Recently Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” explored “The Case for People’s Vaccines.”
While those interviewed by Ms. Goodman called for early and affordable access to inoculations in the Global South, no mention was made of perhaps the most promising source of such therapies. The neglected source was not only promising, but implicitly revealed the swindle represented by Big Pharma’s anticipated exorbitant prices for Covid-19 vaccines.
It may surprise readers to know that the source in question is Cuba.
In fact, Cuba is the first nation in Latin America to receive authorization from the World Health Organization (WHO) to perform officially sanctioned tests of the four vaccines it now has under development. Those trials have already completed their clinical stages. Promising results so far have Cubans looking forward to completing the (cost free) inoculation of its entire population of 12 million by the end of March 2021.
The vaccines under trial are named Soberana 01, Soberana 02, Abdala (CIGB66) and Mambisa (CIGB669). None of them is dependent for its preservation on super-cold temperatures.
Mambisa is worthy of special note, since as a nasal spray, it requires no needles, but responds locally to the specifically respiratory nature of Covid-19.
Failure to report such developments even on “Democracy Now” illustrates the complicity of our mainstream media in shunning any news from socialist nations like Cuba that might possibly illustrate the superior ability of their economies to deliver high quality, no-cost healthcare to citizens even during a worldwide pandemic. Moreover, absent the profit motive, Cuba will predictably deliver its vaccines to its neighbors at vastly cheaper prices than its capitalist counterparts.
Cuba’s Vaccine History
This prediction is based on the fact that Cuba has long been a supplier of vaccines and doctors not only to the Global South, but to countries such as Italy during the height of Covid-19’s first wave. Additionally, with its unequaled ratio of doctors to citizens, the island nation’s response to the pandemic has effectively limited documented coronavirus infections despite supply problems caused by the continued U.S. embargo of the island.
All four developments (the superabundance of doctors, the relative control of Covid-19, Cuba’s research capacities, and the export of medical care to other countries) result from the foresight and vision of Fidel Castro, the revered father of his country. In the early 1980s he sparked initiation of a vigorous homegrown biotech sector – largely to cope with the U.S. embargo’s persistent attempts to deprive the island of medical supplies.
The result was the emergence of 20 research centers and 32 companies employing 20,000 people under the umbrella of the state-run BioCubaFarma Corporation. Recently, spokespersons connected with the corporation tweeted, “The #CubanVaccineCOVID19 is dedicated to the sower of dreams: Fidel. Our tribute to the one who believed in the strength and future of #CubanScience.”
BioCubaFarma produces 8 of the 12 vaccines Cuba uses to immunize its own population against diseases such as measles and polio. Cuba has also exported hundreds of millions of vaccine doses to more than 40 countries (e.g. to deal with meningitis and hepatitis B).
All of this represents just one more illustration of socialism’s comparative efficiency in the face of crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. Even a poor blockaded country like Cuba can respond to an unprecedented crisis such as the coronavirus without holding sick people hostage to the confiscatory demands of privatized natural monopolies like Big Pharma. The latter’s claims to mammoth profits based upon (largely government-funded) costly research are simply ideological cover for overweening corporate greed that none of us should stand for.
People’s vaccines can be produced at warp speed and at low cost – despite news blackouts even on “Democracy Now.”
Here’s an interview posted last week by Rob Kall on OpEdNews, where Rob is the editor in chief and where I’m now serving as a senior editor. The exchange took place at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic. As you’ll see, I’m speaking from my basement office in our home in Westport, Connecticut. (I’m thinking that I should do something to make the venue seem less like a basement. . .) Anyway, it’s the third time Rob has had me on his show.
Readings for 19th Sunday in ordinary time: I KINGS 19: 9A, 11-13A; PSALMS 85: 9-14; ROMANS 9: 1-5; MATTHEW 14: 22-23
In today’s Gospel, we hear Matthew’s iconic account of Yeshua walking on water – and of his invitation to Peter to follow the Master’s example.
The story is relevant to our times filled as they are with turbulence, polarization, and uncertainty. Those were the disturbing characteristics of Yeshua’s time as well – and of Matthew’s early church. In both contexts, there was turbulence everywhere. But despite it all, the early followers of Yeshua were asked to do the impossible – to walk on water themselves.
Before I get to what that might mean, here’s a reminder of how our own tempestuous times mirror those of Yeshua and Matthew.
My Own Confusion
If the truth be told, I must admit that I hardly know what to think anymore. The polarizing spirit of the day has me pretty upset. I can barely listen to the news each day. And the mere images of the politicians I have come to despise cause my stomach to churn. I can’t stand to hear their voices – or those of their ever-harsher critics. And besides that, I see no alternatives. (How much better is Joe Biden than Donald Trump?)
However, the immediate cause of my upset and confusion is the video I posted here last week – an interview by Jason Dean of Sacha Stone, the founder of the International Tribunal for Natural Justice. It generated a lot of controversy when it appeared on OpEdNews on Thursday.
Subsequently, a whole ZOOM meeting of the site’s editors, contributors, and readers had everyone arguing about the interview’s truth claims. Is the coronavirus a pandemic or a “plandemic?” Does wearing a facemask make sense? There was wide disagreement during the call.
Those questions and emotions generated by the video were rooted in the polarizing figure of Sacha Stone himself. He’s charismatic, articulate, extremely outspoken, and given, I fear, to hyperbole. On the one hand, he is deeply spiritual and reflective of the best of the mystical traditions shared by all the world’s great faiths. His passionate concern about and energetic action against the trafficking of children for pedophilic purposes is unmistakable and genuine.
On the other hand, he somewhat off-puttingly fills his discourse with references to evil, Satanic cults, the deep state, and to ruling class rituals devoted to drinking the blood of fear-adrenalized two and three-year-olds.
Obviously, then Stone himself is controversial. He illustrated, I said, the difficulty of classifying people today on the basis of the traditional categories of “left” and “right,” liberal and conservative.
For instance, he is a supporter of President Trump. But he has long despised, he says, all politicians as liars and sell-outs to the rich 1% that govern our nation through the lawmakers they have long since bought and sold. Nonetheless, Stone sees Trump as one of the two modern-era U.S. presidents of true human worth. The other one? John F. Kennedy.
In all of this, Stone finds prominent support in a former CIA operative, Robert David Steele. Steele was described by one OEN ZOOM call participant who knows Steele well, has corresponded with him, and has interviewed him formally as “a brilliant guy.” In fact, as an elite insider, Steele not only backs Stone’s claims about cults and blood, he serves as Commissioner and Chief Counsel on Stone’s International Tribunal for Natural Justice. Steele says 22,000 children are disappeared each day for purposes of pedophilia and employment in those blood rituals.
