By Tommy Airey, co-founder and curator of RadicalDiscipleship.net
Last Wednesday, this site propped The People’s CDC, a coalition of public health practitioners, scientists, healthcare workers, educators, advocates and people from all walks of life working to reduce the harmful impacts of COVID-19. The People’s CDC is a great resource for orgs and communities on the left committed to keeping all their people safe. Its weekly Covid “weather reports” are clear, concise and hyperlinked to back the stats. Last week, I received an email from a long-time reader who loves Radical Discipleship, but who had “great concerns” about Wednesday’s post. She referred to a recent study (Cochrane) that she claimed “summarizes that masks are not all that effective.” She was concerned that Wednesday’s post was building on a fear that is unwarranted because the “virus has gone to a much less virulent illness.”
I want to respond publicly to this email because I know that these sentiments are widespread, even on the left. Before I do, allow me to offer this full disclosure: Lindsay and I mostly work from home and we do not have children of our own. We have navigated the pandemic with unique privileges. My heart goes out to my former colleagues in the classroom, friends who are working nine to five jobs, folks I went to seminary with who are orchestrating Sunday services and parents of young children trying to make decisions about masks and gatherings in this climate of Covid denial and minimalism.
Trying to keep up with Covid-19 and make it make sense is an increasingly challenging and risky task. The problem is that ordinary people are swimming against a strong current of “open the economy” campaigns funded by white elites taking advantage of statistics that show people of color are more vulnerable to Covid-19. These stats and targeted disinformation have led white Americans to be consistently less fearful of the disease and less supportive of safety precautions for the past twenty months.
Instead of working to prevent harm, so much of this era is marked by casualty management, leaving the most vulnerable to fend for themselves. Communities committed to radical mutuality are grappling with creating Covid-19 protocols that cut against the grain of conventional neoliberal wisdom. The People’s CDC is a compelling resource. Organizers are using their Safer Gatherings toolkit to convince conferences to shift their policies. The National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference featured layers of protection including KN95 masks, daily rapid tests, outdoor meals and more. The People’s CDC advised on their COVID protocol and created this poster for them to hang.
All Biden’s words have done is make clear–abundantly clear–what we already have known: that we are on our own for the pandemic and the little that still remain (for some), will be gone soon (obvi wealthy folks will be able access whatever they want whenever as per usual).
Our work now should be cultural changes, so that we can get (our) folks to get boosted, wear masks and continue other safety precautions. We should be *normalizing* masks. Taking pictures (esp with others) with your masks ON.
O Wind of Spirit who moved across the face of chaos, breathing life into creation and humanity. Heal this man, afflicted in his presidency, from the very illness he has unleashed in mockery. Defend him from the Power of Death by which he is so enthralled and so embraced, as to set it upon countless others whom we pray you protect as well. For the time and sake of mercy, withhold the wrath of your judgement and bring him instead into the fullness of his humanity, painful though it be. When his breath comes easy and he wakes, may truth dawn upon him like a bolt.
I am a garden-variety high school teacher who has spent the better part of the summer trying to get back on my feet after wading through the weeds of a semester marked by the COVID crisis.
Most teachers would probably agree that stepping over the demarcation line between the classroom and COVID country last March was traumatic for everyone involved. Most of us found a way to do it – and we did it well – but throughout the semester my gut was screaming that this way of doing school was brutal, untenable, unhealthy.
As we approach Memorial Day, Americans are mourning the 80,000+ of our loved ones and neighbors whose lives have been lost to COVID-19 (and the hundreds of thousands more worldwide). They are our siblings, our parents, our children, our nurses and grocery clerks, our first responders and teachers, they are the working people who do the essential work of keeping our families and communities safe. Continue reading “Today: The 24-Hour Covid Vigil”→
0nce, on a dry and rocky footpath,
a dab of sacred saliva dampened dust.
Silently, the mender’s hands kneaded,
molded and applied the curious blend.
Mudded eyes opened. Vision restored.
These days, we walk mired down,
slogging mucky tracks, traversing
our first New England mud season,
distanced, sheltered, masked, waiting
for healing, solace and renewed balance.
April’s earth underneath our boots
is dew dampened, drizzle drenched,
thaw soaked and oh so mud mucked.
Bogged down in this deadly pandemic,
we yearn for a closure, less muddled. Continue reading “Mender’s Mud”→
Preached by Denise Griebler to St. Peters Episcopal Church Detroit via zoom.
I haven’t said or written much since we have begun sheltering in place. I’m a little nervous to do so now. I am humbled by the pandemic. I am awed by it.
I believe that God is with us and that we are with each other – the profound truth that we are in this together.
There is a story about the Chinese Master, Lau-tzu and his disciples:
The disciples were absorbed in the teaching:
Those who know do not say; Those who say do not know.
When the Master entered, they asked him what the words meant.
The Master asked them: “Which of you knows the fragrance of a rose?”
Of course, all of them knew.
Then he said, “Put it into words.”
All were silent.
I am grateful for the rawness of the gospel. A man has died. A brother. A friend. There’s mourning and crying. Jesus is late, put he does show up. The one who heals others couldn’t be there in time for his friend. He’s too late.
