In times of great emotional duress, I normally find myself writing. To this point in our current crisis, the impulse went missing, like so much of our lives over the last four weeks. The intellectual processing loses its struggle with the reptilian brain that could only communicate at work or on social media to shout from the rooftops that the "Sky is Falling!" It was. It is. Silver linings can be found for sure, but we should first allow ourselves to grieve for what has been lost, both big and small. The graduations, the sports seasons, the shared experiences of social beings evolved to build community with each other are all missing and will be for a lot longer than we thought they might when we were ordered to stay home.
The biggest losses are the lives lost. We must acknowledge the sheer terror of mass graves and morgues in our cities, of seeing the front lines and stress of the heroes trying to heal as best they can while putting themselves in harm's way. There is horror in the death and illness and fear for what it means for me, for our family, for our community, for our country, for our world. I don't want to see that day of intubation...would my heart and panic even allow me to get that point? Do I invite such a fate by even talking about it? This cough I've had for 6 weeks goes away and comes back, each time bringing with it the fundamental questions of life and death. Jesus himself was scared about the reality of death before him. We all have been there.
It is Good Friday after all and as my 7 year old son asks. "Why do the call it 'Good' Friday? Shouldn't it be bad? Of all the bad Good Fridays, this has got to be one of the worst.
Good Friday always seems to be dreary, no matter where I have been in the world, as if nature accedes to the Christian traditions for one day to allow us to dwell in our lamentations for the loss of the soul we believe to have been God on Earth. The sadness and sense of loss that Christians feel on the day is profound as we retell the story of the Passion. While there is a wrote reciting, there is true sadness in our rituals as the stations of the cross progress to the ultimate end, an end that all of us will in fact face. The pandemic puts that end more squarely in front of all us, like a bad prognosis of a cancer diagnosis at the scale of an entire society. At the core of the tallies of the sick and the dead, the curve projects and flattening, the sad truth is that there are people, people like you and me.
The lamentations and fear are heightened because of the abysmal political culture and context in which we find ourselves. Must we mention his name? He doesn’t deserve it. Having plastered his name across every failed business venture over the last half century, this failure is his biggest. It may end up taking down the entire system, a country hollowed out like his Atlantic City casinos. There is no doubt that less lives would and will have been lost and less disruption would have come from even a leader with some basic level of competency, some sense of human decency, and even a smattering of empathy.
But to be clear, he spent his life in a political culture where a whole political party dedicates itself to know nothing-ism both in the discriminatory historical nature which the term connotates and the literal translation meaning of the words of choosing to know nothing. Reason, science, institutionalism, and enlightenment moral philosophy has given way to an incessant cacophony of attacks on the ideas and institutions built to enable a republic, preferring thin Christianity where the stories remain but the moral teachings are forgotten about. Indeed, even the history of a Good Friday is invoked to claim a victimhood that allows whole groups of Christians to focus on the personal relationship with a risen Christ while ignoring the much deeper lessons in the moral teaching in the words of Jesus reflected in the Beatitudes and the parables.
And to be fair, the other political party just nominated a guy who won’t ensure that everyone gets health care, has zero plans on the imminent climate disaster, led the charge on mass incarceration policies, the Iraq War, and just about every other deathly mistake the country has made over the last forty years.
This perversion of Christianity, the holing out of our collective civic education, and the vitriol that passes for journalism act as pillars to an increasingly unequal and unjust society. As unemployment skyrockets with 17 million claims in 3 weeks from an economy brought to an almost complete halt, we for the very first time encounter a potential reality that all of this may go away, the good and the very bad. The pandemic has blown over the house of cards with such ease exposing the ugliness of a society where so few with so much and so many with so little. Worse yet, the unbridled consumption and inequality portends the next crisis that science tells us is coming within the next decade, a warming earth that will bring even more disruption and chaos than this pandemic.
Yes, there may be silver linings. Yes, there is the potential to reshape our world. Yes, resurrection from the ashes of despair is possible. But not now. Not on Good Friday. For now, we offer our lamentations like the prophets of old, renting our clothes and crying out over the injustice, the unnecessary death, the corruption of the greedy.
My son is correct…This is Bad Friday.