Right and wrong

  • An American flag flies over the White House, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Washington.   AP Photo/Alex Brandon

  • White House director of strategic communications Alyssa Farah does an interview outside the White House, Tuesday, in Washington. AP

Published: 10/15/2020 2:13:59 PM

Demonstrating humanity sometimes requires unlearning what we thought was right. It may seem to happen in a moment, but the odds are that a reflective or subconscious effort was in the works prior to the awakening. It takes bravery to admit being wrong, and it is cowardly to insist on being right despite being presented with clear evidence to the contrary.

People will invent excuses and twist words and reasoning to stick to their original opinions and worldview when they do not want to consider their complicity with the wrong. There are numerous examples of this in religious and political arenas.

Religion. Notable leaders have been inspired by their own spiritual practices to work for justice and equality. Martin Luther King Jr. and Thich Nhat Hanh come to mind. Religion has also been used far too often as an excuse for bigotry and to create and justify wars.

So-called “religious freedom” is used as a weapon against women and LGBTQ people. How is it that religious institutions that break discrimination laws get nonprofit tax protection? Separation of church and state? In theory, but not in practice in the United States.

Opportunists have used subjective interpretations of religion to defend segregation, women’s subservient roles and the arrogance of being the correct religion over others. The number of people leaving organized religion grows every year. A 2015 Pew Research Center poll found that 35% of millennials and 23% of people overall in the U.S. are not affiliated with a religion. Meanwhile, the number of people who identify as secular humanists seems to be rising. Adherents believe that moral and ethical principles can be established and practiced without a belief in God. I do not get the sense they are interested in subjugating others or starting wars.

Politics. Locally, the owners of the Huntington Country Store are sticking to their principle of “freedom of speech” as they are unwilling to reflect on harmful speech that fans the flames of racism. Not only have they justified their harmful use of the term China virus; they have also encouraged community members to join them.

On a larger scale, people who support the person impersonating a president seem relentless in their collaboration with his catastrophic destructive practices and his divisive racism and xenophobia. They twist logic and words as they persist in their complicity. When they refer to people who are deeply concerned as the “haters,” they are deflecting from the actual hate.

As they consider mostly peaceful Black Lives Matters protesters to be a threat to democracy, the genuinely dangerous groups of heavily armed misogynist and white supremacist devotees are blessed by the religious and political right. As Black people and allies seek long overdue racial justice and an examination of the systems that support white supremacy, people on the right project their fears about a takeover because all they have known is an antiquated form of power. They do not trust or understand the concept of shared power where everyone has a seat at the table.

It is not a sign of genius to be a multimillionaire and pay just $750 in federal taxes. It is a sign of a complete disregard for paying your fair share to fund the government and its taxpayers. If you are ridiculous enough to justify this, you are an ethical goner.

The U.S. has now recorded more than 200,000 deaths as a result of COVID-19. The person who is supposed to be leading our country has put his macho ego first. Why is it that we are 4% of the global population and account for over 20% of the world’s COVID-19 deaths? He is responsible for most of these deaths. He is responsible for a chaotic society with a depressed economy, an untenable year for children’s education, and the mental health challenges from living with daily fear and uncertainty. All because he chose to run a script he knew was untrue. All because he did not defer to public health experts as competent leaders in other countries did. All because he did not put into place mandates that would have had our schools and businesses up and running in a matter of a few short months.

Not only did this person in the White House show incredibly weak leadership, he also put his own family and political tribe at risk — over and over again. The photos of his Supreme Court nominee and her seven children all unmasked at a White House event are horrifying.

Now that he has the virus, his supporters are spinning this to make him the victim. I have read comments that range from “He is so brave to tell about his diagnosis” to “The Democrats are going to blame him.” Hell yes. He attempted to emasculate Joe Biden at their first debate for always wearing a mask in public. He has actively discouraged people from protecting themselves! What kind of person does this? A deeply disturbed one.

Please vote for Biden and Harris. Put the good of the country first. There could not be a clearer example of right and wrong at this moment.

J.M. Sorrell, of Northampton, is a social justice activist, anti-racism trainer and health care advocate.

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