This coronavirus has got people SCARED. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen people this scared in my lifetime. Not even after 9/11. I think people are much more comfortable when we can put a FACE to our fears — When we can be afraid of the Muslims… Or immigrants… Or brown people… Something we can identify as “THOSE are the people I need to fear.” But with this pandemic, it’s just everybody. It’s everywhere. Everyone and everything can make you sick. And that has got people feeling off balance. And scared.
I’m not entirely sure why I haven’t written more about this yet. It’s just everywhere you turn. It’s on everyone’s lips… “Coronavirus.” Part of the reason I’ve avoided it is because I haven’t been able to wrap my mind around all the issues this coronavirus (and our response to it) touches on. And I won’t be able to do that here either… At least not without making this post so long no one will read it. My thoughts have been trickling out in the form of Facebook statuses and tweets on Twitter. But I’ve got some things I’d like to say, and some thoughts I’d like to share with you about this very strange time we are living through…
First — THIS IS SERIOUS. By this point, I hope that much is clear. This is not “just the flu.” And that message was slow getting out, because we have a person in charge of the country who is way more concerned about money than he is concerned about the lives of the people in this country. His focus is on the stock market, his money, & the wealth of the super rich people who helped put him in power. He is a narcissist who is concerned about how this crisis will make him look… He’s worried that people will be able to tell he doesn’t know what he’s doing. So he tries to handle things by “controlling the message.” But this virus doesn’t care about poll numbers or trying to blame Obama for things (even though it was Trump who fired the CDC’s Pandemic Response Team and then installed a hiring freeze to keep them from being replaced). The only thing it responds to is competent leadership and actions taken based on science… And we have neither of those things represented in this GOP administration.
So this is important: As part of recognizing how serious this is, PLEASE don’t dismiss the danger COVID-19 carries as “only dangerous to old people.” Do any of you even KNOW any old people? Do you have older folks in your lives who you love, and you don’t want them to get seriously ill and possibly die? Do you have parents?!? I mean… WTF. I have heard so many people say things like, “The only ones who are *really* in danger are the elderly and the immunocompromised.” Y’ALL KNOW THAT THEY CAN HEAR YOU, RIGHT??? I mean, imagine a virus going around that is has been killing around 1 out of every 50 people who get it, and then hearing healthy adults disregarding the severity of it by saying, “People are freaking out over nothing… It really only affects kids and people with asthma.” Someone around you has a kid with asthma! What kind on an asshole says something like this? Just because YOUR chances of dying aren’t as great as someone else’s doesn’t mean you can’t still spread it, get someone else sick, and devastate a family.
Second — FOR PEOPLE WHO THINK THIS IS BEING POLITICIZED. This is not a liberal plot to take down the president. Thousands of people have died. MANY more are going to die. This virus shut down THE ENTIRE COUNTRY OF ITALY… This is not about attacking Trump. That being said, when the people in charge are showing startling ineptitude and making decisions that are going to cost people their lives, they should expect some tough questions from the press corp. For example, WHY DID THE UNITED STATES TURN DOWN THE TESTS THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION GAVE US? Where are the tests? You CANNOT fight a global pandemic without testing for the virus. Every other country is testing their people…
The way to tackle a pandemic is with openness, science, and competent leadership. Instead, they are CLASSIFYING meetings about plans for pandemic response. This administration is neither open nor trustworthy. They deny scientific evidence whenever it butts heads with their own goals (namely keeping the stock market growing and keeping rich people happy). They have handled this virus with denial and incompetence, and many-if-not-most of their “true believers” still think it’s some sort of a “hoax” designed to take down Trump. It’s not “politicization” to be critical of the colossal failure that our country’s response has been. The whole world is critical. Other countries are bewildered at the floundering, inadequate response the U.S. has put forth. But I suppose that’s what you’re going to get when you elect as president a reality show host who is famous for bankrupting companies. The virus is not his fault. However, the incompetent response to the appearance of the virus is ENTIRELY worthy of criticism.
