It’s Week # 25, since the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Maryland and phase 3 is about to begin, meaning a lowering of some of the restrictions put into place to slow the spread of the virus. I should be pleased, but instead I feel unsettled and nervous. The fear that began with worries over getting sick has expanded to worries over the behavior I’ve witnessed in the United States as tribalism continues to expand.
I think back to a simpler time. Childhood. The inherent belief that everyone was good. My day began in elementary school with a prayer followed by the pledge of allegiance. The prayer was non-denominational.
Our Father, we thy children come before Thee this day with humble hearts.
We thank Thee for Thy mercies and pray that Thou wilt so help us, that those
Around us today may be a little happier and a little better for our influence.
We ask Thy guidance in all the duties and the pleasures of the day, and Thy blessing
when the day is done. Amen
Head bowed. Eyes closed. I heard the voices around me say the words in unison. The words I took the most seriously were the ones about trying to make those around us a little happier and a little better. I wasn’t sure who I supposed God to be. My family was Jewish but we were not religious. Was God an old man with a long beard sitting on a high throne or was he the young handsome man named Jesus with hair down to his shoulders. Maybe God was really a woman, Mother Earth who brought us the seasons.
It didn’t really matter. I reveled in our momentary unity. We were all in the classroom together, saying that prayer. Long after starting the school day with a prayer ceased, I kept that directive with me. We all have our flaws and weakness, but if we help one another we can be a better version of ourselves.
Now I feel as if I have woken up into an alternate reality of the United States, a reality where humanity aspires to be the worse version of ourselves. I call it the “It’s All-About-Me” society. It’s a place where it’s okay to put yourself first and foremost before everyone else. It’s okay to only care about money and how much you can keep of it. It’s okay to care more about tax breaks than that 25% of the children in the United States this year are going to not get enough food to eat. As long as you are treated well, have a job, have health insurance, there is no reason to worry. It’s America, land of opportunity, and everyone can fend for themselves in this alternate reality.
One of the worst parts of living in this world is reading the obituaries. Eight hundred and fifty people are dying in my country each day from Covid-19. Over 188,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the U.S. to date. It is, however, inspiring to learn of all the heroes working on the front lines over the past six months.
What makes someone a hero? Going back to that little prayer I used to say in elementary school, putting someone’s welfare ahead of your own is one indicator. Many of our veterans sacrificed their health, their limbs, and their lives in defense of our country. Unfortunately that type of selflessness is not prized in the “ It’s All-about-me Society.” It’s the pretty people with the most money who are the “Winners.”
When Senator John McCain died, the orange haired man sitting behind the desk in the oval office didn’t think there should be a state funeral. He didn’t consider John McCain to be a war hero because he was a POW. This past week, an article by Jeffrey Goldberg published in The Atlantic cites several instances of the current President’s lack of respect, tolerance and empathy for war veterans. The President calls it “fake news” but the information has been corroborated by several other news sources and individuals. All I have to do is listen to the taped comments of his remarks regarding John McCain, and the carefully researched article resonates as authentic.
I want a leader who inspires all of us to be the best person we can be, someone who has empathy and kindness in their heart. Currently we have someone who intentionally sows doubt and division. A person who encourages hatred, rioting, and violence and has no respect for our heroes. A person who calls people mean names. A man who has an angry look on his face showing me how he truly feels within. Like a selfish spoiled child, the more confused and inadequate he can make us feel, he thinks he’ll get his way. Don’t let him.