How white supremacy is still driving the pandemic

How white supremacy is still driving the pandemic
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Shane Hughes)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, a dental technician assigned to the Ohio Air National Guards 178th Wing, poses for a portrait April 20, 2021 at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland, Ohio. At the direction of Governor Mike DeWine, approximately 250 Soldiers and Airmen of the Ohio National Guard were activated to support federal, state and local agencies with the activation of a long-term COVID-19 vaccination site.

It's Monday. We have a week of politics ahead. But before we get there, let's step back and remember. We are still in the middle of a deadly pandemic. We are still in the middle of it, but it should be over. More than 756,000 Americans are gone. A million will be gone soon enough.

Say it again — it should be over. We have the science. We have the technology. We have the vaccines. It's not over, though. Why? Some might give densely detailed explanations, packed with data. We love data! But I don't have the patience. Not today. Not on a Monday. Not when there's work to do. I'm not going to bother being neutral and fair, because neutral and fair are for when we're not in a deadly pandemic.

White supremacy. That's the reason. Lots of white Americans want to believe the lie that they are better than other Americans, even other white ones, because they can't or won't believe they are subject to the same laws, same rules, same vaccines as the people they despise. The common good isn't common. It isn't good. It's the enemy. When it came time to choose humility over arrogance in the face of death by virus, millions of Americans chose arrogance — then death by virus.

Then there are profits. Because there are so many white people who want to believe the lie that they are better than people they despise, there are naturally lots of opportunists standing by to tell them exactly what they want to hear on account of the lie feeling so good. It feels so good, they will pay to keep hearing it. And the more they pay, the more opportunists keep selling it. And the wider and deeper this closed circuit becomes, the more it feels to its participants like the whole world is on their side. Until it crashes into the truth. But instead of accepting the truth, they want to replace it. Lies feel too good to quit.

The truth could set them free. From the lies. From corruption. From the virus. From the poisonous influence of amoral corporations profiting from the selling of lies to white Americans who won't quit them. But why? Why won't they set themselves free? The answer is terrible but we must say it. They don't want to be free. They can't feel free, not without lies, not without corruption, not without seeing the suffering of Americans they despise. Their freedom is therefore conditional, much the way their love for each other is conditional. And those conditions on love and freedom are a source of endless pain.

We don't often talk about their pain. We should. It explains so much. They could be happy, but they won't be, because they can't be, because it's just not possible for them to have love without hierarchy, relationships without authority, community without corruption. They are in endless pain. They can't imagine a world without it. Pain is the beginning. It is the end. It is a God-like presence. Instead of facing it, they justify it, make-believing horrible enemies against them, against "their way of life" — anything that might explain all that pain, anything that might distract them from having to do the work of overcoming it.

Don't feel compassion. Don't even start. Compassion would be doing the work for them, which is what they want. They want you to make them feel better. They want you to be responsible for shouldering the burden of the pain they feel after putting conditions on love and freedom. They want you, in other words, to live conditionally, too.

When you don't, when you choose to live without constraint, when you choose to drop the burden others have demanded you carry, well, that's a problem. For them. They can't tolerate seeing people living fully human lives. If they have to live conditionally — if they have to live with a virus — so should everyone else. If they must sabotage recovery, so be it. If they must reduce citizens to serfs, so be it.

They don't have to. The vaccine is theirs if they want it. Freedom is theirs if they want it. God's love is theirs, too. No one can force them to accept freedom, or love. You don't have to die to reach the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus taught us. It can be here, on earth, in our lifetimes, if we want it. God's love isn't conditional. It is for everyone, because everyone is identically worthy of His love. Jesus "detribalized monotheism," wrote historian Antony Black. In God's eyes, there's no Jew or non-Jew, husband or wife, rich or poor, healthy or sick. Black said: "Differences of race, status, and gender are all insignificant."

But God's love can't possibly be that democratic or that egalitarian, because if God's love were the political values on which America was founded, then white people who tell themselves wild, howling lies about being better than Americans they despise would be the same as Americans they despise, and that's unthinkable. Hence the awesome power of the arrogance of white supremacy — it redefines the teachings of Jesus so Jesus isn't the way out of Hell, but the way in it.

I don't know when the pandemic will be over. I don't when the country will choose to exit Hell. I do know, however, that as long as white Americans believe the lie that they are better than other Americans, even other white ones — as long as profiteers keep selling them the same lie again and again — this is Hell. There's so much work to do.

And it's only Monday.

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