May 20th: Stay Home

Saud Anwar, a Connecticut State Senator and a physician who, as a leading pulmonologist, treats patients with COVID-19 says it’s too early for Connecticut to reopen businesses because it threatens public health. He and other Democratic senators wrote a letter to the Governor opposing the May 20th opening.

The Governor says he is going to follow the advice of his task force and reopen anyway. The physician on that task force is Ezekiel Emanuel who has written that life after age 75 is not worth preserving and that, when he is 75, he’ll no longer have a flu shot or take a prescribed antibiotic because he dismisses the worth of a life after 75.

To whom do you trust the lives of our most vulnerable population? A caring and knowledgeable pulmonologist or a member of the task force who dismisses the value of the lives most at risk?

No one claims that the pandemic is over or that the virus has gone away. The dangers are the same this week as they were last week or last month. The need for caution is the same this week as last week or last month.

The solution is for each of us to make a personal decision to not reopen. Let your hair grow long. Keep making boring meals at home. Wear last year’s clothes. Keep talking to your friends on zoom instead of in person. Meet with your book group, your church, your synagogue, or your mosque online. Tough it out.

Lives are worth saving. Lives of all ages.

Stay home.

The song says: We’re called to stay home.

Schools must remain closed in order to preserve the lives of Americans. We must find new ways to BE SCHOOL and educate our young differently. The danger of the pandemic calls for it as does our deepest responsibility as citizens. So, too, we must not gather to worship. We must find way to BE CHURCH or BE SYNAGOGUE or BE MOSQUE and pastorally care for one another in new ways other than in group gatherings.
David Haas, a noted composer of liturgical music, writes about his opposition to plans announced by Catholic dioceses to now “open up” group gatherings for Mass. I join him in his opposition to that reckless and morally repugnant action. Let us, instead, listen to  a song written by David Haas and performed by Chris Brunelle.  Then let us become the kind of communities sung about: communities of justice and love. 
No photo description available.

 

 David Haas writes:

Not to cause a storm … well, maybe I am … but I have to say, honestly, that I am perhaps one of the few who are in dissent in response to the decisions being made to open up our churches for liturgical celebration in the coming days, allowing for more people to gather in our parishes and other faith communities.

I believe that we are playing with real fire here. I fail to see the wisdom in opening the doors to more and more people while at the same time, the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise at an alarming rate, and the horrific number of deaths are rising right alongside … to my thinking, this is not rocket-science. It seems dangerous and a bit reckless to be putting the ability to be in the presence of Christ found and shared in the ritual of consecrated bread and wine above the concern, health, and well-being for the other, yes, “transubstantiated” presence of Christ found in the assembly who not only gathers together for Sunday, but live as pilgrims in the faith day to day in the world.

 

I mean, I get it. I know people are anxious to “get back to church.” I miss not being at liturgy, too. I too, want to be in the same space with the people with whom I feel the deep connection of a Christ-Faith Community. But we are called on a deeper level, NOT to “go to church,” but to BE church, in the places outside of the sanctuary – especially now. This church, the Body of Christ, is already present in the holy people of God in our homes, our families, in our relationships, and those “out there” (who are reachable through phone calls, letters and through the gift of social media), who we can be attentive to, and to honor with the same reverence.

 

There is also, to my brain, a problem with saying that only a small number of people are allowed to attend in the early “first stages” of this coming together for liturgy, and then, as I have seen in some diocesan guideline announcements, that the next stage should only allow a number of people that would not exceed 30% of the seating capacity in the worship space. While it is sacramentally and bit theologically coercive to “make people” gather for sacrament … it seems equally coercive to tell people, while opening its doors, to “stay away.” Does it not seem just a bit ironic and wrong-headed to have hospitals becoming more and more full than our churches?

 

Pope Francis has called us to be ministers and servants in the “field hospitals” of the suffering and poor. In our frantic ache to gather back into the church buildings to celebrate the liturgy, to be in the presence of Christ in the sharing at the table of the “liturgical” proclamation of the Word and the resurrection meal of the Eucharist … should we not first and foremost during these times, be more anxious to be in and serve at (in creative ways) the table of the WORLD? Fr. Kenan Osborne once said: “We must find the Lord not only in the table of the Eucharist, but in the table of the world around us. If we do not see Jesus in the table of the world, we really will not find Jesus in the table of the Eucharist.”

 

The celebration of the Eucharist is most certainly the “summit and source” of our life as members of the Christian clan. But if we cannot first celebrate this presence, and nurture and expand its healing grace in where the Christ is most present and most needed – in the world right now that is suffering beyond what our hearts and brains can cope with at times – then in my mind, our efforts and strategies to come back to the liturgical space while it is considered by experts to be a dangerous proposition – is a grave mistake, and in conflict with the reasons why we gather to celebrate in the first place. The values of “full, conscious, and active participation” of the liturgy begins and always moves toward the full, conscious and active participation in the LIFE OF CHRIST. Out there … in the world. Not only nor primarily in our lovely and comfortable liturgical spaces (which I believe, will not feel comfortable for many for some time).