Is all of that disturbing and confusing enough for you? It’s almost more than I can bear. It has my head spinning with questions I thought resolved long ago about Trump, his portrayal in the media, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Even more seriously, it makes me wonder if our world is indeed controlled by sexual perverts who seem (in Stone’s words) “soulless” and as if they were aliens from another planet.
My only hope is that despite Steele’s endorsement, Stone’s claims about trafficked children are false or exaggerated. Failing that, my hope is that the truth of Stone’s accusations will all unmistakably come to light in the context of the explosive tip-of-the-iceberg saga of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. Such revelation has world revolutionary potential.
Yeshua’s & Matthew’s Confusion
In the context of this Sunday homily, my thoughts about national and personal upset and about revolutionary solutions return me to the social and political circumstances of Yeshua’s own day and of the Gospel writer, Matthew some fifty years later. Both contexts were no less turbulent than our own. As a matter of fact, they were even more so.
Yeshua, of course, lived under Roman occupation. As a good Jew, he surely hated that. The four Gospels are filled with indications of his antipathy towards Rome. However, as a reformer of Judaism, the Master was even more upset about the collaboration between Rome and the Temple Establishment’s scribes and priests. In his estimation, they were even worse sell-outs than our own presidents, congresspeople, judges, media, police, and military.
I’m sure that Yeshua along with his inner circle and his poor and oppressed audiences hardly knew what to think.
The same was true for Matthew’s audience. More than fifty years after Yeshua’s death, tensions with Rome had exploded just as Yeshua had predicted they would. In the year 70, Rome had finally punished Jerusalem’s Jews for their insubordination. In fact, the genocidal Romans had attacked and brutally destroyed the Holy City of Jerusalem, killed more than a million of its inhabitants (including the entire leadership of the emergent Christian community) and razed its temple to the ground. Fifteen or 20 years later, when Matthew wrote his Gospel, his community was still reeling from that defining act of devastation.
It’s in that context that Matthew spins his iconic story of Yeshua walking on water.
The story goes that following Yeshua’s feeding of the 5000 (last week’s Gospel focus), Yeshua forces the apostles to get into their boat and row to the other side. [The text says, “Yeshua made (emphasis added) the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side.” Perhaps these experienced fishermen (as opposed to the land lubber, Yeshua) saw a storm was coming and were reluctant to set sail despite Yeshua’s urgings.] In any case, a storm does come up and the apostles fear they are all about to drown. You can imagine their cries for help.
Then they see a figure walking on the water in the midst of high threatening waves. At first, they think it’s a ghost. Then they realize that it’s Yeshua. He’s walking on the raging waters.
Peter, ever the impetuous leader of the apostles, doubts what he sees. So, he says “Prove to me that it’s you, Yeshua; let me walk on the waves just as you’re doing.” Yeshua says, “Join me then over here then.” So, Peter gets out of the boat and, like his teacher actually walks on water for a few steps.
Then, despite the evidence, he begins to doubt. And as he does so, he starts sinking below the water line. “Save me, Lord!” he cries out again. Yeshua stretches out his hand and saves Peter. Then he asks, “Where’s your faith? Why is it so weak? Why did you doubt?”
Of course, this whole story (like last week’s “Loaves and Fishes”) is one of the dramatic parables Matthew composed. If we get caught up in wondering whether we’re expected to believe that someone actually walked on water, we’ll miss the point of this powerful tale. It’s about Yeshua’s followers doing the unexpected and irrational in the midst of the seriously threatening crises life forces upon us.
You see, Matthew’s Jewish audience shared the belief du jour that the sea was inhabited by dangerous monsters – Leviathan being the most fearful. And courageously walking on water was a dramatic way of expressing what Matthew’s community believed about Jesus, viz. that he embodied the courage and power to do the completely unexpected in the midst of crisis and subdue the most threatening forces imaginable – even the most lethal they could think of, the Roman Empire.
Yeshua’s invitation to Peter communicates the truth that all of us have the power to confront monsters if we’ll just find the courage to leave safety concerns behind even in the most threatening conditions, to confront life’s monsters, and join Yeshua in the midst of its upheavals.
Problem is: we easily lose faith and courage. As a result, we’re overcome by life’s surging waves and by the monsters we imagine are lurking underneath.
So, what does it mean to confront today’s angry waters and invisible monsters. What are we to believe before those who tell us that everything’s fake, there is no truth, and that the world is run by leviathan beasts hiding below the waves boiling all around us? What are we to think for instance, when the police and military we were taught to trust, betray us utterly? What do we make of the fact that there are no leaders we can follow – when we fear that talking heads, pundits, and even the spiritually astute are only sowing confusion, spin, falsehood and doubt? What’s entailed in stretching out our hand towards our Great Teacher inviting us to walk on water and ignore the threatening confusion and fear engendered by our uncertain times dwarfed by those he himself and his followers endured?
Frankly, I’m not sure. As I said, I remain more confused than ever.
However, I do think that walking on water today means desperately grasping Yeshua’s hand in the sense of getting back to the basics of our Great Master’s message about the Kingdom of God. That’s the anchor for many of us. He told us that despite all appearances to the contrary – despite the engulfing waves:
We humans are not truly in charge. Life Itself is working things out in an evolutionary pattern that is beyond any of our thought categories (Matthew 6:25).
A New Era is in the process of birthing – a new heaven and a new earth is about to dawn (Matthew 3:2, 4:17; Mark 1:15).
In that order, empires of all kinds (including our own) are doomed (See the entire Book of Revelation).
The new heaven and earth are destined for everyone – not merely for the 1% (Luke 4: 14-22).
In fact, the present reality will be turned upside down. Those now considered “first” will be last (Matthew 20:16).
It will be governed by a politics of love (not fear or hate).
There, the identity of those now despised (the poor, hungry, thirsty, houseless, naked and imprisoned) will be revealed as embodying Yeshua himself (Matthew 25: 40-45).
Embracing those truths promises to save us from being overwhelmed and drowned. No matter what the “informed” or “experts” might say, living by those convictions represents what it means to walk on water in these uncertain times.
Readings for 4th Sunday of Easter: ACTS 2:14A, 36-41; PSALM 23: 1-6; 1 PETER 2: 20B-25; JOHN 10: 1-10
This week’s readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter contain an important message for us in this time of Coronavirus. They call us to personal and community transformation – to persist in our recently imposed collective abandonment of the world’s values around profit, pleasure, power and prestige – the ones that are destroying our planet and that were rejected by the great prophet from Nazareth.
