I keep a list in my mind of friends to check in on; folks I love that make me laugh and who are fun and kind and interesting and great storytellers. In the pre-COVID days I would check in just to chat, either shooting a text or picking up the phone to simply hear a few stories about how life is shaping up.
Now this is done much more frantically, or fearfully, for what I might learn.
Recently, I picked up the phone to text someone who is one of my most interesting friends. A scholar of film history and a hilarious and creative person, I've enjoyed visits with him since I first came to New York.
I have admired him for many years, he had interesting work and a generous spirit. He is someone who makes expansive and interesting things happen, and to know him is to feel like you are part of something really fantastic.
During our conversation, I learned that his employer, a famous and wealthy person, laid him off suddenly after 22 years of employment. He offered no severance and no retirement package, he just let him go.
Meanwhile, the company recently secured millions of dollars for a new project. The resources are there, but the will to treat a faithful employee well was not. Now, at retirement age, he is left to figure out what to do.
When I heard this, I couldn't help myself and burst into tears. He is not my only friend who has had work taken from them for no real reason and thrust into uncertainty. The more I hear of it, the worse it hurts.
I realize, of course, that the sickness is embedded in our society. Why help someone who you don't have to, seems to be the question that so many ask themselves.
The only gentleness I've witnessed this year is from mutual aid networks, peer to peer. Wealth gaps are experience gaps, and many seem unable to imagine a struggle that does not threaten them.
Jobs are life and death to most of us, but so often those in charge of hiring and firing are too far away from the urgency of poverty. To take a job away during a pandemic is shoving someone into the street.
For someone who does not come from wealth, for whom life has been filled with a bit of timorousness, there is no one to catch you when you tumble off the curb.
This is why we absolutely must require wealth taxes for the ultra-rich in our state. Not only is the money available and will not cause them harm to pay, we have to make up for the lack of empathy so many experience at the hands of ultra-successful employers who do not follow the social contract.
Every millionaire that randomly lays off a faithful worker without any support is sending them towards the state's social safety net. And it is essential that someone is able to provide for folks, if not employers then the state will.
It's not right for the extremely wealthy to not pay into the solution for the havoc they cause.