And it’s not like he rushed to get there. There’s a back story. Lazarus (who has died) along with his the sisters, Mary and Martha – were his good friends. They regularly helped and supported and sheltered Jesus. They were part of his trusted inner circle. Mary and Martha – had sent for Jesus when Lazarus fell gravely ill. But we’re told that Jesus lingered for days where he was sheltering-in-place, hiding out from the religious authorities who wanted Jesus dead. Finally he decides to risk going to Bethany to see his friend, but he’s too late. Lazarus has already died.
I’m grateful for the rawness.
And even Mary’s accusing question: where were you? You could have saved him.
I’m grateful that he doesn’t make excuses. He’s silent. He weeps. I’m grateful for his tears.
And for Martha recoiling from the stench of death – from her brother’s dead body. I’m grateful for Mary and Martha’s anger and impatience with Jesus. And for Jesus’ anger. And his second round of tears at the tomb. I’m grateful for the kerchief-covered face. And for the exposure of the betrayal of the ones who are plotting to keep their privilege and power, who are ready to make easy tradeoffs – one life for many.
I’m grateful for the rawness. Because honestly, I have been feeling pretty numb. And the rawness helps to break me open. I’m glad for all of the weeping in this text. I haven’t yet found my way to tears. How is that possible?
Maybe I’ve been caught up in denial and fear. I hear it in myself as I worry for the “most vulnerable” in a way that serves to distance myself from suffering ever actually touching me in my own body. I am vulnerable. We’re all vulnerable.
And I’ve been caught up in trying to keep myself and my family safe. And trying to do my part – our part – to keep others safe. All of which seem so small and pathetic. Especially when I think of people who need my help. Even as I know this is precisely the best thing most of us can do to take care of each other. Maybe I am too ashamed to weep. But that would be a mistake.
What if grief is our calling right now? Our vocation. Grief is how we can stay human in the face of all of the suffering that has been happening at a distance and is now here and washing over us in Detroit.
I heard about a meme that was circulating on FaceBook. Jesus is in his room, sheltering in place. Someone asks: “Where should I tell them you are?” Jesus replies: “Tell them I’m working in mysterious ways.”
But there actually is a mystery that he stakes is own life and death upon. I think some of the tears he cries are for himself. He knows that death is closing in on him and there is not much more time to be with his friends or his mother, or to be under the beauty of the sky, or out on the Lake, or around the table, to see or smell the lilies, or see the little sparrows or hear the dove hovering or to feel the Wind. Down to the bone he believes anyway: death does not and will not have the last word.
Maybe he’s weeping at the excruciating mystery of that.
I hope I come around to my deepest self and finally weep. I hope you do. I hope we mortals become more human. And that we come to know more deeply our place in the web of all life.
It’s hard to feel like we are doing nothing – especially if you are someone who thrives on the front lines. There’s plenty to do from the place where we are sheltering in place if you are longing for that. People have been busy advocating for the water to be turned back on. And to be turned back on safely. And now, not in 3 months from now. And then to be made affordable for the long haul. The work that we have done for years is having an effect. Thank goodness.
People are restoring other connections as well. Reaching out to family and friends with whom we’ve been out of touch for too long. And there will be neighbors and organizations that will need financial help – be generous. And water deliveries to be made – if you and others in your household are healthy and not among the vulnerable, you could help with that. There will be more opportunities.
But mostly we just need to stay put. And wait. And try to live as well as you can – with as much kindness and joy as you can – in your own household – whether that’s with family, or roommates or alone. And keep ourselves and others safe as best we are able. And let life keep insisting in us. Cindy Tobias reminds us that this is front-line work at this time.
But we can also open ourselves to the suffering and weep when we feel like weeping. Be angry at the ineptitude that could have prevented some of it.
Be awed by the terrible mystery of it and our own vulnerability.
Call on the accompaniment and wisdom of the ancestors – they are helping us.
Like each of you, I am spinning and dancing in the flux that is COVID-19.
My city, Philadelphia, is on lockdown, people asked to go out only for necessities or to the doctor. Every day I have gotten news of loved older ones exposed or friends who have COVID-19, schools and colleges closed, information overload. I’ve cancelled retreats and trips I have looked forward to for months, reeled home one college student from across the globe. I’ve been anxious about what the virus will do in Project HOME’s 900-resident community of formally homeless and vulnerable people, concerned and sad about life experiences cancelled, uncertain about how long it may go and how bad everything may get. You probably have a similar list of things falling, failing, the world shifting a bit under fear and responsibility.
The latest analysis of fatalities in Italy caused by is that “more than 75% had high blood pressure, about 35% had diabetes and a third suffered from heart disease.”*
This takes the socio-political implications of COVID-19 to a whole new disturbing level. It means that people who don’t care about poor people (who are disproportionately impacted by diabetes and high blood pressure**) and chronically ill people may well decide that they can take the same attitude as spring breakers in Miami who say “If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying.”*** While the reality is that anyone could die from this disease, some of us have much better survival odds than others.Continue reading “COVID-19 is Disproportionately Killing Poor People”→