Pssst, hey COVID-19, sit your behind down. I have something to say to you. If you’re looking for us to throw in the towel because of what you’ve done, well it ain’t gonna happen.
Sure, you caught us off guard. We didn’t see you coming. You snuck into our back yard – “West Coast” yard, they say – and spread your destruction across our nation, snuffing out over 100,000 lives along your hellish way.
You have marshaled new words – “social distancing,” “masking,” “stimulus checks,” and unfortunately “COVID-19” – into our vocabulary and infiltrated our already raucous political campaign.
You drove us by the millions to the unemployment line and robbed our senior classes of live graduation ceremonies. You got us masked and separated by panes of plexiglass from minimum wage store cashiers who don’t have the option of working from home. I’m torn apart by your impact on Navaho Nation and our nursing homes. And thanks to you COVID-19, I received a call last week from my longtime friend George who informed me that he was tested positive with your poison.
Now I really don’t know where you came from – someplace in China we’re told – and really don’t give a hoot. But what I do know is that because of you many small businesses are on the brink of shutting down and people of color have disproportionately topped death rolls.
So, okay CODID-19, you delivered a punch to our gut; that much I will concede. But we still stand, bent like trees in the wind but not broken.
While not your intention, on the plus side you’ve put our world class CDC (Center of Disease Control) on the map, introduced us to a world of little-known medical experts – Anthony Fauci, et al – and put heroic first respondents in front of us during the evening news.
But wait. Don’t leave. I’m not done with you yet.
You see COVID-19, although it was years before your time, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Leonard Pitts wrote a powerful piece after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. It applies to you today, the “known author” of the havoc you have wreaked on us. He wrote this (paraphrased):
“But in this moment of airless shock when hot tears sting disbelieving eyes, the only thing I can find to say, the only words that seem to fit, must be addressed to the unknown author of this suffering.
You monster. You beast. You unspeakable bastard!
What lesson did you hope to teach us by your coward’s attack on our World Trade Center, our Pentagon, us? What was it you hoped we would learn? Whatever it was, please know that you failed.
Did you want us to respect your cause? You just damned your cause.
Did you want to make us fear? You just steeled our resolve.
Did you want to tear us apart? You just brought us together.
Let me tell you about my people. We are a vast and quarrelsome family, a family rent by racial, social, political and class division, but a family, nonetheless. We are frivolous, yes, capable of expending tremendous emotional energy on pop cultural minutiae – a singer’s revealing dress, a ball team’s misfortune, a cartoon mouse. We are wealthy, too, spoiled by the ready availability of trinkets and material goods, and maybe because of that, we walk through life with a certain sense of blithe entitlement. We are fundamentally decent, though peace-loving and compassionate. We struggle to know the right thing and to do it. And we are, most of us, people of faith, believers in a just and loving God.
Some people – you, perhaps – think that any or all of this makes us weak. You are mistaken. We are not weak. Indeed, we are strong in ways that cannot be measured by arsenals.”
Now take heed from yours truly COVID-19, that despite the staggering losses in life on 9/11, after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, after school, church and synagogue shootings, we picked up the pieces and marched forward. And this time it will be no different. Just wait and see.
Concluded Pitts (and my message to you COVID-19): “So, I ask again: What was it you hoped to teach us? It occurs to me that maybe you just wanted us to know the depths of your hatred. If that is the case, consider the message received. And take this message in exchange: You do not know my people. You do not know what we are capable of. You do not know what you just started.
But you are about to learn.”