Matters of the Here and Now
Trying to make sense of the chaos of COVID-19 and society's misguided tendencies
Forty thousand years ago, our ice-age ancestors began decorating the walls of geologic formations; their red ochre traces of hands screaming, "We were here!" Even though it was our womb, the Earth was a hostile place for us. Survival was far from guaranteed. And meaning? Meaning is something we struggle for yet today.
What kind of people are we who call plagues and natural disasters "acts of God," yet still pray? The miracle is that we are moved to love and serve selflessly, proving ourselves worthy of grace.
When we are scared, as we are now, and feel our problems are so big that we cannot see all the way around them, we may feel as if we do not matter. We may look almost anywhere to get back our feeling of significance. I don't know exactly what you believe, but I know we must find constructive ways to find meaning in this moment.
Inside America, there has been much talk about herd immunity. Similarly, we know one of our nation's strengths is the inclusion which provides us breadth and depth, adding to our vitality and resilience. Conversely, prejudice has proven to be our ongoing Achilles heel.
We live in an age when it has become popular to imagine we all exist in our own separate worlds. One minute, a wall seems logical. Next, reality reveals what a fantasy that is. When we are afraid and searching for comfort, our minds can make patterns out of thin air. People are afraid now and asking questions everywhere, which is healthy.
The overwhelming majority of Americans consider themselves Christians. We even tend to blame whole other nations and belief systems for the actions of a few of their members. Yet when we see our own government involved in something objectionable, we do not blame Christianity. Christians: Now would be the time to inform your neighbors who are religious minorities of anything about Christianity you've been keeping from them.
There is no state religion or official language because America has always been an immigrant country. The Coronavirus problem is being faced by every country on Earth. This is not a "Chinese" disease, it is a human disease. We did not call the H1N1 virus the "American" flu.
Ignorance feeds fear, and all too often fear kills.
I am not asking you to be blind. I'm asking you to choose to be considerate and informed in this era of limitless misinformation and spin. This age is one in which everything becomes politicized for profit. Though cynicism may provide momentary levity, this is not a reality show. This is real life happening right now, to our entire civilization across the globe.
We can only figure this all out together because it is bigger than any one – or few – of us. This will not be sexy. Neither Denzel nor Halle Berry will be running through the airport with a .45 in one hand and the only bottle of coronavirus cure in the other. Therefore, I urge you to keep it simple. Be human, but not simple-minded. We will need each of us to do their part.
In a time where, while nature still finds a voice, human beings seem to create most of the problems we struggle against, it is important to remember that you matter. Though none of us is the center of existence, we are all as profound and even the loss of one reduces us all.
For our part today in Erie county, 2020 brings us special significance. 2020 is both a Census year and a Presidential election year. This Census will determine federal funding here for the next 10 years. In this current election cycle, observers the world over are looking at Erie county to be one of only 10 key counties likely to determine our country's next president.
I would encourage you to find your sense of power in being the best family and community member you can be, yet while social distancing. I would also insist you participate in the 2020 Census and let your voice be heard at the polls.
May we re-discover these few truths by the end of this crisis: that the best things about a person cannot be found on a computer; that we cooperate more than we compete in our current world; that no organization is bigger than the dignity and ambitions of its people; that good government can represent a nation's best hope; and finally, that It does matter who the president is.