 

There is a story that is told of Mother Theresa of Calcutta that she once allegedly said “when I hold the Eucharist in my hands and when a I hold a leprous person in my hands I am holding the same Christ.”

 

Can we be a bit more patient, calm down, and think through the potential consequences of being too much in a hurry? I know, it is hard. But can we discern and examine where our decisions might lead us, not only in terms of safety and public health, but also possibly putting the gospel cause at peril?

 

So, I apologize for my rant, and I know many will not like what I am saying here. But in the midst of all that seems to be a driven-centered need to get back to “normal liturgical celebrations” (which they are now, not so, and will not be for some time, by the way), I cannot stay silent. So, I dissent.

No Schools To Open In The Fall

Of course, we are not going to open schools in the fall.

You know why? Because we are in the midst of a pandemic and will be in the fall also.

It will be just fine to not open schools in the fall. This blog will explain that in detail in subsequent postings. But for now, let’s accept where we are. Let’s tell the Connecticut  Commissioner of Education that we get it that we are in a pandemic and do not expect or want schools to open in the fall. Let’s tell Governor Lamont the same thing. And let’s tell our local Superintendent of Schools to relax because we get it about being in a pandemic and ask him or her to explore different ways to meet the needs of our children other than to pack them into school buildings.

Dana Millbank in The Washington Post describes succinctly where we are as a country and why we should not for one minute even think about opening schools in the fall. Please read:

Counter-protesters block a drive-by protest during a rally to reopen the country and economy during the coronavirus pandemic outside City Hall in Philadelphia on May 8.
Counter-protesters block a drive-by protest during a rally to reopen the country and economy during the coronavirus pandemic outside City Hall in Philadelphia on May 8. (Matt Slocum/AP)
May 8, 2020 at 3:27 p.m. EDT

 

Now is the spring of our disgrace.

 

Around the world, countries are winning the battle against the coronavirus and beginning a responsible return to work, school and leisure, confident that their governments have the deadly virus in check.

 

But the United States plays the loser. Unwilling to do the hard work needed to beat the pandemic, we are quitting: forcing people back to work without protections people in other countries enjoy. The most powerful country in the world is failing.

In October, Johns Hopkins University rated the United States the country best prepared for an epidemic, as President Trump boasted in February. But this week, a Hopkins scientist told Congress we are “the worst affected country in the world.” How did the best become the worst?

Trump has abandoned attempts to control the pandemic, though there is no downturn in cases. His administration ignores its own reopening requirements and shelves guidelines written by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Instead Trump applauds reckless reopening in a way that, as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, admitted, “will lead to an increase and spread. It’s almost ipso facto.”

This is state-sanctioned killing. It is a conscious decision to accept 2,000 preventable deaths every day, because our leaders believe the victims are the poor schlubs who work in meat-processing plants, not “regular folks,” as Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack memorably put it this week.

It is deliberately sacrificing the old, factory workers, and black and Hispanic Americans, who are dying at higher rates. This comes after “stimulus” programs passed by Congress proved a bonanza to big business and billionaires but offered little to the nearly one-fifth of American children who are not getting enough to eat — a rate three times as high as during the Great Recession, a Brookings Institution study found.

The mindless reopening is as stupid as it is immoral. Does anybody truly believe Americans will return to work while the virus rages? Send our kids to schools without tools in place to stop outbreaks? Put our parents in retirement homes that, without adequate testing, are often death traps? Enjoy a restaurant, theater, flight to Disney World or trip to the mall, knowing it could kill us? Reopening masquerades as a political cause — LIBERATE! — but it is really a lazy unwillingness to do the hard work to defeat the virus, and to restore our economy.

It didn’t have to be this way.

New Zealand just announced that it has eliminated the virus. Australia is close behind. They did this with all the things we didn’t do: aggressive lockdowns, huge investments in testing and contact tracing and reliable, apolitical communication by government. New Zealand says 75 percent of its economy is reopening.

Germany, Greece, the Czech Republic, South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan and Hong Kong are among those defeating the virus, too.

Yet, encouraged by Trump, mostly Republican-led states plunge ahead with reopening without the necessary tests, tracing, masks or isolation facilities — pretending the virus will disappear if we look the other way. Arizona typifies the new head-in-sand approach, trying to get scientists at state universities to “pause” modeling of the virus’s progression as the state reopens.

Disaster awaits. Andy Slavitt, a senior health official during the Obama administration, notes that outside of New York, cases are actually increasing, at a rate that would present 50,000 new cases a day by month’s end.

“It’s a huge gamble,” Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski told Christian broadcaster David Brody this week. If “we see an uptick again in the covid-19 pandemic coming back because we didn’t handle it right the first time — we still don’t have testing and we don’t have a solution — that is devastating as an incumbent president.”

And rather more devastating for the people dying. But Trump seems unconcerned. Asked about unemployment, which just hit a highest-since-the-Depression 14.7 percent, Trump declared: “Nobody is blaming me.”