Given our immediate context, the readings’ implied message is: Don’t simply pick up where you left off. Instead embrace the new life that Mother Nature has so recently imposed. When the smoke clears, don’t go back to normal.
That’s the highly political theme of today’s readings. They focus on the image of “Life Itself as our guiding Shepherd,” and Jesus as the gate to the sheepfold protecting those within from destructive “strangers.” In biblical symbolism, such references are loaded with political meaning. Since the time of King David, Judah’s kings had always been referred to as shepherds.
So, when today’s familiar responsorial says, “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.” It’s laying out a list of imperatives for kings like David. As God’s administrators, they are to make sure people have food and drink, shelter, leisure, and a clean and verdant environment.
And when John the evangelist has Jesus refer to himself as the sheepfold’s gatekeeper, John is calling attention to Jesus’ Way as leading from one reality (the world’s) to another, the fold he called the Kingdom of God. There, everything will be reversed. The first will be last; the last, first. The rich will be humiliated and the poor have the earth for their possession.
Unbelievably, the coronavirus has shed a bright light both on the corruption of what we’ve come to consider “normal,” and on what Arundhati Roy calls the “portal” and Jesus calls “the gate” leading to a revolutionary reality with kingdom overtones.
The Old Normality
To begin with, consider the old normal, specifically here in the United States.
Like the USSR in 1989, the USA has collapsed before our eyes in a matter of weeks. Yes, it’s already a fait accompli. And no one knows what to do about it.
The country’s economy has drawn to an absolute standstill. And it’s not going to return to normal any time soon. Unemployment is projected to exceed Great Depression proportions. People already routinely line up for blocks-long breadlines.
Moreover, the predominantly capitalist nature of America’s mixed economy has switched overnight to a predominantly socialist one. Instead of being allowed to perish (as capitalist theory would demand) the country’s largest enterprises have proven to require repeated bailouts from the central government. It happened with the Dot Com Burst of 2000, with the Great Recession in 2008, and now with the COVID-19 Crash of 2020. The system is completely unstable, and its survival requires those periodic infusions totaling trillions of dollars each time. Meanwhile millions go hungry and are left unemployed and wondering where their next meal might come from.
That’s called “socialism.” And in a matter of weeks, it’s happened in what we brag about as “the richest in the world.”
At the same time, the central government pledged by its Constitution to protect its citizens claims no responsibility to do so. It has left that obligation to local governments and to mutual aid organizations.
The resulting chaos has lifted the curtain that previously had prevented our realizing the actual swath of the sudden systemic collapse. Besides the political breakdown just noted, the disarray has touched at the very least, the following key elements:
Healthcare: Like nothing else, the COVID-19 crisis has laid bare the insanity of the U.S. healthcare non-system. We spend twice as much as the rest of the world in this area and end up with a vastly inferior product. U.S. healthcare has proven completely unable to respond to an absolutely predictable viral crisis. Disgracefully, with a far smaller population than China’s, we currently lead the world in Coronavirus deaths. As a result, polls show that a strong majority from both parties want to switch to single payer healthcare. However, presidential candidates from both parties, revealing their ownership by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, steadfastly refuse to even consider that option.
U.S. Industry: America’s system of production has also proven far less able to respond to COVID-19 than China’s. Our industries cannot even produce enough cotton swabs, much less, simple products like virus test kits, hospital beds, or protective gear for its first responders. That too represents a failure of the underlying neoliberal capitalist system that has off-shored productive capacity for more than 40 years.
However, the systemic failure unfolding before our eyes goes much further. It touches:
A phantom democracy: Ours is a phony democracy. It is based on bribery masquerading as “campaign contributions.” Its voting machines are easily hackable. The reigning system of gerrymandering has politicians choosing voters rather than the reverse. Voter suppression is widespread and obvious. No wonder only about half of Americans bother to vote.
A decayed infrastructure: Roads are potholed. Bridges are increasingly dangerous.
Homelessness: Our streets are filled with people sleeping on grates, while homes and office spaces lie empty. The system can’t bring the two together.
Overflowing Prisons: The United States imprisons a greater proportion of its people than any other country in the world. Most of them are black and brown. This racist system has an imprisonment rate 5 times higher than most countries in the world. And conditions in the privatized prisons are generally abominable.
A propagandized mainstream media (MSM): Six giant corporations – Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany and Viacom — own most newspapers, TV and radio stations. They act more like government propagandists and stenographers for politicians rather than fulfilling their traditionally assigned Fifth Estate function. Like those living in the former USSR, most of us have learned to mistrust the MSM in favor of on-line sources – the new samizdat equivalents.
A corrupt military: The U.S. military fights perpetual wars no one understands: To put down rebellions against its imperial policies, it currently spends (officially) nearly $2 billion each day ($718 billion in total annually). During the Obama administration, Americans dropped more than 26,000 bombs on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. Its drones terrorized populations in those countries on a daily basis. In other words, the United States continues to be what Dr. Martin Luther King called “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”
A politicized “justice” system: The court system has been packed for the next generation to favor corporations and the rich rather than ordinary people. That’s true all the way up to the Supreme Court whose key decisions (like Citizens United) have neutered democracy and punished women and the poor. Its predominant right-wing members should be called “Injustices” rather than Justices.
With all of that in mind, consider today’s readings as they centralize the primacy of Jesus’ “Way” over destructive values like those that the United States has come to embody. What follows are my “translations;” you can find the originals here.
ACTS 2: 14A, 36-41: Jewish Peter continues last week’s first Christian sermon: Peter says, “The crucified Jesus whom you mistakenly executed achieved the full Christ-consciousness the world has been waiting for.” When the crowd heard this they asked, “What then must we do?” Peter answered: “In the Spirit of the Christ, reject the world’s values and join us in the reformation of life dictated by our own holy faith.” Thousands of good Jews said “yes” that very day.
PSALM 23: 1-6: His listeners’ “yes” was premised on a traditional Jewish understanding of God: The Divine One is an accompanying kind Good Shepherd – the traditional symbol of a king. The divine order leaves no one in want, but provides food and drink, housing, rest, comfort, refreshment, courage, protection for everyone without distinction.
1 PETER 2: 20B-25: In a later letter Peter elaborated: If the world hates and hurts you for trusting such a God, know that you must be doing something right. You’re actually following in the footsteps of Jesus. Remember how they insulted him and that he remained nonviolent even when it cost him his life. Such awareness will keep you whole and on the right path blazed for us by our beloved Good Shepherd.
