Monday, July 13, 2020

News Commentary in Time of Plague: 43 Pages of Obituaries in Houston Today (and the Role Many US Christians Are Playing in the Pandemic)

(P.S. As Newsweek reports, this is a standalone section of obituaries for the year up to now. Read the Newsweek report, and you'll see a lot of commenters on social media are stating that it's likely a high percentage of those deaths are Covid deaths.)

The busiest hospitals in Houston are increasingly telling emergency responders they cannot safely accept new patients as hundreds of coronavirus patients crowd emergency rooms, and hospitals scramble to open more intensive care space.

Hunter, "A disaster: Florida, Texas report skyrocketing COVID-19 cases as pandemic spirals out of control":

Today, Florida set a new pandemic record for a single-day increase in COVID-19 cases: 15,300 new cases were identified in the state, far above 12,274 single-day increase in New York during what was then the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. Death counts are also beginning to rise, both Florida and elsewhere. 
In Houston, Texas, refrigerated trailers are now appearing outside local hospitals as their morgues fill, even as the state continues to intentionally hide COVID-19 deaths
The second wave of the pandemic is now here, and it is entirely self-inflicted.  ... 
All evidence suggests that the experience of Florida, Texas, Arizona, Georgia, and other states that scoffed at pandemic preparedness measures will meet or eclipse the disastrous pandemic outbreak in New York City earlier this year."

… [U]niversal mask-wearing will save more lives. 
The governor refuses. Maliciously in at least one case. His Education secretary, Johnny Key, has prohibited the state’s second-largest school district, Little Rock, from requiring masks. Other districts are allowed to make this decision, but not Little Rock. It is the same message sent to Little Rock during the state’s six years of mismanagement of the school district — Little Rock School District Lives Don't Matter
What does matter to the governor is money, or more precisely those who have lots of it. They want business open. And some of the biggest of them also want the Little Rock School District destroyed. Here, the governor can kill two birds with one stone. But some real lives might be collateral damage.

Heather Cox Richardson, "Letters from an American, July 12, 2020": 

It seems she [i.e., Betsy DeVos] is hoping to use the coronavirus pandemic to privatize education across the nation.

Three teachers from Arizona who shared a classroom contracted coronavirus, despite social distancing and wearing masks and gloves. One of the teachers has since died.

The Catholic Church, once persecuted by the Ku Klux Klan, today has a visible white-power faction. As long as the bishops actively refuse to condemn its banners, they give white supremacists space to embrace their anti-Black and anti-Semitic work free of religious dissonance.

Raymond Friel tweets,

And Ciarán Ó Coigligh responds from Dublin, his Twitter profile noting that he is "Catholic, husband, father, author, seeking sanctity, love of God & neighbour":

It appears news of the severe economic consequences of the do-nothing approach to the pandemic by the current "pro-life" president has not reached Dublin, nor has news of how severe those economic consequences are in particular for African Americans, Latinos, native Americans, and minority women above all. Either that, or it would appear many Christians have a large appetite for gross lies disseminated by the fake news outlets serving the wealthy and their hard-right stooges these days….

Now think about what the cost has been of the uncritical support given to Trump by evangelical Christians. For now, focus just on this: Christians who are supporters of the president have braided themselves to a man who in just the past few days and weeks tweeted a video of a supporter shouting "white power" (he later deleted it but has yet to denounce it); attacked NASCAR’s only Black driver, Bubba Wallace, while also criticizing the decision by NASCAR to ban Confederate flags from its races; threatened to veto this year’s annual defense bill if an amendment is included that would require the Pentagon to change the names of bases honoring Confederate military leaders; referred to COVID-19 as "kung flu" during a speech at a church in Phoenix; and blasted two sports teams, the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians, for considering name changes because of concerns by supporters of those franchises that those team names give undue offense. 
These provocations by the president aren't anomalous; he's a man who vaulted to political prominence by peddling a racist conspiracy theory that Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States—he later implied that Obama was a secret Muslim and dubbed him the "founder of ISIS"—and whose remarks about an Indiana-born judge with Mexican heritage were described by former House Speaker Paul Ryan as "the textbook definition of a racist comment."

The Economist, "The Mark of Cain":

Few things about Donald Trump’s rise are harder to explain than the fact that some of the most religious Americans were behind it. n 2016, 81% of white evangelicals voted for him. It seems no one was more astonished by this than those who knew him best. "He has no principles. None!" marvelled his sister Maryanne Trump Barry, according to a forthcoming family exposé by Mary L. Trump, the president's niece.
The popular explanation for this strange nexus is that white Christians overlooked the president’s failings because of his willingness to fight their corner, by nominating conservative judges and opposing abortion. This always seemed about as persuasive as the comparisons between Mr Trump and the flawed biblical heroes it gave rise to (…Cyrus, David, you name it). Mr Trump's Republican opponents would have nominated similar judges; no president can do much about abortion. 
Another explanation, argues a new book by Robert P. Jones, an authority on American religion and politics, and head of the Public Religion Research Institute, is that white Christians were especially receptive to Mr Trump’s race-baiting. Mr Jones also offers a grim theory for why this was the case. 
Melding history, theology, statistical modelling and his own experience, as a Southern Baptist seminarian, Mr Jones suggests in "White Too Long" that white Christian traditions are so steeped in historic racism that "the norms of white supremacy have become deeply and broadly integrated into white Christian identity." 

I do not believe Southern white people who claim to be followers of Jesus and rail about protecting Southern heritage. I am a native of the South. My family ancestry is Southern in this land as far back in my ancestry as my family has been able to investigate. 
My African ancestry was obliterated thanks to what Southern white people call "heritage." I know more about the hatefulness surrounding professed love for Southern heritage than I care to admit and remember. None of it fits the religion of Jesus. 
And when I see and hear defenders of Southern heritage support racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, warmongering, capitalistic, worker-oppressive and creation-hazardous policies and politicians who claim to be followers of Jesus, I know what is happening. 
I am seeing and hearing hypocrites and heretics. I am witnessing the love and justice of God and the religion of Jesus being slandered, libeled and hijacked. I am witnessing blasphemy. 

But here're some of the loans that were disclosed: The top executive offices of the Archdiocese of New York got 15 loans worth at least $28 million for whatever it does besides cover up child sexual abuse. Also in New York, St. Patrick's Cathedral got at least a $1 million. A $70 million brand new "sparkling glass cathedral" in Orange County, California got at least $3 million in four separate loans. And this: "a loan of at least $2 million went to the diocese covering Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, where a church investigation revealed last year that then-Bishop Michael Bransfield embezzled funds and made sexual advances toward young priests." 
In the fiscal year ending in June 2019, AP reports, Catholic dioceses and orders paid out $282 million in settlements and legal costs in thousands of abuse cases. There were almost 4,500 reports of abuse that year. About 40 of the dioceses who received these PPP loans are among those who've paid out millions over the last few years in victim settlements and in bankruptcy proceedings. These several dozen dioceses got at least $200 million in loans. These loans are 100% forgivable. It's unclear if they can use that money to recompense themselves for all the money they spent lobbying to get the loans.

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