A Plea To My Cousins!
The world is facing its first global pandemic in over a century. Very few people today were alive during the last pandemic, the Influenza pandemic of 1918. It took over 50 million lives, worldwide (for context, approximately 500 million people, one-third of the world’s population in 1918, had influenza, and 10 percent of those died). So, this is really a new experience for all of us. In times like these, whether it is at a time of war, facing a natural disaster, or a global pandemic, now we are confronted with our common humanity in new ways. At this time, we must ask ourselves, “will this time of challenge bring out the best in me, or will I fall back into old patterns that are harmful for me and for others?”
There are three words that should mean more to us today than perhaps they did few weeks ago. The Human Family. The COVID-19 pandemic has struck six continents and has proven to be no respecter of person, status, fame, profession or position. The crown prince of England, as well as their prime minister, members of Congress, professional athletes and Hollywood actors have all been stricken with this virus that is bringing life, as we know it, to a standstill. The Human Family (that’s all of us, Cousins) is in the crosshairs of the Coronavirus, and the only way most of us will come out of this alive is if we do it wisely and together. That will require that many of the ways in which our country and the world has functioned, that we have come to accept as normal, be seen through new eyes.
The United States and the entire planet must embrace the need for a paradigm shift. There must be a fundamental change in how we do business and how we interact with one another. Most seem to grasp that “we are all in the same boat” now. I would suggest that this uncommon recognition of our shared destiny as members of the human family cannot simply be a pandemic exception. It should become our new normal. We often throw shade and judge people (even children) who haven’t yet managed to “pick themselves up by their own bootstraps” without caring to notice that they have neither boots nor straps. It’s a new day. Even our government has been forced to consider and pass legislation that will benefit most of our fellow citizens because they haven’t had the time to calculate how to inflict harm on the usual suspects this time. They must simply function as government for the entire nation, rather than government for everyone but you.
“Life as we know it” is over, and should never be allowed to return in the same form again! Never again should the needs of 327 million be held hostage so that 3 million people can insist on another historic transfer of wealth from most of us to just a few of them. Tax cuts and corporate bailouts cannot be the first order of business when the whole country is hurting. Forrest Gump said, “Momma said there’s only so much fortune a man really needs and the rest is just for showing off.” The time “just for showing off” is over.
According to Census data, we live in a country where approximately 40 percent of children require some type of means tested assistance to survive (as do over 50 million of our fellow Americans, total). That’s around 1 in 6, for those who are counting. Malnutrition and food insecurity are not new. Housing insecurity is not new. The need for a living wage is not new. They have just become more obvious right now and for the time being, we cannot ignore it. It was never alright to ignore these basic needs in our land of plenty. It will never be alright to ever ignore these people again!
My cousins, the mantra “Same Stuff Different Day” has been a cruel and painful reality for far too long. It is now a new day and the “same stuff” just won’t do any more.
Rev. Stephen A. Tillett
Pastor, Asbury Broadneck UMC, author of Stop Falling for the Okeydoke: How the Lie of “Race” Continues to Undermine Our Country
Published in part in the Capital Gazette on March 29, 2020