Pandemic and Protest, Dear Granddaughter…You Won’t Remember Any of This!

When your great grandfather, my dad, turned a year old in 1918, a worldwide influenza pandemic infected about one third of the earth’s population. The United States was still fighting in World War I. Schools, libraries, churches and businesses closed. People were encouraged to wear masks in public. Your great grandpa loved talking about personal and world history. He never mentioned anything about this devastating, global event to me.

Your great grandfather during the pandemic of 1918

Maka, you are also a year old; the same age now that your great grandpa was then. You are living through a pandemic called Covid-19. It occurred to me that you may not tell your kids about this life altering time, either! So, I want to write to you and tell you a little bit about life right now; a segment of time you will have been too young to remember twenty years from now.

You during the pandemic of 2020

Today I write to future you on June 23, 2020. The current death toll in the United States is 120,451 and globally, 472,856. We became aware of this coronavirus in March, just after we celebrated your first birthday. And you can surely find this kind of information at the tips of your fingers. The aim for me isn’t to do what you can do for yourself. My intention is to tell you how it all permeates my mind and heart, something that would have been interesting to me had your great, great grandparents written down thoughts specific to them during the years of the Spanish Flu, as it was also called.

I mentioned that we celebrated your first birthday and it was just a clip of good timing because had we planned a party a week or two later, we would have had to cancel. Everything shut down and we were all instructed to stay at home. Currently, you, your dad and mom are living with your grandpa and me in Whitmore Lake, Michigan. For you, that has meant you wake up daily to all of us, minus your dad, who is considered an essential worker at a water testing laboratory (NSF).

Because you are oblivious to the larger world, your life has actually been enhanced. You have more time with the people that love you. We are your realm of life. So, this time is pretty good for you. For me, having you here is a continual reminder of simplicity and you are a source of consolation amid the madness. The timing of you into my life was a benefit I could have never foreseen.

Add to the mass turmoil of a surge of sickness across the globe, we have lately also had a wave of protests and riots across America in response to the murder of George Floyd, a black man killed by white police officer, Derek Chauvin. Floyd’s violent death was the catalyst for generating anguished, peaceful protests with calls to address police brutality, as well as a grisly byproduct, the riots.

And again, you can read all about this history. Like a snowball rolling down a hill, it just gets bigger and bigger each day. It’s unfolding so fast, I just wanted to slow down my brain for a minute and write to you.

People are constantly arguing now, in the news, on the streets, on social media. You can’t escape the polarization, not even if you choose not to engage. You’re labeled if you engage and you are labeled if you do not engage. That may not make much sense. We are all image bearers of God and hence, should all be loving one another. However, we are not doing what we should be doing. What are people arguing about and where does your grandma stand?  I’ll tell you, Maka, by talking to you about just two of the issues today.

The face mask.

Yes, the face mask is causing division. There are people who have concluded that the face mask is a common courtesy to others when out in public. There are also people who believe that wearing a mask is an infringement upon their rights and/or have deemed the coverings ineffective and will not wear them.

I always wear a mask when I am out in society based on the information I currently know. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, droplets with the virus fly into the air from their nose or mouth. Anyone who is within 6 feet of that person can breathe those droplets into their lungs. Research also shows that the virus can live in the air. When a person breathes air that has the virus floating in it, it gets into that person’s lungs. Therefore, Maka, I love my neighbor by wearing my mask.

This clash isn’t new. During the pandemic a century ago, folks argued about this matter.  There were those who felt strongly that mask wearing was a sensible approach and others who felt so passionately in the other camp, an organization formed called the Anti-Mask League.