John 10: 1-10: A even much later reflection on Jesus as Good Shepherd: Jesus often used strange imagery to confuse his enemies. For instance, he referred to himself as a shepherd and to foreign occupiers (“strangers”) as sheep rustlers. In today’s reading, he calls himself the “gate” of the sheepfold, but also the “gatekeeper.” In the spirit of Psalm 23 (above), he speaks of his friends as his “sheep” and the purpose of his shepherding as protection and fullness of life for them.
As already indicated, Arundhati Roy recently picked up Jesus’ gate theme. At the prospect of ending the current lockdown, she spoke of our standing before a “portal” leading to a new way of life. It opens onto the new world our Great Holy Mother Earth has displayed for us these last six weeks.
Whatever the immediate causes of the virus, it seems that the Goddess of All has used it to make us realize that the world’s catastrophic way of consumption, environmental destruction, hurry and stress is not inevitable. Rather, it is clearly possible for the entire world to leave all of that behind.
Our Mother has shown us unmistakably that we humans are the actual virus afflicting the world. With our infernal machines ground to a halt, the sky cleared, birds and animals returned to their natural habitat, and rivers ran clear again.
In fact, another world (previously considered impossible, unrealistic, and utopian) has been shown to be indeed possible. Its restoration constitutes the very meaning of the religious term “repentance.”
It was a miracle
No one thought possible
Before Ash Wednesday.
To health, family,
Cooking and eating
Houses never cleaner –
Or messier (Your call).
That Special Other,
And our very selves.
Imagining and living
Without hated jobs
And nosey bosses.
With cards freshly reshuffled.
The New Deal came
They said couldn’t be.
And open windows.
With other masks
Dropped and replaced.
Could you tell?
And now it’s Easter
Sad tears for the dead
To see that their passing
Was no Act of God
That New Life,
Is possible NOW
(It always was)
Where no one
Dies like that,
And no one’s work
Where all finally
Get that recompense
Guidance and well-being
Each child deserves.
So, no matter what
Wolves and vultures
Might howl and screech,
There’ll be no return
To the tombs we knew
Before Good Friday,
And our cleansing
Seize the day:
Like never before!
The Coronavirus plague should be putting everything in perspective for us all. It should make us ask what life’s really about, no matter if we’re rich or middle class. (The poor are another story.) That’s because COVID-19 has forced everyone who’s solvent into something like the same boat. It’s made us realize that the vessel has just sprung a huge leak that threatens to take us all down collectively and personally – unless we make some fundamental changes on both fronts. The possibilities for change are endless, hopeful and encouraging.
Our Shared Reality
First of all, think about our shared boat. All of us have been born into a consumerist culture that tells us life’s about money, beautiful clothes, luxury automobiles, travel to exotic places, entertainment, and eating in fine restaurants.
Suddenly though, none of that has much meaning.
In my own case, since the springing of the Coronavirus leak, I don’t even have anywhere to spend the money I already have. My two old Volvos have been parked in our driveway for 2 weeks; I haven’t used a drop of gasoline; there’s no place for us to go. I can spend all day in my pajamas, and nobody will know the difference. I live a 70-minute train ride from Broadway, but it’s all been shut down. I can’t even watch March Madness or Lebron on TV. There’s no spring training or the prospect of a baseball season. And as for fine restaurants, I can’t even buy a donut and java at “Coffee An’,” our local hangout, or even at Starbucks.
And I imagine it’s like that for billionaires too. I mean, what do they do all day? Like me, they’re confined as they shelter in place. Like me, they get up in the morning, read the newspaper or some online source, eat breakfast, maybe go for a run, take a shower, eat lunch, nap for a while, talk with some friends or associates on the phone, read a chapter or two in a book or an article in a magazine, have a drink for happy hour, eat supper with family, watch a Netflix movie, have a nightcap, and go to bed. That’s it.
And tomorrow will be the same. What else can they do? What more can their money buy them? I mean, it’s pretty much the same for all of us who are lucky enough not to be homeless or in prison. Under the Coronavirus regime, Jeff Bezos’ life can’t be that much different from my own.
So, as I watch financiers thrilled at the prospect of a surging stock market stimulated by a number I can’t even imagine, I wonder what for? Where are they going to spend the profits they anticipate? Who’s going to buy the stuff they imagine will be produced? Their situation is the same as mine.
And where did all that money come from anyway? (They didn’t have it for Bernie’s Medicare for All.) What does it mean? Why is green paper – or fiat numbers someone decided to put on investors’ computer screens – so powerful? And what did any of those Wall Streeters do to earn it? In present circumstances, how does it make their lives better than mine?
It all seems somehow made up. And in a very real sense, so does the rest of the stuff I’ve mentioned so far.
And then there’s Mr. Trump’s solution to this health crisis. In a word, it’s DENIAL. Of course, that’s one way of dealing with our sinking ship. Just ignore the problem and get back to normal. Or as Trump puts it: “Open the country for business again. Right now! Start driving those cars and buying that junk. Eat up those Big Macs and put some fat on those bones of yours. Fire up those plants and darken the skies with smoke again. Bury those pipelines and frack like fu*k. (I’m sure he puts it that way.) Cut down some more rainforests. Fill up those plastic shopping bags and throw them in the ocean. Get on with the business of poisoning the planet. Above all, produce those bombs, planes, tanks, and missiles. And be sure to use them. There are so many sh*t-hole countries to destroy and so little time.
“And, by the way, be sure to ignore the scientists (again!). Hell, if we left it up to the doctors and their hypochondriacal tendencies, the stores, stadiums, shows and showrooms would be shuttered for two years. And then what?
“So, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, and for the sake of our grandchildren, let the old people and other weaklings die – even if millions expire prematurely. Who cares? With the market in the tank, there’s nothing for them to live for anyway. Better dead than bored and broke.”
That’s the Trump many of us know and loathe. Thankfully however, his denial’s not the only way of dealing with the problem – although (disappointingly) the congressional bail-out package shows that ALL of our politicians (including Sandberg and Warren) pretty much agree with the president!
For the rest of us however, it’s high time to move in another direction – to reassess what we take as “normal,” cut our losses, and get back to the basics that lockdown has forced upon our awareness. In fact, COVID-19 might be the Process of Life, it might be Mother Nature, it might even be God (!) telling us to review and revise our entire way of life – the way environmentalists have been suggesting since Francis of Assisi, Henry David Thoreau, and Jacques Cousteau.
