BY ED FELIEN
“When April the sweet showers fall
And pierce the drought of March to the root, and all
The veins are bathed in liquor of such power
As brings about the engendering of the flowers.”
“April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.”
—T. S. Eliot
The month of beginnings.
Death and Resurrection.
The time to plant the empty fields.
As the Book of Leviticus tells us in Chapter 25 that every 50 years there will be a Jubilee. All prisoners will be freed. All debts will be forgiven. No one will pay rent or a mortgage. No one will work. We will live for a year off the bounty of the land. For a year we will all be equal. We will all be brothers and sisters in the same family.
A tiny virus has stopped the only world we knew, and the world we knew was the marketplace. We bought and sold, face to face. We don’t do that as much anymore.
The world has changed. Suddenly, we are all one family, trapped alone in our homes but unified in our common understanding, knowing that we must all do what we can to slow down the spread. We are all in this together.
All of us.
We are all in this together.
We can no longer afford poverty and hunger and homelessness. We know those conditions can intensify contagion and produce super viruses that could overwhelm us. Those that are homeless should now check into a nice hotel and order room service if you’re hungry. That would be best for all of us. There are hotel rooms that are empty. The federal government has programs that will reimburse the hotels, and the hotels will be happy to have the business.
We shall live a year without money. We will pay no rent. The rent will be paid by the federal government, and the landlords will be reimbursed. We will pay no mortgages. The banks will be reimbursed. There will be warehouses of food. Enough for everyone. Health care and education will be free.
This is the Jubilee imagined in the book of Leviticus.
This is the world imagined by the Apostles, Acts 4:35: “And distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.”
It is the vision of the Pilgrims’ Mayflower Compact to “combine ourselves together into a civil body politic.”
April is the beginning of the Jubilee Year.
But it probably can’t last a year.
After a couple of months everyone will want to get back to work.
The corporations and the president will try to sell the idea of a “Return to Normalcy” like Harding in 1920, trying to calm the radicalism that erupted in reaction to World War I and the Spanish Flu epidemic. And Harding led to “Keep Cool with Coolidge,” and then to Hoover and the Great Depression and, finally, to the New Deal and Franklin Roosevelt.
People are ready for a New Deal now. We don’t need to wait 12 years. Everybody now understands the social necessity of Medicare for All. It is in our direct interest that everybody gets tested and treated. My health is dependent on your health, and your health is dependent on mine. We are all connected.
We know the minimum wage must be a living wage. We know education, especially for nurses and doctors, must be free. We know there must be a massive public works program to repair our roads and bridges.
We know our world can be a better place than it was. We can make the hopes and dreams of ancient prophets and early apostles come alive. We can take comfort that the world is rich enough to celebrate a Jubilee—that all our brothers and sisters can be taken care of, that no one needs to go hungry or homeless.
“To what purpose, April, do you return again?
. . . like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.”
—Edna St. Vincent Millay