Third — ABOUT THE ECONOMY. The world’s economy is obviously going to be affected by the coronavirus. The markets are all over the place. There is so much uncertainty and instability, and that does not translate well to the stock market. And I realize that affects people’s 401k’s and whatnot, but most people in the world do not have a lot of money invested in the stock market. The wealthiest top 1% accounts for more than 50% of the market’s value. The bottom 50% of Americans own only HALF A PERCENT (0.5%) of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. So when the stock market loses 2000 points in a day, the bottom half of the country does not really feel it (that is, of course, until they lose their jobs and houses and such when the wealthy cut workers to maximize profits).
The government can’t find money to relieve the $1.6 trillion of student debt that is owed by our college students. They can’t find money to get poor people the healthcare they need. They can’t find money to pay folks a living wage… But you better believe that they found $1.5 trillion OVERNIGHT to pump into the banks and corporations when the stock markets started going down this week. This is just obscene. It is socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor. It is privatizing profits while socializing losses.
Meanwhile, there are SO MANY people who rely on the meals schools provide… So when this pandemic hits and schools let out for a month, they don’t know how they are going to feed their kids. And underfunded nonprofits scramble to feed poor families — Families who can’t afford to go to the hospital. But that $1.5 Trillion would be enough to give every single person in the country $1000 a month for 4 to 5 months. And we call ourselves a “Christian nation.” Jesus cared about poor people, and he had some pretty harsh words for the rich. The country is the exact opposite.
And finally — LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR IN A PANDEMIC. The moment I knew I was going to have to write about this was when I went to Costco last week, and saw multiple people literally buying 160 rolls of toilet paper at a time. There were people with 20 giant bags of dog food. There were barren aisles where hand sanitizer used to be…
Please hear me: If you are looking for something that is a “sin,” you don’t need to look any further than hoarding resources in a crisis. Don’t even talk to me about swearing or getting drunk or same-sex marriage… Taking more than you need is a SIN. I live in Nashville, and a sizable chunk of our city was just destroyed by a tornado… I’m sure the people working on clean up would like to have some masks to protect their lungs from asbestos and dust and debris. But there aren’t any construction masks, because people hoarded all the medical masks until there were none… and then they heard there were still some masks at Home Depot and Lowes, and they wiped those clean as well.
And the weird part is that the people who have the most comfortable safety net seem to be the ones who are most filled with fear. The ability to hoard is connected to privilege and wealth. Poor people can’t afford to buy 160 rolls of toilet paper… They don’t have the money OR the room for it. Poor people don’t have a three stall garage where they can store 20 giant bags of dog food.
There is this cult of “Jesus wants me to get MINE” out there. It preaches from the gospel of the morality of selfishness, and the “invisible hand of the market.” It’s a group that rejects evolution, but believes in a Social Darwinism that tells them that they have more because they are BETTER. They think their privilege is EARNED… Just like other people’s poverty is earned as well. It is the same group that is drawn to a slogan like “America First!” It is the root system of white supremacy… And it is the opposite of Christianity. It feeds on fear. It is the antithesis of Jesus.
But Beloved… Hear me: You have not been given a spirit of fear. Even if you don’t believe any of it anymore, just say it out loud…
You have not been given a spirit of fear.
I have not been given a spirit of fear.
WE have not been given a spirit of fear… but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
A crisis can bring out the worst in us, but it can also bring out the best. I know that people are scared… And I know that we humans are at our worst when we are scared. But your neighbor is scared too. And you can love your neighbor by not taking more than you need. You can love your neighbor by doing what you can to Flatten The Curve of this pandemic (washing hands, social distancing, staying home, etc…). You can love your neighbor by voting for people who are actually concerned with helping the poor and vulnerable, and who don’t hurry to give bailouts to billionaires while ignoring people in poverty. Following Jesus is necessarily political… You can love your neighbor by electing leaders who are competent and trustworthy in times of crisis. Whether we like it or not, we are in this together. It shouldn’t take a pandemic for us to realize we are all connected. What happens to “them” happens to US. Imagine if all the people who claimed to be Christians actually voted like it… Take care of each other.
If you are feeling scared and disoriented, please know you are not alone. Reach out to each other, and don’t let this isolation let you feel isolated. Look for people who need help, and offer it. Perfect love casts out fear. ALSO, if you go out to eat during this time, leave your server a fat tip. We don’t get paid time off, and this crisis is hard on us financially… Especially when people are scared to leave their houses.
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