But our world has gone beyond them too. I mean, given the beneficial developments unforeseen by those proto-ecologists, we might finally be able to transcend their insights and pressure our politicians to move towards the prospects that futurists described for us in the 1960s and ‘70s. Remember their speculations about “the leisure society” that computers and “cybernation” would make inevitable? What will we do, they asked, with all that free time?
Now’s the time to stop and answer their question. Despite our dear leader’s recommendations, it would clearly be insane to return to the suicidal “normal” that seemed inescapable just two weeks ago. We have to make everyone understand that.
So, if not in Trump’s and our senators’ direction, where should we go? How about:
For sure, nationalizing health care into a single payer system. If nothing else, the present pandemic has revealed the absolute inadequacy and intolerability of the healthcare status quo. Medicare for All needs to be the sine qua non element of effective response.
Break up any business that’s “too big to fail.” (Aren’t you tired of bailing out the rich?) Breaking up corporate giants makes sense even according to strict free market principles. Adam Smith himself saw monopolies as counterproductive. If businesses make inadvisable decisions, they should be allowed to crash, burn and be replaced by more efficient firms.
Mimic the success of FDR by implementing a Green New Deal (GND) to absolutely restructure our economy in ways that take seriously the crisis of climate chaos. Besides redirecting production away from carbon and towards green technology, the GND would provide enhanced unemployment insurance, forgiveness of college loans, paid maternity leave, free childcare, higher minimum wages. . .
Almost as certainly, our country also needs some form of Universal Basic Income (UBI). As we’ll see immediately below, the work furloughs forced upon us by COVID-19 have made it clear that many of our jobs are pretty close to busywork. So many of those jobs can be safely eliminated.
Yes, when you think about it, so much of the work we do is unnecessary. Do we really need advertising, health insurance companies, defense contractors, malls and retail outlets, oil giants, and businesses that destroy our health and environment? Do we really need McDonalds and Burger King?
What we’re learning now is that we can get along without any of them.
And certainly, we don’t have to do all that traveling – the hours upon hours spent in morning and evening rush hour traffic. And then there’s all that time that road warriors waste in airports traveling to meetings that might just as well take place via Skype or Zoom.
The same is true for a lot of our schooling. Do we really need to maintain all those expensive campus plants, when present experience teaches us that remote learning is quite effective, inexpensive and time saving?
And above all, worldwide focus on real national security problems like pandemics and lack of adequate medical care has put in perspective those other completely manufactured problems connected with our endless wars. Is our national security really served by them? Or is that make-work – is it busywork too?
So, how about eliminating those 300 foreign military bases and the millions of soldiers, independent contractors, and related jobs as well? Again, it’s busywork – make-work that’s completely unnecessary and wasteful of taxpayer money.
Additionally, the release of non-violent inmates from Rikers and other prisons brings to light the fact that if we’d legalize drugs and treat addiction as the health problem it is, we wouldn’t need all those penal institutions either.
So, the present pandemic, at least in some respects, might be the proverbial blessing in disguise.
It’s suggesting that we eliminate all the jobs now revealed as unnecessary. Doing so will suddenly make it possible for us to reduce the time we all spend trying to “look busy.” Suddenly, it becomes possible for us to share the decreasing number of jobs that can’t be done cybernetically. We could share the remaining jobs working just 4 hours each day, or 3 days a week. We could work 6 months each year and have 6 months off. Or we could spend 1 year on the job and take 2 off.
The list of changes suggested by our current crisis is endless. And I’m sure any of us could add to the list of labor-saving discoveries the current lockdown has brought to light.
In summary, our forced retreat invites us to realize that we’re all in the same boat and (and as someone else said) once our basic needs have been met, the best things in life are free.
Readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent: Ezekiel 37: 12-14; Psalms 130: 1-8; Romans 8:8-11; John 11: 1-45
On this fifth Sunday of Lent our readings prepare for Easter by directing us to consider death and resurrection both politically and personally.
The readings are especially poignant and relevant at a time when as a people we appear to be in a cruel political captivity not unlike that of Israel more than 2500 years ago. Besides that, the loss of loved ones to the Coronavirus has brought into so many families the experience of Martha and Mary bereft of their beloved brother Lazarus who was so dear to their family’s close friend, Jesus the Christ.
Our Own Babylonian Captivity
Today’s first reading reminds us that we’re like Israel during its Babylonian Captivity. The prophet Ezekiel addresses that latter situation right off the bat. His sixth century was the saddest of times for his people – the era of his nation’s Great Exile. The Hebrews had been defeated and humiliated by Babylon (modern day Iraq). Judah’s leaders and a large portion of its populace had been abducted to that enemy state. Jerusalem lay in ruins. The exiles felt as if they had been slaughtered culturally. They were far from home, controlled by foreign masters, and apparently abandoned by God.
Like his audience, we’re undeniably in the grip of cruel masters. During the COVOD-19 crisis, our version of captivity has our “public servants” treating us as if we were aliens in a Babylon that belongs to them and their rich donors. It’s as if we were powerless defeated foreigners under their power rather than their employers. That’s shown by the fact that they’ve dealt with the Coronavirus problem not by improving the people’s healthcare system. Instead they’ve used the crisis to take care of the bank accounts of their sponsors who end up being our captors! In other words, we’re the victims of a coup by the corporate elite and their congressional minions. There seems no way out.
That’s the way Matt Stoller, research director at the American Economic Liberties Project, has described the bailout. His recent column for the Guardian is entitled “The coronavirus relief bill could turn into a corporate coup if we aren’t careful.”
According to Stoller, suddenly, under the pressure of COVID-19 congressional representatives on retainer from corporations like Boeing and Citibank found the very money they claimed wasn’t there when it came to providing for us the same healthcare that every other industrialized nation offers taxpayers. Suddenly that money materialized out of nowhere, but not to cure the failed “healthcare market,” but to heal instead their failed stock market and to save a moribund capitalism.
Predictably, they’ll use that money not principally to address COVID-19, but to eventually buy up distressed businesses and taxpayers’ homes. (Stoller warns that we may end up with just three retailers in this country: Amazon, Walmart, and Costco.) In the process, they’ll gift dividends to their investors and bonuses to their CEOs. They’ll also further consolidate their control of the nation’s and world’s economy. It’s pure Disaster Capitalism as described so well by Naomi Klein. Absolutely no one asked legislators, “How are you going to pay for the generosity you’ve just extended to your corporate sponsors?”
