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PEN America: We Will Emerge

A collaborative project bringing together writers, activists, academics, poets, and public servants to imagine a blueprint for a post-COVID America.

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We Will Emerge is a collaborative project bringing together writers, activists, academics, poets, and public servants to imagine a blueprint for a post-COVID America. Submissions center on themes of Action, Awareness, Community & Unity, Gratitude & Empathy, and Liberation. 

Several Hartman faculty, fellows and alumni participated in this project, which was led by MLI almnus Wajahat Ali

Abdullah Antepli

We will emerge and be more vigilant.

The U.S. population has the lowest voter turnout among all democratic and developed countries despite being wealthier and more developed than many of them.

If the events of the last few years—especially the excruciating months of COVID-19 crisis—do not wake us up from our slumber and laziness about our democracy, I do not know what eventually will. This low and weak ownership of our own democracy is a manifestation of us taking our democratic achievements for granted and an awful failure of appreciation of it. Our founding fathers’ bones must be spinning in their graves.

COVID-19 showed globally what democracies and types of leaderships have been a source of pride with remarkable successes after successes, despite the enormity of challenges. Naming a few. . . the ones that take science seriously, the ones that have higher female and younger leadership, have higher informed citizenry, and more. This crisis also showed which governments and administrations have been a source of shame and embarrassment and caused preventable death and destruction to their citizens.

What if this pandemic functions as an epiphany for all of us as Americans? What if we all renew and significantly increase our ownership of our democracy and act accordingly a result of it?

What if we demand a government that fully represents us in every possible way and manifests the best of us in their actions and policies?

We will emerge and find a better way.

Wajahat Ali

We will emerge and be more generous.

The U.S. is the most powerful and wealthy country on earth that finds creative ways to cut taxes for the rich but can’t provide healthcare for all its residents.

Coronavirus is ravaging our communities. Many will die, especially the elderly, the poor, the immunocompromised, and people of color.

A senior citizen will die waiting for a ventilator in an emergency room. A Black woman from the wrong ZIP code will die because her neighborhood won’t have access to a healthcare facility. A young graduate with diabetes will die because he had to ration his insulin. A frontline physician will die because her state ran out of N95 masks and protective gear.

They could have lived.

What if we emerged as a true “pro-life” nation that values health over profit? Can our collective suffering help us find and embrace a generous spirit that allows us to reform our broken healthcare system and finally provide quality healthcare as a right to all our residents?

We will emerge and find a better way.

Sharon Brous

We will emerge more loving.

The morning after the virus passes, we will mourn the world we’ve lost. And then we’ll build a new world, rooted in the lessons we’ve finally learned. Like the realization that we’re all connected by an invisible web of humanity that crosses land and sea. And the awareness that the judge of a society is not how we treat the most powerful, but how we care for the most vulnerable. And the irrefutable truth that when we allow profit and political expediency to supersede moral responsibility, when we let our indignation slip into quiet resignation, people die.

The new world we create will upend the systems of oppression and inequity, cruelty, and callousness that have been laid bare in this crisis. In it, we’ll pay teachers what they deserve; treat medical professionals like the superheroes they are; and honor farm, grocery, garbage, and postal workers as essential and invaluable, because they truly are. The new world will be rooted in the shared knowledge that we must live responsibly and sustainably on this planet. In this new world, we’ll know that our bodies are precious and touch is sacred. And our eyes will be trained to see beauty and poetry everywhere.

After the loss and dislocation, the brokenness and grief, when we emerge, we will build a world rooted in love.

Rabia Chaudry

We will emerge and be more humble in understanding our place on this planet.

Human beings have long forgotten their own vulnerability and interconnectedness with people in other parts of the world—with nature and with the elements. We have become consumers of everything and anything to satisfy our desires, mindless of the toll our consumption takes on the earth, wrecking the balances that should keep us in check, and disrespecting the needs of the planet and creatures we share it with. But this pandemic teaches us that we cannot and do not operate in silos—that our individual decisions have global impacts, and yet we are but a small part in a worldwide community.

We have already begun to put the collective good over the individual desire, and we will emerge and find a better way.

You care about Israel, peoplehood, and vibrant, ethical Jewish communities. We do too.

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