MARCHING TO THE BEAT OF A MINDLESS DRUM
It has finally happened. Trump is all in on saving the world from the Coronavirus pandemic, not just America, but the whole world. Just so there is no confusion, Trump sees himself as the savior. And the annual resurrection-fest can’t come soon enough for the message to go to all in this land and other lands that he has risen. From where remains an open question. At the least, those beatific smiles directed at the great one by Trump’s merry band of acolytes leave no doubt that they feel they are in the presence of THE ONE, those not so anointed be damned.
April is figuring to be a big month in the fight to save a large swath of humanity from what is proving to be a real and present danger. It seems that with the arrival of April, most of the nations in the world have at least a primal understanding that there is no wall to shield any nation from the impact of the pandemic. For a variety of reasons, often unique to a nation or a culture, different nations have fared differently. There will be plenty of time after Trump saves humanity to figure out what each nation did best and worst so that an international protocol can be developed and implemented that will save lives in the future. There might even be time to fix some blame.
April will also challenge those of faith to deliver something more useful than thoughts and prayers. In the US, after Trump gave up on a grand Easter parade of irresponsibility, virtual congregations will hymn their way to a better future and the glory of a lord whose beneficence seems in short supply.
Meanwhile, all around the world, the Coronavirus will be challenged by a confluence of religious fervor – Holy Week and Easter, Passover, Ramadan, and a whole panoply of Hindu and Buddhist festivals. What a time for organized religion to finally deliver something more uplifting than prayer, more productive than ceremony, and more enduring than pious proclamations.
How about some straight talk about humanity, conscience, real giving, inequity and inequality, and a big dose of racial, ethnic and social justice. Something that I like to call “collective conscience.” For when we get through this pandemic, there will be lives to live and values to be examined.
There will also be, in America and elsewhere, homeless and hungry children and adults, more people than ever living on the edge of economic despair, more need for universal access to meaningful healthcare and quality education, and the same crumbling institutional infrastructure that has proved to be so inadequate in response to this crisis in so many places.
Returning to America and its professed love affair with “responders,” let’s hope that this time there is some new urgency to offer something more tangible than love to those who have put themselves at great risk without asking for anything more than a face mask and a paper gown. Doctors will get a lot of the attention this time, but they also get a lot of the pay and benefits when times are good. Nurses and medical technicians much less so, and how about the workers who clean the hospitals, remove the bodies, and sterilize the equipment? How about the paramedics, firemen, and cops who show up at your door to relieve some of the suffering?
For sure, a lot of focus should be centered there, now and after. But it also belongs in every grocery store, pharmacy, and convenience store where the minimum wage and the maximum wage are frequently the same thing. It belongs in every farm field where those immigrants who are so easy to forget are keeping us alive for a pittance. Also, think about all the folks delivering what matters, from truck drivers to local kids.
So, in between all that praying and believing, invest some time in finding a connection to a collective spirit. And, most importantly, if you are lucky enough to get back to a privileged normal, find a way to find a collective conscience. Then act on it. If you are a Republican in America, find a new party. If you are a corporate executive in America, listen first to the needs of your workers and begin to meet those needs as a priority. If you think you care in America but don’t care about universal access to meaningful healthcare or a living wage and benefits, or hungry children, or abused immigrants, then you really don’t care at all.
Amid all this personal soul searching, I would be remiss not to mention the excesses of capitalism. While it is too complex a topic to simply toss into the mix, it is worth remembering that Trump cared more about the stock market than the ventilator market with little sign along the way that he and his ilk have changed their priorities. This is because they are scared that you might notice how laudatory capitalism seems to be on the way up and how worthless it is on the way down. Capitalists are quick to grab all they can all the time, even when times are truly frightening. Then, their clock all of a sudden says it is time to share the pain.
If nothing else, watch for corporate hoarders, corporate thieves, and CEOs firing others left and right while piously rejecting their own salaries for a few months as they anxiously await their bonus at the end of their personal rainbow. Think then about how much better we would be if there were no CEO bonuses and every employee received a living wage, access to meaningful healthcare, a decent education for their children, and a decent place in which to live.
There will be plenty of time to further this discussion in the weeks ahead. For now, try hard to stay well and do something good for those who will have to try so much harder to stay well and survive.