Conventional wisdom seems to be that we must not trigger people by discussing radical ideas like universal health care, civil rights for the L.G.B.T.Q. community, reckoning with police violence and the carceral system, protecting women’s bodily autonomy, and of course, student debt forgiveness. Somehow, compromise has come to mean not doing anything to upset anyone who is completely fine with ignoring the most urgent problems of our day.
Here’s the thing about anger. We only seem to prioritize one kind — anger in reaction to progress. And we never seem to acknowledge the anger rising out of oppression, marginalization, and under representation. The end of slavery and desegregation angered lots and lots of people, and so did taxation, suffrage, marriage equality. Progress angers people, but change is not the problem. The rage and resentment are.
People are struggling. The $1,200 stimulus checks have been spent. The additional $600 a week of unemployment funding has run its course. The Paycheck Protection Program has shut its doors. The economy continues to falter because we lack coherent federal leadership, and conditions will only worsen. We are on a precipice, as we have been before and will be again. A lot of political thinkers believe now is the time for moderation, that we are in a boat that must not be rocked.
But now is not the time for half-measures. Now is the time for grand gestures and innovative thinking. Now is the time for remembering the social contract and recommitting to the idea of a unified country where we understand how intimately we are all connected. Now is the time for understanding that empathy is infinite if we allow it to be.
This country has to rise out of the bitter ashes of Donald Trump’s presidency. Student loan forgiveness won’t solve all the problems we are facing, but it will ease a significant burden for tens of millions of people. It will stimulate the lagging economy. And though not everyone will directly benefit, the country as a whole will improve. As a public, we owe a debt to one another — the debt of belonging to a community. It’s time that debt was paid.
Roxane Gay (@rgay) is a contributing Opinion writer.
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