Meanwhile, “our” representatives have given highly conditioned, means-tested crumbs to the rest of us. It’s what the Mafia does. As Jimmy Dore says, they rip off the ones who pay them protection money all year. Then give their proteges a turkey at Thanksgiving – and expect gratitude in return.
I mean, none of what the Congress passed showed any awareness of dealing directly with the actual problems facing our nation in the face of COVID-19. They’ve done nothing to immediately address the lack or face masks, hospital beds, or respirators, — much less that universal healthcare insurance which our situation absolutely cries out for.
No, healthcare and all the rest have been left to the mechanisms of trickle-down economics and private insurance companies. The implication is that if we take care of Wall Street first, our immediate healthcare needs will somehow be met one day when private enterprise finally decides to produce what we so desperately need right now. We’ve seen this horror movie before.
And just watch the dead bodies pile up while we wait. It’s already happening. And the crisis hasn’t nearly peaked.
We are captives. We are enslaved in this New Babylon by resuscitated Robber Barons!
Nonetheless, in the face of all this, today’s readings urge us not to give up hope either in the face of seemingly inescapable exploitation nor in that of premature death. As such the readings are not just happy talk. They’re seriously calling us instead to face the undeniable fact that this too will pass. It will. And (hard as it might be to believe) what we’re promised instead is God’s Kingdom. The Robber Baron system is on its last legs.
Babylon’s empire fell; so did Rome’s. And genuine tears, compassion, and words of comfort like those Jesus shared with Martha and Mary can somehow restore life that seemed hopelessly lost. Both Ezekiel and Jesus believed in resurrection. In the present crisis, their followers are urged to do the same.
Review the readings for yourself here. What follows are my own “translations” of their content.
Ezekiel 37: 12-14Death as a Metaphor for Political Captivity: Five hundred years before Jesus, while God’s people were imprisoned in what we now call Iraq, the Prophet Ezekiel predicted their release from captivity and return to Judah. It would be, he promised, like a resurrection from the dead. God’s people would once again experience her goodness and feel Life’s Spirit rushing through their veins.
Psalm 130: 1-8: The Spirit of God Favors Such Release: This is because when people cry out to their Great Mother, God always hears. She is completely trustworthy, kind, and above all, forgiving.
Romans 8: 8-11: And ThisDespite the World’s Denial: No one ever enjoys fullness of life living by the values of the world. That’s because we are not merely bodies as the world teaches. No, we are Divine Spirits who enjoy our bodies to serve the world, just as Jesus did. So, don’t worry. What the world calls defeat and death can never be final. The Divine Spirit we share will always return to life.
John 11: 5A, 26: So, those who follow the path trod by our Enlightened Master are never afraid of death. They never give up.
John 11: 1-45: A Living Parable Showing that Death Does Not Have the Final Word: Lazarus along with his sisters Mary and Martha were among Jesus’ best friends. So, the Master was heartbroken when word reached his hideout that Lazarus was deathly ill. However, his careful measures to avoid the police kept Jesus from getting to Lazarus’ home before it was too late. When he finally arrived, a distraught Martha gently scolded him for his delay. Mary was softer in her expression of disappointment. “I’m sorry,” Jesus said through his own tears, “but don’t you see that nothing in this world – not even death – is final. Life always has the last word. That’s true for Lazarus; it will be true for our suffering people.” Unconvincingly, both Martha and Mary nodded agreement. He embraced both sisters fondly and asked to be taken to Lazarus’ tomb. Once there, from his profound heartache, Jesus shouted, “I’m so sorry, Lazarus. I loved you so much, my dear brother!” And true to his words, Jesus’ grief and evident love somehow made everyone realize that he was right: death is not the end. Everyone’s sorrow turned instantly to joy. It was miraculous!
Once again, I know that in our present crisis, it’s almost impossible to take those hopeful readings to heart. It’s hard to believe that one day we’ll be released from the captivity of the rich and powerful who are using the COVID-19 crisis to even further consolidate their power over us. It’s hard in such circumstances to believe that Life and History are on our side.
But that’s what our readings today call us to. Improbably it seems, they ask us to believe that Life and Justice will eventually triumph over the ways of the world that seem so overwhelming and powerful — that seem to be winning.
The hammerlock the rich have on all of us is painful and seems absolutely inescapable. They don’t care about us and neither do most of our elected officials.
Meanwhile as we sweep up our crumbs, as we await our Thanksgiving turkey, we have to watch our loved ones die for lack of testing kits, face masks, hospital beds, protective clothing for heroic healthcare workers, and universal healthcare coverage for the rest of us. It’s all so sad. As with Ezekiel’s people in Babylon, as with tearful Martha and Mary – and Jesus – we’re hard put to believe in resurrection. But Easter is on the horizon. . .
So now the word in the mainstream media (MSM) is that Donald Trump has successfully co-opted the so-called “American left.” After all, they tell us, he’s implemented Universal Basic Income (UBI); he’s promised to set up government hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients; he’s proposed delayed foreclosures and evictions and has strengthened unemployment measures for laid-off workers. Unwittingly, we’re told, he has become a “socialist.” And worst of all (for his opponents) under that new identification, his approval ratings have risen.
Does this mean he’ll be reelected next fall even though his handling of the coronavirus crisis has been abysmal? Remember: he mocked it at first. The testing kits he promised still haven’t materialized. And, as usual, his pathological duplicity makes it impossible for anyone to know what’s really going on in the man’s little head. Do his promises mean anything, or will they be rescinded tomorrow?
Nonetheless, there’s a grain of truth in his latest manifestation as socialism’s champion.
Additionally, if we understand fascism as “capitalism in crisis”, Trump’s co-optations can be unmasked as mirroring faithfully those of his forebears in that system. And finally, there’s hope to be found in the president’s rising numbers.
To begin with, it must be acknowledged that all of the above (UBI, government-sponsored healthcare, policies preventing homelessness, and unemployment insurance) are indeed key planks in any socialist platform.
At the same time, it is also true to say that the president has very little choice in the matter. History has shown that in circumstances like these, heads of state interested in self-preservation and regardless of their ideological propensities, best serve their interests by intervening in the marketplace on behalf of their official constituents.
Put otherwise, the crisis at hand has once again exposed the fact that capitalism’s regular-as-clockwork systemic dysfunctions can only be remedied by socialist programs. (There are no exceptions to that rule.) That’s because government-coordinated socialism is far more efficient in addressing pressing crises than the necessarily disjointed, atomized and uncoordinated capitalist responses. This has been demonstrated most recently by China’s quick success in dealing with COVID-19.
