Yesterday, I heard someone from the West Bank say that denying Palestinians the vaccine is another act of genocide.
I thought of you, Dion, and the video you posted from federal prison last year, in Michigan.
Are you alive? I don’t know what happened to you.
In a green knitted cap, a white mask, and your dreads, you took us around with that contraband phone, saying:
I fear retaliation for doing this. I’m putting my life on the line.
You pleaded for our help, showing us bunk bed after bunk bed, in close proximity, suits and ironed clothes hung neatly on hangers from any rim they could find.
I got a few little symptoms, but I don’t know if I’m gonna make it—they just sittin’ on us, waiting for us to die.
And the mattress, covered in clear plastic, where somebody had been really sick.
They ain’t sprayed the bed off, or nothing. They just left it like that.
Dion, is that your real name? I have looked for you everywhere. Are you alive?
Look at these conditions! How can we practice social distancing when they got us all on top of each other like this?
You showed us the nearby area where men lay covered in thin blankets, shivering. The sick area. The men, barely responding. The checkered floor.
Did you meet the fate of the others?
Another image, now: a young man, whose sentence was two years, for possession; eyes closed, on the upper deck of a bunk bed. “Felon.”
I can’t breathe.
The price he will pay.
Or did I dream that, Dion, from another video? Not from FCI Milan, but FCI Elkton, or Gaza?
We need you all to be a voice for us.
Your deep vibrato. That cough. The mask.
Had to have a hunger strike to get these masks.
Heads of young people pop in and out of the frame—one, two, in sky-blue knitted caps, matching scarves covering noses and mouths.
You take us into the bathroom: the unwashed windows, with unknown splatter—beige, the color of who knows what—the few sinks, the few shower stalls. Three stalls, to be precise. For 80-plus men. Maybe 10 sinks.
The showers—look how nasty and filthy it is—they ain’t sprayed it down with no bleach.
We see leftover scum, soap, rivers of it, overflowing from the neighboring stall, and sitting idly around a drain.
We had to go on a hunger strike just to get these masks—and get these little cleaning supplies that we do got.
You show us the SHU, outside the window:
People in there just waitin’ to die.
Out of one dream, another dream is born.
A different video, now. A journalist in Gaza. She explains that everyone was given an hour to leave the media building. Twelve stories high. “Hamas intelligence” target. Lawyers’ offices. Doctors’ offices. The journalists made way for the residents and their children who lived on the six floors below. Two warning missiles, 15 minutes apart. Time’s up. So they took nothing. Building obliterated.
On the road, the next morning, the car in front of hers is destroyed suddenly. Had her driver not paused to answer his phone, she would not have survived.
What is the name of that thing? A drone? A hellfire missile?
We need y’all help out here, man.
Dion, where are you?
And what will she tell her children, should anything happen to her?
“Forgive me… This is my duty… I have to deliver this message to the world.”
Another video, now, of a little girl in Gaza. She was sleeping beside Mama, she says. When she woke up, she was surrounded by ash.
Where the Jay-Zs at, man? I thought black lives matter.
Ain’t no disrespecting this. This is lasting genocide.
“We are just an ordinary Palestinian couple. Between us, we have lost 30 relatives.”
I fear retaliation. I am putting my life on the line.
Dion, where are you?
Are you alive?
I don’t benefit from any of this. My mom always told me, sacrifice is greater than blessing.
(Author’s Note: The form of this piece is an homage to Mahmoud Darwish’s Memory for Forgetfulness.)
Scenes From a Pandemic is a collaboration between The Nation and Kopkind, a living memorial to radical journalist Andrew Kopkind, who from 1982–94 was the magazine’s chief political writer and analyst. This series of dispatches from Kopkind’s far-flung network of participants, advisers, guests, and friends is edited by Nation contributor and Kopkind program director JoAnn Wypijewski, and appears weekly on thenation.com and kopkind.org.