EPISODE 5: American contact tracing, Nimby scolding, and guest, Tre Kwon.


Happy belated May 1st, international workers’ day! 

This episode is about organizing and health care “heroes.”

We talk about cheering for essential workers, Whitmanesque yawps and coyote mewls, and the politics of “shelter in place.” Why are liberals so angry at people who need to get some air? And what’s behind right-wing protests at state capitals? We consider the underlying grievances and explore the possibility of class-based organizing. 

Our guest, in the second half, is Tre Kwon, an ICU nurse in Manhattan, a shop steward for the New York State Nurses Association, a new mom, and an editor at Left Voice, an international socialist publication. Tre tells us why she gave up half her maternity leave to resume nursing and what she hopes the pandemic will produce in the way of social change. 

1:11 - How do we maintain community in a world of social distancing? Tammy describes the nightly ritual of cheering (or playing Korean gongs) for health care workers in New York. Jay recounts his Oakland neighbors’ routine of howling and bongo drums.

5:53 - American cities are beginning to hire contact tracers to address Covid-19. Is something resembling the South Korean model possible in the US? Will Americans tolerate it, and can it work with the number of cases continuing to increase? 

13:36 - Could contact tracing become a major jobs program? Mulling nationalization and its five government proponents. 

21:57 - The debate over whether or not to reopen the economy is dominated by right-wing talking points versus liberal “Nimby” moralism. Why don’t leftists respond more forcefully to the economic disaster felt by the working class and the poor? Jay unleashes a bottled-up rant. Andy contextualizes the language of “freedom.”

37:58 - Tre describes the reality of corporate, for-profit medicine and explains why she and her colleagues could foresee the disaster of the pandemic. Also: why we can’t count on Democrats to save us.

47:06 - What good are small-scale protests and work stoppages? Tre digs into rage at work, the radicalizing nature of care labor, and why unions, despite their flaws, must be a central pillar of left politics. 


Time to Say Goodbye is a podcast—with your hosts, Jay Caspian Kang, Tammy Kim, and Andy Liu. We launched this thing because, like you, we’ve been sheltering in place and wanted an outlet for our thoughts on the coronavirus, Asia, geopolitics, and Asian Americans.

A short introduction to your hosts:

Jay Caspian Kang is a writer-at-large for the New York Times Magazine and the author of the forthcoming book The Loneliest Americans.

E. Tammy Kim is a magazine reporter, a contributing opinion writer at the New York Times, and a retired lawyer. She co-edited the book Punk Ethnography.

Andrew Liu is a historian of modern China. He wrote a book called Tea War, about the history of capitalism in Asia. He remains a huge Supersonics fan.