In reality, however, Trump’s proposals are far from genuinely socialist. To begin with, ALL of them are emphatically temporary. His version of UBI are intended to last a month or two; his government hospitals are narrowly targeted at coronavirus patients (all others are still on their own and at the mercy of giant health insurance and pharmaceutical conglomerates); the evictions and foreclosures will resume when the current crisis has passed. Republicans will also reprise their attacks on unemployment insurance (and Social Security) when and if we return to “normal.”
By way of contrast, socialism’s remedies are permanent; they represent once-and-for-all transformations of the reigning economic system. Socialism is about Medicare for All, affordable housing, rent-control, job guarantees and adequate wages.
Moreover, socialism is an international movement of working-class people. Its philosophers — those who favor the working classes instead of their exploiters — are the ones our educational system of indoctrination has taught us to hate. We’ve been taught to despise Karl Marx, but to love Milton Friedman. Despite our ironic distaste for them, our class’ philosophers have always addressed themselves to “the workers of the world.”
Today’s socialists recognize what the coronavirus crisis has laid bare, viz. that even apart from present circumstances, we’re all in this together. Socialists also see clearly that our common enemy is the greed and self-centeredness that globalized capitalism itself has forced on our employers. Without heartless devotion to the “bottom line,” virtually none of those we work for would ever survive under free enterprise competition that rewards and necessitates starvation wages for so many and environmental devastation for us all. The system has made our employers our mortal but largely unrecognized enemies.
As opposed to socialism’s internationalism, Trump is a nationalist. Recall his inaugural proclamation, “From now on it’s only going to be America First, America First.” Nothing could be further from the ideals of citizens of the world. That is, insofar as circumstances have forced socialism upon him, Herr Trump is a National Socialist.
And that’s exactly what the fascists who came to power in the 1930s were. They were National Socialists in contrast to the international socialists and communists they hated so fiercely. In fact, Trump’s nationalism and his attempts at co-opting socialist policies to mollify a rebellious populace represents his tearing a page right out of Mein Kampf.
Think about it. As already mentioned, fascism is best defined as “capitalism in crisis.” Or as Benito Mussolini described it more exactly, fascism is corporate capitalism united with state power. In ultimate form, it enforces its order through a police state armed against its traditional enemies, viz. communists, socialists, labor organizers, Jews, non-whites, the disabled, immigrants, gypsies, etc. All those scapegoats receive blame for the inescapable inefficiencies and dysfunctions of the newly christened old system. All of them found places in fascism’s death camps.
Why then the name-change in the 1930s? Why the “National Socialist German Workers’ Party?” It’s because the Great Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the depression that followed had completely discredited capitalism. No one wanted to be associated with it any more than (until recently) people wanted to be associated with socialism and Marxism after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Following the Crash everyone, left and right, claimed to be some kind of socialist.
It’s similar today, even though the name itself is not yet so much in fashion. Still, socialist policies are much in favor among the American people. A solid majority wants Medicare for All. The Fight for $15.00 minimum wage is extremely popular among wage workers. In this age of climate chaos, environmental protection laws receive widespread approval. The same is true for free college education and forgiveness of student loans. And Social Security remains the most popular program ever instituted by the federal government.
More particularly, at this time of corona crisis, people need money to pay their bills. They want those monthly checks. Under the threat of COVID-19, they don’t want to worry about deductibles and co-pays. They need rent relief.
Hope behind Trump’s Ratings
All of that is hopeful. Any rise in Trump’s approval ratings because of the policies just reviewed reveal that Americans favor what the Republican Party is ideologically incapacitated to provide. Republicans will never permanentize the programs we all want.
And if they do, that’s o.k. too. Whether a red administration or a blue one meets genuinely human needs is beside the point.
More likely, however, the temporary programs currently receiving approval simply describe for true socialists (whether they embrace the name or not) the policy trajectories they must follow, propose, fight for and finally implement. Now’s the time to insist on a Green New Deal.
Readings for 4th Sunday of Lent: 1 Samuel 16: 6-7, 10-13A; Psalm 23: 1-6; Ephesians 5: 8-14; John 9: 1-41
This week’s liturgy of the word centralizes the concepts of blindness and darkness on the one hand and vision and light on the other. The constellation of readings is extremely relevant to our situation during this election season and time of Coronavirus.
Taken together, they claim that in the end, the processes of the Loving Universe (aka God) differ sharply from the choices of “the world.” While the world chooses the rich and powerful to lead, God chooses the least. What the world calls “seeing” is really blindness enshrouded in darkness. What it calls blindness is deeply perceptive and surrounded in light.
I’ll get to those readings in a minute. But before I do, consider their relevance to our culture’s own highly cultivated blindness.
On Our Blindness
Yes: from birth we’re taught to deny what’s staring us all in the face. We’re actually trained to be blind by our parents, culture, teachers and holy men. That imposed condition is exhibited today as we confront the world’s current pandemic crisis brought on by the Coronavirus.
Think of how our politicians both Republican and Democrat want us to deny what we’ve all seen with our own eyes.
Begin with the Republicans and Mr. Trump. (This is quite amusing.) Mr. Trump actually wants us to believe that he deserves a grade of “A” for dealing with the crisis that surfaced last December and which he ridiculed, belittled, and mocked all the way up until last week. Despite that clear record, the man’s dared to say, “This is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”
Then there was Joe Biden’s admonition last week that we all close our eyes to the achievements of the Cuban revolution. This man was shocked and appalled by Bernie Sanders recognition regarding Cuba that “. . . (I)t’s simply unfair to say everything is bad.”
“No,” Biden insisted, since Cuba is a “brutal dictatorship,” it’s somehow wrong to recognize the truth acknowledged even by the vice president’s own mentor (Barack Obama). Obama said, “The United States recognizes progress that Cuba has made as a nation, its enormous achievements in education and in health care.” Biden doesn’t want us to see any of that.
But there’s more – even apart from the arguable fact that for nearly 20 years, the most brutal human rights violations in Cuba have been carried out by the United States in its heinous hellhole known as Guantanamo Bay.
Cuba’s Enlightened Humanity
The “more” is that Cuba is exhibiting much greater humanity and skill in dealing with the Coronavirus than is the United States. That is, even in this time of pandemic, “we” not only refuse to lift sanctions on Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, and the other countries we’re punishing for crimes very similar to our own and even surpassed by “friends” such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and the Philippines. We’re actually intensifying the sanctions in the case of Iran while it’s an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. Evidently, for our leaders, there’s no recognition of human solidarity that transcends political considerations. They want us to forget that we’re all in this together – to be blind.
