My Turn: Infection of hate as dangerous as virus

Published: 6/5/2020 2:32:36 PM
Modified: 6/5/2020 2:32:25 PM

I watched a video of the Governor of Kentucky giving his daily briefing to the people of Kentucky about the covid virus. Elected last fall, Gov. Brashear began by sharing information about how the Memorial Day weekend went across Kentucky, offering images of citizens coping with this phase of the pandemic: small business owners working to re-open safely; two married nurses explaining they only see each other 15 minutes a day because they work opposite day and night shifts during the crisis; people supporting each other with Care packages, people contributing to the fight against the virus.

Then he got to what happened Sunday, when a small band of protestors, claiming a breach of their personal freedom, tramped across the grounds of the governor’s mansion, pounded on the windows, then proceeded to hang an effigy with the governor’s face attached and the words shouted by Lincoln’s assassin pinned to the front. Thankfully, said the governor, his two small children, aged 9 and 10, were not home to witness this terrorism. He calmly denounced the attempt to intimidate him vowing, “I will not be frightened by these people, or any others.” He stated that his mission is to protect all Kentuckians, as inclusively as possible. Most people, he believes, agree with the message that the sign language interpreter shared, something like, “Love overcomes hate.” He signed along with her.

Who are these people who would resort to such violence to protect their “freedom” to infect themselves and others during a global pandemic? What motivates this hateful inability to join the common cause and share the burden of protecting one another?

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” sang Janis Joplin in that anthem of disaffection during the sixties. That sentiment doesn’t capture the truth either. True freedom is the willingness to exercise choice — to choose to be fully human with all the incumbent pain and joy. True freedom is to be free of greed; free from insecurity and ego that blind us to need; free of the insatiable hunger of the overfed. True freedom is to seek knowledge, absorb the truth — no matter how hard — and choose to act accordingly. True freedom is to abandon envy and seek sharing; far from leaving us with nothing left to lose, true freedom is to embrace it all, to care passionately about protecting the values, relationships and institutions that manifest our common cause.

What could possibly make those protestors so hateful? Fear; frustration; perceived lack of options; a steady diet of disinformation; a lack of the essential nutrients of community and compassion. These protestors chose a familiar approach to venting dissatisfaction, anxiety and misbegotten hate: lashing out to create fear so that their own fear is muffled in the increased ambient levels of dread. And, as the governor stated, lynching sends a resounding message of pain and threat way beyond this target to all who know the history of racial and class hate in our country. Their actions display their own need and fright; far from a demand for action, their behavior is a cry of terror for all they cannot control, including a deadly virus.

Only a couple days later, we see the horrific death of a black man in the streets of Minneapolis with a white police officer kneeling on his neck for eight minutes. The depths of indifference and hatefulness that would allow a person to do this to another human being is shocking, yet sadly it is just one highly visible example of a long pattern of such inhumane treatment of some Americans by others. The protests in Minneapolis escalated into fiery violence. As the governor of Minnesota stated: “The ashes are symbolic of decades and generation of pain, of anguish unheard. Now generations of pain is manifesting itself in front of the world — and the world is watching.” The policeman involved directly has been charged with murder. But the infection, as cruel and dangerous as the covid virus, is far more widespread.

We supposedly live in the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.” May we be brave enough to be truly free.

Judy Wagner is a resident of Northfield.


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