“We all must sit down sometime to a banquet of consequences.”
- Robert Louis Stevenson
A Facebook friend recently publicly confessed that she was going through a hard time coping with everything that’s going down. Most people responded predictably— with concern (I’m so sorry.”), support (“You got this!”), empathy (“I hear you.”), all of which is fine. But I wrote something a little bit different:
To be alive in this time is to make intimate acquaintance with grief, sorrow, anxiety, fear, outrage and more of those “negative” feelings we’d rather not invite into the house. And if you’re a woman and person of color (and this person was both),you once again are carrying more than your fair share of the world’s trials and tribulations. To respond to pandemic, fires, storms, habitual lies from our leader and hateful assaults from his supporters with anything less than the above list is the norm for human beings. What is incomprehensible are the people who are not feeling those things, who are in a state of deep pathological denial insisting that climate change is a hoax, science isn’t real, all news they don’t like is fake and wearing masks is ridiculous. But hard as it is to bear the pain and shoulder the weight of this increasingly perplexing world, feel proud that you have chosen life. As Buddhists and poets have long reminded us, simply to be born in a human body is agreeing to endure the suffering of loss, of ignorance, of mortality. Since we are here, it means some agreement has been made in the soul to choose life and now we need to re-affirm that choice, over and over again.
Something like that. But now let’s look at this culture of denial, which has been present with us for our entire history. For some of the time, it has been like a wild dog somewhat tamed, leashed and kept inside. But as the songs ponders, “Who let the dogs out?” Who gave permission to the excesses of denial—denial of people, denial of truth, denial of facts, denial of the pandemic, denial of justice, denial of democracy, denial of the vote, denial of simple decency? In front of millions on public television, who told the violent white supremacists to "stand by?"
No secret. The very same person who a mere three days ago publicly mocked Joe Biden for wearing a mask. And now he has tested positive for COVID-19. He let the dogs out and they bit him in the butt. It almost makes me believe again that fairy tale endings sometimes happen, that monsters indeed get their just desserts, and who knows, maybe there really is a God who has been letting him and his ilk get away with so, so much for so, so long and finally decided, “Enough!”
I don't wish for anyone to be stricken with a life-threatening disease, but it is worth pointing out that this someone showed no sympathy for the 200,000 other Americans (and 800,000 other human beings worldwide) who have died from this disease. Theoretically, he doesn’t deserve less sympathy than each of them, but in light of his refusal to act, his choice to deny the reality from the beginning all the way until yesterday, he certainly does not deserve more. He is finally sitting down to a banquet of consequences and his favorite cheeseburgers are not on the menu. Again, I don’t wish the man ill health, but if he ends with nothing but mild symptoms, it doesn’t take a brilliant therapist to predict that he will use it to show how strong he is and how God (who he really doesn’t believe in except when it’s convenient for a photo-op ) is on his side.
“May you live in interesting times” goes the old blessing and/or curse and this new twist to the plot is a humdinger. Meanwhile, let us all choose life and live accordingly.