True, most Americans accept as necessary the economic pain of shutting down. And Trump’s supporters seem not to care that his early failures led directly to our highest-in-the-world death count of 76,000. Too many even seem unconcerned about the deaths, concentrated in minority communities.

But they will soon see other countries’ economies reopening safely because other governments got the virus under control. And they will see deaths accelerate here, making consumers and workers frightened to return. All we can do is pray for a vaccine breakthrough and hope summer weather helps. That’s because our president abandoned the fight.

 

Trump can lie all he likes about the adequacy of testing and supplies, and blame his predecessor, his opponents and the media for his incompetence. It doesn’t matter to the virus. As we progress toward what could be the autumn of our agony, he owns all of what comes next — politically and morally.

Our Children Are Not Falling Behind

Don’t worry that our children are “falling behind” and must get back to school in the fall before it is safe to do so. They are learning so much in this terrible pandemic. They are learning how to be people of integrity by sheltering in place. They are learning how to care for others by not socializing as they love to do. They are learning how to be resilient by doing what each day requires of them. They are learning how to have courage by not giving up even though the time of the pandemic stretches before us into the summer and fall. They are learning that they have adults in their lives who give to them and care for them in remarkable ways that spell love every single day. The children are learning how to grow up and become adults of integrity, courage, and compassion. Our children are learning all they need to learn.

This salute to our children is circulating online. I post it in solidarity with its authors:

Image may contain: possible text that says 'Everyone is applauding everyone children. These heroes have stayed indoors more than they've ever known in Their whole worlds literally been turned upside down and they don't know why. All these rules they've never known. being family or give hugs. Vacations, sports and activities, play dates school canceled. Adults talking about others becoming unwell, news reporting death after death. Our children's minds be racing. Every day their resilient little bodies get up and on despite all that's going So here's to little heroes: today, tomorrow, forever'

 

What Our Children Need Right Now

The following article was written by Joel Westheimer, a journalist who writes about pubic education, and was originally posted by Diane Ravitch. He tells us the education that our kids need from us now.

FORGET THE WORKSHEETS AND TRYING TO REPLICATE SCHOOL

I am really struck by the variety of media inquiries I’ve been getting about the impacts of Covid-19 on education, what parents should be doing at home, and so on. The interest doesn’t surprise me (I am an education columnist on public radio), but the preoccupation with whether kids will “fall behind” or with how they will “catch up” has. I see hundreds of stories, websites, and YouTube videos that aim to help parents create miniature classrooms at home. Maybe some parents have folding chairs they can bring up from the basement and put in rows. Where’s that big blackboard we used to have? Is there a run on chalk at Costco?

Stop worrying about the vague and evidence-less idea of children “falling behind” or “catching up.” This is a world-wide pause in life-as-usual. We’ve spent the last 25 years over-scheduling kids, over-testing kids, putting undue pressure on them to achieve more and more and play less and less. The result? Several generations of children and young adults who are stressed-out, medicated, alienated, and depressed.

This is not a time for worksheets. This is an opportunity (for those of us lucky enough to be at home and not in hospitals or driving buses or keeping our grocery store shelves stocked) to spend meaningful time with our children to the extent it is possible in any given family. Parents shouldn’t be thinking about how to keep their kids caught up with the curriculum or about how they can recreate school at home or how many worksheets they should have their children complete. They should bake a cake together. Make soup. Grow something in the garden. Take up family music playing. And neither school personnel nor parents should be focusing on how quickly or slowly children will return to school because none of us know We should be focusing on ensuring that teachers are afforded the conditions they need to best support their students — now when school is out and later when school is back in.

Remember that ditty about the two Chinese brush-strokes that comprise the word ‘crisis’? One is the character for ‘danger’ and the other the character for ‘opportunity.’ We are more and more aware of the danger. But we’re missing out on the opportunity: to spend time as families (in whatever form that family takes in your household).

This brings me back to the questions I keep getting. What are my recommendations for what to do with your children at home when they are missing so much school? Stop the homework (unless you and your children are enjoying it).Stop the worksheets. Stop trying to turn your kitchen into Jaime Escalante’s A.P. math class. But do help your children structure their day. Help them process what is going on around them. Help them engage in activities that do not take place on a screen. Help them maintain physical activities whether that means running around the block, running up and down the stairs, or running around the kitchen.Help them be creative. Give them — to the extent possible in your household — the gift of time and attention.

And when brick-and-mortar school (hopefully) returns next Fall, let’s give teachers a great deal of latitude in what, how, and when to teach any particular subject matter. Their primary job should be to restore a sense of safety, nurture a sense of possibility, and rebuild the community lost through extended social isolation.

________

Joel Westheimer is University Research Chair in Democracy and Education at the University of Ottawa and an education columnist for CBC’s Ottawa Morning and Ontario Today shows. His most recent book is “What Kind of Citizen: Educating Our Children for the Common Good.” You can follow him on Twitter: @joelwestheimer.

 

 

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