This reflection was submitted by a rank-and-file CTU educator who wishes to remain anonymous.
We are living through an uncertain and unprecedented situation with the present COVID 19 Pandemic. As the rapid changes unfold, as I work to calm and prepare my students, as I watch the news, I am struck by the realization that many in the United States may have never experienced a large scale crisis and crisis response at this level. As a Palestinian refugee and an immigrant, I’ve lived in refugee camps, lived through state violence/war, crossed Israeli military check points, lived in U.S.-backed police states, and experienced martial law and limited movement. Yet, I have not experienced anything as rapidly developing and strange as the experience we are living right now.
So, as in our human nature, I am attempting to relate my current lived experience with the memories of my past. My earliest memories are of running through crowded Palestinian refugee camps on the shores of Lebanon. My earliest memories are of water and electricity being cut off on a regular basis, and the smell of the candle I used to do my homework in the dark. My earliest memory is having to travel miles to access basic health care. My earliest memories are also of community organizing, community response initiatives, and creativity in collective power.
I am attempting to reconcile my past experiences of living in trauma and crisis with our current collective experience, and while we’ve witnessed people reaching over one another for canned and paper goods, my mind is filled with my family in the refugee camps in Lebanon and with my people in Palestine. Their lives already weighted with crippling sanctions – like the 13 year siege on Gaza, limitations on mobility – like the Apartheid road system in the West Bank, and the desperate lack of access to basic resources like water, health care, and electricity – like the refugee camps across the Middle East.
If I can share anything from my experiences it is that in times of crisis, historical knowledge and a global perspective is key. Preparedness is everything. Preparedness, from the lens of my experience, is not limited to our homes, immediate family, and tangible food rations. It also means preparing to challenge those who seek to benefit from the hardships and struggles of ordinary people. We must prepare for them to attempt to push us further apart from each other as we voice our collective will for a fairer and more just system, not just in this crisis but in our daily lives beyond.
Instead of waiting to be reactive, we must be prepared and ready to be the ones to push for a space of radical imagination and community. We must ensure that this is a time where we push for systems-level change to address the now extreme and glaring intentional dispossession and disinvestment in our communities. We must remember that we are part of a global solidarity effort that reaches past this moment into the echoes of U.S. policy here and abroad.
Let us not allow and leave room for chaos, but rather let us build together, and care for one another.