The state is careless with our breath.
The state colludes to rob citizens of it — both through violence and negligence.
There is so much that separates us within the human experience. But the interconnection of breath is inescapable. The very nature of breath is collective — we all share the same air. We all have no choice but to connect to each other in this way. We ride the existential zephyr on this green earth together — whether we want to or not.
No human should have power over another’s breath. That is not a power that any human being needs.
And yet the state has sanctioned itself as the arbiter of breath.
It wields these sanctions to kneel on necks. To compress throats and backs. To ignore pleas of “I can’t breathe”. To blatantly murder Black people in broad daylight.
And then — incredibly — to blame it on the victims. It was heart disease. It was asthma. It was underlying health conditions. It wasn’t the weight of a full grown man’s knee on a neck…it wasn’t a bicep curled illegally around a man’s throat…over some loose cigarettes.
It wields these sanctions to traumatize & gaslight as a normalized fact of life.
It wields these sanctions to steal breath and then blame that theft on the supposed immorality of Blackness, of fatness, of poverty.
Conflate Blackness, fatness, and poverty with disease — and then disease with wickedness — and the violent, hideous little pill of extra-judicial execution is so much easier to swallow.
It wields these sanctions to codify triage protocol, determining who is “worthy” of life-saving treatment. (White, thin, able-bodied, free of chronic illness, neurotypical — and of course able to pay the premiums.)
It wields these sanctions to decide who gets a ventilator and who dies.
It wields these sanctions to qualify who is worthy of breath. Those who begin the game with systemic disadvantages are deemed unworthy. Unworthy of sustainment, of autonomy, of access to the bare minimum — the right to breathe.
It endeavors to weed those of us out who aren’t ideal citizens — the “non-compliant”. The non-normative. The disabled. The criminalized.
It endeavors to tell us these are the realities of a pandemic — that somehow doctors have to make these agonizing decisions about who will make the most out of a saved life. As if that is something any human could foresee about another. Decisions which are fundamentally ableist, healthist — eugenics at their core.
It creates capitalist faux-scarcity and makes us believe there aren’t enough ventilators because it’s impossible to have enough — rather than because the state does not prioritize or protect our fundamental right to breath.
The state continues to sanction itself to damage protester lungs with tear gas — in the middle of a respiratory disease pandemic. This is an act of murder on behalf of the state. This is a blatant and violent denial of our Constitutionally protected right to protest.
The state purposefully gasses us, and throws us in prisons where we cannot be protected from the spread of disease. It prioritizes incarceration — it prioritizes its own power over flattening the curve.
It carelessly spreads disease to us, and then callously denies us treatment.
The spread of disease will increase, the spike has already begun. Do not believe the state, in all of its callous carelessness — when it tells you it is the protesters who have brought this on themselves. The Black people who have brought this on themselves. The disabled people. The fat people. That Eric Garner brought this on himself.
The state-sanctioned disregard for breath is systemic. It is a system which devalues human life, with a deep and abiding carelessness. It is a system which prioritizes property over people — banks over bodies.
This guardianship was ill-gotten, and is evermore unearned.
The state is careless with our breath.
Painting by Isicera Dew, Text by Tracy Cox, for Fat Rose’s Fat Roots project.
[Image: A painting of Eric Garner. His expression is filled with the exhaustion of regularly being harassed by the police. Despite this exhaustion he expresses a deep power and determination, light radiating with his breath. His name is written over his head. Beneath him white text reads “the state is careless with our breath.” On the right “Fat Rose . Fat Roots” is written vertically. ]