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Why did it take a pandemic to make the “impossible” possible?

There are so many reasons to despair in the present moment, but there is something that has happened in the last four months that gets me excited and a little giddy.

Over and over again, we are watching the impossible become possible!

Last fall, Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang was proposing the radical idea of Universal Basic Income, and it sounded preposterous. Four months ago, environmentalists suggesting people should fly less were zealots living in a fantasy land. One month ago, African Americans who have been demanding, pleading and protesting for justice were still being told by the media and society that police violence against Black people is the problem of a few “bad apples.”

But low and behold! In a few short months, millions of Americans were efficiently given $1200 from the federal government, passenger traffic on airplanes in America is down 94%, and police departments across the US have adopted new rules and policies for how their officers conduct themselves.

The unimaginable is suddenly a reality.

What the pandemic is revealing (among other things) is that it’s not that things are impossible, there just is not the will to make it possible. It’s the difference between “can we” verses “we will.”

For instance, it’s possible for me to go vegan, but I don’t have enough reasons to nor do I want to. (Vegans, please don’t send me hate mail.)

To be fair, these drastic measures were not without negative consequences. Grounding 50 percent of American airplanes has been economically catastrophic for the airline industry. Millions of dollars of the economic relief fund were sent to deceased taxpayers. The rush to pass policies in police departments has created animosity that could slow more substantial and systematic changes.

But to argue that these things are IMPOSSIBLE is no longer a valid argument. With that stumbling block out of the way, let the negotiations begin!

In an interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air, MacArthur Fellowship recipient and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Nikole Hannah-Jones makes the case for why America owes reparations to African Americans. When asked about how we go about the logistic of reparations, Jones responded, “If we can put a man on the moon, we can figure out the calculus on how to do reparations for African Americans.”

What Jones understands, and what many of us are starting to learn, is that the biggest and most daunting step to major change is the simple will to do it.

Reparation is possible. There just hasn’t been any political, cultural or societal will to do it. The Equal Rights Amendment that would finally grant woman legal equality is written and ready to be voted on, there just is enough people (men) to vote for it.

For better or worse, the pandemic has created a new will to do things differently. Working remotely. Telemedicine. Virtual learning. Curbside pick-up. Reassessing household roles. These all have been proven possible.

For those of us privileged enough to be healthy, able, and working, let’s continue to see what new impossibilities we can upend.

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