Last month, while millions of Jews and Christians around the world recounted the Passover story from Exodus, the Mosaic account of the ten plagues on Egypt likely no longer seems just like some distant, ancient world mythological story. Our modern plague of COVID-19 is almost certainly not as deadly as those, but it’s nothing to underestimate. Over the past couple of months, we’ve all be subjected to now-familiar stories of exhausted nurses, inadequate supplies, and daily deaths. We’re all well aware of the devastation and fear that this virus has spread through urban areas, prisons, and poorer areas/countries that lack healthcare resources and infrastructure comparable to many “first-world” nations.
At the same time, crippling layoffs and floundering businesses around the world threaten us all with yet another bitter recession full of desperation and stunted dreams. And instead of joining together to get through this pandemic together, to many of us (myself included, at times) are drawing battle lines against our neighbors who are not prioritizing social-distancing and economic fears the same way that we are.
Whatever else one might say about COVID-19, it certainly is apocalyptic. Now, before you say I’m exaggerating, I don’t mean this in an end-of-the-world apocalypse sort of way, but instead in the more literal, traditional theological sense of apocalypse as an unveiling – as an extreme revelation of the true state of things.
This pandemic has ripped the band-aid off of truths about our society that many of us were previously able to (happily) ignore. Many of these truths are ugly and wretched. This apocalypse has exposed: the reality of public corruption and incompetence; obscene, inhumane inequalities in healthcare provision; the mass incarceration of so many; our society’s sad choice to warehouse so many of our grandparents and elders in underfunded pit stops where they live and wait to die in isolation (even in times of no pandemic); the extreme differences in whose’ lives truly matter in America.
Fortunately, COVID-19 has revealed some other truths, too. It has inspired many acts of solidarity and compassion, each act alone being full of proof that humanity has a divine spark. The pandemic has shown a spotlight on the incredible efforts of nurses, doctors, delivery drivers, teachers, and grocery clerks. It’s reinvigorated a cross-class labor movement. And, more than just occasionally, the virus has shown that millions of our fellow members of mankind – from all creeds, faiths, ideologies, and walks of life – will leap after the chance to be the keeper of their brothers and sisters, even if only by doing something as simple as wearing a face mask or staying home.