“Get vaccinated,” President Joe Biden said in a kind of tough love, aggressive whisper, as he ended his speech on Thursday.
It’s the speech that could get us over this nasty Covid surge gripping the nation. All the numbers from new cases, to hospitalizations, to deaths, show America still hasn’t learned to come together as a country to fight this thing.
“We have the tools,” Biden said. “Now we just have to finish the job with truth, with science, with confidence.”
I wonder if he knows regular Asian Americans have been part of the tools fighting the war on Covid.
For the last three months, Filipino Americans, part of the Little Manila Rising community non-profit in Stockton, California, have been involved in a door-to-door get out the vaccine drive. They’re not just doing it in Stockton’s Filipino neighborhood. They’re covering a big part of the city of 300,000, one of the most diverse in the country.
It includes Latinx folks, some documented, some not, some Dreamers, distrustful of government. There are Asians of all stripes, not just the big three (Chinese, Indian, and Filipino), but Cambodian, Laotian, Hmong, Vietnamese. More often they need translators to make their vaccine choice.
The Little Manila Rising canvassers also meet the anti-vaxxers, mostly white, who are just resentful. Science? Don’t tell me what to do, they say.
One even pulled a gun, said Amy Portello-Nelson, Little Manila Rising’s project manager.
This is America now, in the throes of Covid.
But Little Manila Rising is making a difference. Canvassers have knocked on more than 32,000 doors and had 20,000 conversations. All masked and armed with good information about the virus and the vaccine.
Since they started in the summer, their canvassed areas have seen vaccination rates go from 30 percent to more than 50 percent. It’s still among the lowest in the state.
But the group at Little Manila Rising, which includes some Filipino nurses, are committed to public health.
That’s the fight in the red part of the blue state, the most Asian American state in the nation.
We’re doing our part in the war on Covid. But Vax Americana is not easy.
AMERICA’S POLITICAL HUMP
I’m still bothered that a gun was pulled on a Little Manila Rising Canvasser. It shows we’re really at war in our own divided country.
A New America Foundation fellow recently suggested it was time to get out of the gridlocked binary yes/no political mindset by adding more parties. Instead of a two party system, why not six?
It may provide for more nuance, voices, and room for negotiation. But then you have six cats to herd instead of two. Is that better?
In the Philippines, the democracy made in its colonizer’s image (the U.S.), there’s a semi-dysfunctional democracy with five major parties, and maybe another five more smaller parties represented in Congress.
From my sense, it all boils down to the person, the candidate. The party loses its identity. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is an alleged human rights abuser. I don’t know his party.
Even in America, look at how all the Republicans folded under Trump. Poor Liz Cheney knows there’s no room for nuance.
The rules of basic math suggest why things are the way they are. Think fractions. To add them up, you look for the common denominator. Get to the simplest form. 6/12ths may get you a sense of nuance. But it’s still just 1/2.
Having just two parties instead of six is easier.
But maybe six is worth a shot.
Mr. Math, Andrew Yang, the presidential candidate turned mayoral candidate, is willing to try.
Yang has just announced he’s done with the Democrats and is starting his own “third” party, Politico reported on Thursday.
Even though there are “third” parties like the Green, Peace and Freedom, and Social Democrats, that exist in some form, it could become a thing.
Then again, it could just be a way to keep Yang in public view. He’s the man who loves to campaign, but can he run anything?
Asian Americans know instinctively how a multi-party universe could work. We’re just six percent of the country. To get anything done, we need to work in coalition. Does going from two to six parties make that easier when the number we really need to get to is “one”?
As in “one nation.”
And that brings us to the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the last time I really felt the nation was “one.”
I admit to being baffled by the contrarian sentiments I’ve seen of late. People saying they’re tired of hearing the 9/11 stories, the memories. And yet, wherever we were in the country, we have our own memories of when we first saw the planes strike and the towers fall.
But I get it. People want to move on.
Still, after 20 years, the story is not over. Forty percent of the victims, some 1,106 people are still unaccounted for, reported NBC News. Even this week, victims are still being identified by medical examiners.
And then there are closely held stories that are just coming out, like the one CBS News reported of the two F-16 National Guard pilots who were flying as the towers were hit. They immediately tried to take out the low-flying United Flight 93. Flying without any missiles, the pilots took it upon themselves to “protect and defend,” meaning to go on a “kamikaze” mission. A suicide mission. But before they could complete it, Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
So there are still new stories revealed, among the old ones we should never tire of. In this space, I wrote a few myself over the last 11 years (e.g., https://www.aaldef.org/blog/taking-the-leap-the-horror-and-the-love-of-911/)
The point is there was a national feeling that is worth connecting to again and again. It’s not sentimental. It just goes to the core of who we are as a country. And it’s not spoiled when anyone tries to fake it by playing that Lee Greenwood song.
You know the feeling without that–if you have any recollection of that day twenty years ago.
We were one country then, when we lost nearly 3,000 people. And the source of terror was from external forces.
Now we’re mired in another tragedy with 670,000 people dying needlessly in America. And we seem to be fighting each other.
Sept. 11 arrives just in time to remind us what it means to be one country again.
But with a new focus. Call it Vax Americana.
We can beat this thing together.