A trolley operator refuses to let a passenger without a mask on board during 1918 Pandemic. U.S. NATIONAL Archives

Below, news clips from the 1918 pandemic pertaining to the Anti-Mask League

The Aftermath of the George Floyd Murder

The days and weeks following the murder of George Floyd caused intensified peaceful protests with a spillover of riots. The slaying itself did not cause opposing factions. The universal view deemed the killing as grotesque. The officer, Derek Chauvin is white and the victim, George Floyd, was black. Therein lies the dynamic that evoked calls for police reform at the least and police defunding at the extreme. Protests across the nation are ongoing as I write. Riots have destroyed businesses throughout major cities, injuring and killing people. Debates on critical race theory, systemic racism and intersectionality have surfaced with vengeance. The organization Black Lives Matter is at the forefront of everybody’s attention. Everyone has an opinion on how to fix this.

Police officers are reflected in the glass wall of a bus stop as a demonstration calling for the defunding of the police department marches by Saturday, June 13, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Maka, maybe you’re reading this and you’re in your twenties now. I ponder your world. I can’t see it clearly, of course, but here’s what I pray your humanity resembles. I hope that you are chatting with your black friends about the books you’ve read, the movies you’ve seen, the restaurants you love, the vacations you just enjoyed and your heart issues; your joys and trials with one another. I just pray that you are not talking about race.

I’ve spent most of my life not talking about race as the main thing with black friends, family and colleagues. Injustice discussions were never avoided, if they came into topic. People working toward shifting the trajectory for black lives was applauded and, indeed, conversations about experiences in lifting the lives of brown and black skinned people through outreach, engagement in the communities and petitioning government were prized and raising in both my spirit and remain an upshot in my life course. But, mainly, we just loved each other.

It’s different right now for many people. I pray that it doesn’t stay this way. We are all the same race, made up of different ethnicities, all image bearers of God. Racial classifications are not real classifications. There is virtually no genetic difference between people of different colors and cultures. If there were, we couldn’t reproduce with one another.

 A lot of people want to profess their Christianity on the subject until it’s gets biblical. Prejudice against one group is a sin. Critical race theory opposes God. It divides the world up into racial groups whereas the New Testament teaches a human accord that breaks down all cultural and class walls. It doesn’t direct one group to forever view that the law and legal institutions are inherently racist. My white skin makes me guilty and that doesn’t feel right because it’s not right. It doesn’t matter that my descendants were in Poland until the early 1900’s, I am asked to repent, along with all people with the similar skin to mine, for the oppressive history on this land, The United States of America. If anyone feels like this philosophy causes disunity, they can and have absolutely been labeled racist. So, people like me, people that love unity, people that despise unjust treatment of any group, can’t speak for fear of offending.

Christians aren’t saying, lately, “you need to go to this Scripture,” when discussing our unity in Christ. It’s not enough. They are, rather, saying, “you need to read The Color of Compromise, Divided by Faith or a long list of others in order to understand the Word rightly on these matters. I worry when I hear people say things that would suggest that, “I’ve had the Bible all this time and I’ve had good relationships with people of different ethnicities but it wasn’t until I read this or that book that I finally understood God’s heart on this issue as it relates to race and ethnicity.” No! These books are not expository teachings from the Word of God.  Sociology and philosophy overriding theology is kind of the problem in the first place.

Please don’t misunderstand! I advocate for you to read philosophy and sociology-based books. But, when you make an assumption that I, for instance, fit into a stereotype because you read a book about Polish immigrants and the Polish experience in America and you think that propels you to understand me, stop. It offers you perspective, but I may not completely fit into that descriptive paradigm. Talk to people. Ask lots of questions.

Intentions may be wonderful, dear Maka, on the part of a lot of people going off into a lot a places and theories right now. At the heart, in the mind, we are so lost, nonetheless. I hope that you are in a distinct and better place than your grandmother finds herself currently. I want to love people as God intended and that His will be done here and now, on earth as it is in heaven. I end by saying that I write because it is a form of connection to you that can span time. Writing and photographs can freeze time and be shared. Sharing with you, my beloved granddaughter, is one way to say, “I want to be connected to you now and forever.”

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