My Grandma from the South used to say this when something was shocking, unexpected or surprising. In honor of this tradition, I titled this page "My WORD", in the hopes that what has been written shocks us all to do, something.
"Where is God?"
by Rev. Damon Smith
© March 2020
The subtext of many conversations I have had over the past month has been a question, “where is God?”
After reflection, here is an answer (not thee answer), just an answer.
The virus started in a country that eight other countries deemed not significant enough to play with (G-8) and reduced them to the 5th (last) Group in the G-20. Could this judgement of a people and a government based on economics and therefore denied a seat at the “adult table” for upper-management policy conversations result in the neglect that created the “perfect storm” that created Covid-19?
And as China is dismissed to not be suitable to sit with the “big boys”, those same nations have no reluctance to allow China to manufacture much of the world’s goods, as the “Great 8” look through blind eyes at the their labor laws, their environmental damage, and the economic disparities caused by high production at minimal cost which begat the social distance between the “haves” and “have-nots” in Wuhan.
Could it be that these conditions that have long been accepted so that the world could consume at the cheapest prices possible also limited access to healthcare, animal care and control, consistent access to clean water, and healthy food for the poorer people of China who provide the workforce for our good(s), is perhaps the place where many hypothesized was the birthplace of Covid-19?
Where is God?
Once evolved, Covid-19 then went on a world tour. Behaving like a privileged 1st class passenger and an undocumented immigrant, Covid-19 traveled by train, plane, ship and automobile to destinations far and wide. In droplets from one human to another, it gathered its belongings, packed its bags, and was shared, with no care or concern or discrimination. What we do know about Covid-19 is that it looks for accessories as it commits the crime of body destruction. Covid-19 is welcomed in by chronic lung disease, asthma, heart conditions, compromised immune systems, cancer patients/survivors, obesity, diabetes, liver disease, and conditions of renal failure. I do not know exact numbers, however I would guess that those afflictions would include more than half of the world’s population.
In 2020 we are still accepting people not having fresh fruits and vegetables, animals bathing and drinking from the same waters where families bathe and get their drinking water, there are people living in structures essentially made of dirt and mud, the corporatization of farming with the healthiest produce going to the highest bidder and scraps sold to the rest, there is a lack of physical fitness programs for the poor, tobacco companies are still profiting billions as they create new ways to maintain addicts, and we are still stigmatizing mental illness so that those in need are not encouraged to get help, but turn to the very poisons that can cause the illnesses that makes them susceptible to Covid-19.
We have decided that is okay that in many parts of the world, that girls and women, people who are fully human, and also have the choice to be the birthers of the present and future, should have their healthcare determined by some traditions, some cultures and unfortunately, some faith practices, that reduce them to reproductive machines to be used (abused) by men, instead of fully made in God’s Image who know and own their bodies, and deny them treatments for ailments which cumulatively creates an open door policy that greets Covid-19 with open arms.
Where is God?
Now that Covid-19 is here, there, and everywhere, a different type of arms race has begun. It’s a “mask race”. Masks, ventilators, PPE, tests, test-takers and test processors, and all the other equipment and staff needed to test for and treat Covid-19 are just now being mass produced, now that there is a pandemic. After years of budget cuts and freezes, on-the-ground administrators and practitioners, especially those that serve at-risk communities have long been “Chicken Littling” that one mass medical emergency would result in the preventable deaths of members of their communities… first, and then the rest of the world, later. They were ignored. Cost-cutting measures had to be taken. Besides, there is always collateral damage in a market driven economy. Now companies are retrofitting factories, celebrities are purchasing and donating (THANK YOU) these basic items that should have been stocked, entrepreneurs are ingeniously finding ways quicken supply chains, and community organizers and activists have been circulating the streets to be part of the solution, not the problem.
Here in the Chicago area, neighborhood hospitals and clinics have closed, are closing, and/or merging, reducing the number of beds available to communities who use emergency rooms for doctor appointments. Paperwork of providers/insurers now has the power to determine who lives and who dies in ways never imagined. First line medical staff (registrars and nurses) are leaving their families to take care of members of our families, because no one else will. And they have been, are, and will be over-worked, under-paid and short staffed, many of whom do more work on a patient than an actual doctor. Speaking of our doctors, they too have been put in a Rubik cube of priorities: publish in a journal, conduct ground-breaking research, rush to create cures, invent and master an experimental procedure, recipe an experimental drug cocktail, fundraise and hob-nob with those with naming-rights money people, and then, if possible, help the patient. Covid-19 is telling us that the question of who lives and who dies has almost nothing to do with medicine.
Where is God?
As the world quarantines itself and shelters-in-place, families have been forced to live, together. Forced to be more than “roommates” who pass each other in the day and perhaps see each other in the evening. Cohabiting partners and familial units have been forced to live the truest of themselves and each other, learn to negotiate, accommodate and laugh with each other. Parents have gained a new appreciation for the teachers of their children. We have seen greedy businesses charge $17.50 today for a bottle of bleach that was $1 last week. Everyone is finding out who and what they can live with and without. Honesty and integrity are climbing life’s ladder of importance.
Covid-19 has many admitting that they have been living with enemies for a long time. That maybe all that glittering gold is not all that it’s cracked up to be. We are witnessing the struggle of our favorite independently owned and operated businesses struggle to stay open, and quite possibly, close forever. We are beginning to question our consumerism, economic distribution, supply chain systems, in fact, we are asking, “do I really need all of this stuff?” We are finally seeing that our identity, value, worth, importance is not, nor has never been determined by another person or thing. Now that we can’t buy our way to a cure, we are finally asking ourselves, “what does status mean, anyway?” Covid-19 has “Davided” a “Goliath” world.
This questioning is great, but where were these questions as we accepted Tent City, USA filled with the homeless? Where were these questions as we accepted the idea of “working poor”? Where were these questions as we accepted disparities and inadequacies, because surely everyone can work hard, and make the “right choices” to better their lives? Where were these questions as we accepted that some kids go to school to get the only meals they will receive in a day? Where were these questions as we accepted that for many, having a job and going to school is the daily escape from domestic violence at home? Where were these questions as we accepted affordable housing that cannot be afforded on minimum wage? Where were these questions, as we watched or read on a screen the horrors perpetrated by the power of governments, dictatorships on humanity, but yet dismissed it because it was in a far-away land, or their “backward” ways, or “they’re terrorists, let them kill each other”? Where were these questions as we confused “dominion” with “domination”?
And now we ask, “Where is God?”
Here is my answer.
“Christian, Where are YOU?”