sound like notes from the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disney World (which isn’t a bad thing), we do it because it makes strategic sense. We don’t think that violence works in communities characterized by connectedness and support because people feel little motivation to exercise power over others when their needs are met, and because where we feel our mutual responsibility to one another, we can model respectful behaviors and hold one another accountable for the harms that we cause.
In the 2020 legislative session, ICADV advocated for public policies and investments that could contribute to safety, stability and nurturance across Indiana communities. Our public policy platform included advocacy for economic stability and supportive working conditions through things like paid family leave and workplace pregnancy accommodations. We sought a cap on payday lending interest rates to prevent the ballooning interest rates and fees that disproportionately impact the lowest wage earners. We championed housing stability through advocating for increased investment in affordable housing and protections for renters.
Policies like these that sought to increase economic stability and connectedness were mostly non-starters at the Indiana General Assembly during this session, but have now gained wide, bi-partisan support at the federal level in the face of the coronavirus. What a difference a month has made.
While we celebrate this development and thank our Indiana Congressional delegation for supporting the investment, we find ourselves wondering what’s different. Why does it make sense to invest in our communities and neighbors this month, when it didn’t last month?
Is it just that our shared vulnerability to the coronavirus rendered all of us worthy and deserving of our public investment? We were able to ignore our neighbors who needed social safety net supports in February because we allowed ourselves to believe that their problems were their fault? The comfortable distance created by that judgment enabled our inaction. COVID has confronted us with the truth of our vulnerability and reliance on one another.
The truth is that investments that support economic stability (including social safety net programs) and social connectedness are good for our health and wellbeing every day. We hope that after we carry one another through this pandemic, that we will have the courage and compassion to remember these lessons. Ultimately, we are all vulnerable to a range of adversities, all of the time, and the human tendency to judgment that separates us, is bad for us. We all need each other, and choosing to invest in that need, as a society, supports our physical, mental and social health during the times when many of us are thriving, as well as during the times when many of us are fearful.