Meanwhile, Cuba has given docking privileges to a British cruise ship (and medical treatment to its passengers and crew) after those same privileges were refused elsewhere – even by Great Britain’s former colonies. Cuban authorities gave permission, they said, out of “humanitarian concerns” and the need for “a shared effort to confront and stop the spread of the pandemic.”
But Cuba’s response to the Coronavirus goes far beyond a one-off act of compassion. The country’s entire healthcare system is better equipped than ours for dealing with recurring epidemics like COVID-19, SARS, MERS, Ebola, Zika, and flu. And it’s not just a question of a Caribbean version of Medicare for All.
No, Cuba has a whole army of doctors to care not only for its own people, but also stands ready to respond to crises outside its borders. And it has done so repeatedly – even during the COVID-19 pandemic. The country also offers free medical education to students from the United States, provided they pledge themselves to serve their local communities on their return home. Moreover, every barrio in the country has a doctor known by name, because she makes house calls!
Add to this Cuba’s highly developed system of urban and community gardens, its use of animal-intensive rather than carbon-intensive plowing, and its generally low-carbon economy, and you’ll see why it’s better equipped than we are to deal with food shortages caused by a breakdown of the commercial supply chain during emergencies like the one we’re now experiencing.
Then there’s the Cuban education system vilified here as propagandistic – as though ours were not. Besides the exemplary literacy program implemented at their revolution’s outset, Cubans study colonialism, imperialism, and the way capitalism works to cause, profit from and exacerbate inevitable human disasters like pandemics, hurricanes, world hunger, and climate change. The 60-year blockade and quarantine imposed on the island along with the presence of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp provide teachers with close-to-home illustrations of capitalism’s brutality. Meanwhile, our version of schooling (even at doctoral levels) never touches such matters. So, whose system is propagandistic?
The bottom line here is that far from being a brutal dictatorship, Cuba presents us with a model of response not only to COVID-19, but to healthcare in general, climate change, and education. It’s just that we’ve been made so blind by our political “leaders,” teachers, and priests that we cannot see it.
With all of that in mind, consider today’s liturgical readings and what they have to say about seeing, insight, and light on the one hand blindness, superficiality and darkness on the other. Again, the selections could hardly be more relevant in this election season and time of COVID-19. Here are my “translations” of the texts. Once again, I urge you to read them for yourself here.
1 Samuel 16: 1B, 6-7, 10-13A
The Spirit of Life chooses national leadership from the least in the working class: The prophet Samuel was a great seer gifted with divine insight. Sent to the home of Jesse in Bethlehem, he sought Israel’s new King not from among the wealthy, but from a herdsman’s seven sons. However, his sharp prophetic perception found none of them worthy. “Have you no other son?” the prophet asked. “Well,” Jesse said, “David, my youngest is out in the field tending the sheep. But surely, he can’t be . . .” “Bring him to me,” the prophet growled. So, the youngest entered, red-faced and handsome. Seeing with God’s eyes, Samuel proclaimed, “This indeed is God’s chosen.” He then anointed David’s head with oil. And God’s Spirit rushed in upon the unsuspecting youth.
Psalm 23: 1-6
We can trust such choices by the Great Spirit: This is true because ultimately the Holy Spirit is humanity’s shepherd; there is nothing, then, to fear. She has created for us peaceful pastures near gentle refreshing waters. She is our guide and encouragement even in moments of darkness when we are overwhelmed by threatening circumstances. Her spirit nourishes us and protects us from all enemies and has done so throughout our entire lives. Who could ask for more?
Ephesians 5: 8-14
Trusting the insights of seers like Jesus confers salvific vision: Thanks to the enlightened Jesus (and other seers), our once darkened lives are now filled with light, goodness, justice and truth. We can finally see! In fact, we can become light itself. So, when shameful evil comes into our presence, it is exposed as such; it is transformed into light and quite disappears. Seeing with enlightened eyes is like awaking from a deep sleep or even rising from the dead.
John 9: 1-41
An illustration of how Jesus, his example and teaching can cure our blindness: As Light of the World, Jesus demonstrated the very meaning of enlightenment, when he met a beggar who was blind from birth (a metaphor for each of us). Living in blind darkness, Jesus said, is not the result of sin, but is part and parcel of the human condition. Escaping such shared handicap means overcoming the “wisdom” of the crowd, parental formation and religion itself. It means making choices based on personal experience of divine insight and then following Jesus (or some other enlightened avatar).
Wow! What clear direction at this crucial time! Seeing with God’s eyes reveals a world 180 degrees opposite the one endorsed by our culture, politicians, and even most church leaders. One hundred-eighty degrees!! If they say white, think black. If they say true, think lie. If they say peace, think war. We will not go far wrong adopting the working principle that our leaders lie whenever they move their lips. And that’s the truth.
Specifically, at this time of national choice and raging pandemic, the readings suggest that all of us are blind and zombie-like; we’re the walking dead. We can’t see what’s staring us in the face.
Contradicting today’s first reading, we reject worker-friendly leadership in favor of billionaires and corporate lackeys.
Blind as we are, we’re easily convinced by serial liars like Trump and Biden that up is down and that greed is good.
We actually still believe that even after Vietnam, Iraq, Fallujah, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Yemen, prison camps and baby jails on our southern border – after alliances with the likes of Bolsonaro, Duterte, MBS, Netanyahu . . . — we can still lecture the world about our need to combat “brutal dictatorships.”
We still believe that our election system – even after retention of the Electoral College, Citizens United, gerrymandering, voter suppression, hackable voting machines, and mile-long lines on election days – is still somehow the world’s gold standard for democracy.
Above all, we still impossibly believe that capitalism is at all capable of functioning effectively at times of crisis like the ones we’re facing now. (Here in mid-March, it can’t even produce Coronavirus test kits equivalent to what China’s been using since December!) Somehow the belief in capitalism’s superiority persists even when the record shows that in time of war, natural disaster, and predictable systemic failures, we always resort to socialism. In fact, the rich demand it! That’s because socialism is less rigid and more efficient!
In the case of Cuba, we can’t even recognize that a poor socialist country, oppressed and impoverished by 60 years of U.S. quarantine and blockade has shown itself more flexible, generous and humane than its uber-rich capitalist neighbor to the north.
This came in yesterday’s e-mail from a good friend.
Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighborhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbors in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM
March 13th 2020”