I can’t help but feel the world has changed overnight. One day, I was going to work, praying with our community, laughing with friends, and living what I felt was a good and happy life. Suddenly, everything is different than before, I can’t see people’s smiles through their masks, I sense the frustrations of the lonely, and my movements and life are… restricted.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that this current situation with Covid is serious, and that we have serious concerns for the health of our communities, especially those who are vulnerable. I by no means feel that we should not take that seriously.
At the same time however, I am greatly concerned about what we are losing in the process. I am concerned about the regular act of living, of families going to Mass to offer the Lord their praises and receive His graces, of the virtues of work and our vocations, of the common niceties that make up daily life, from the idle chitchat around the office cooler to the talk about the weather with strangers we meet in the course of the day. These are not small things, but have been the fabric of our daily lives. But even more than that, I am deeply concerned about those who are unaccustomed to this wholesome life we all miss.
Most people have the ability to have this life I mentioned above, but so many do not, and suddenly, they are thrust into the darkness without any connection to the rest of us. As a teacher, I worry about kids who do not have the home life that supports them, suddenly thrust into a world they cannot escape from. I worry about those who suffer from domestic abuse, suddenly having no way out. I am anxious for those who suffer from depression or thoughts of suicide with no one to comfort them. I worry about those facing their addictions with nothing to hold them back.
I am concerned on a political level too. What about due process for those accused of crime? I had my jury duty cancelled, what does that mean for the accused? I am concerned about the sudden abandonment of the Bill of Rights, my right to freely assemble and meet with others to share my thoughts and opinions. I am concerned that protesters and surfers can be thrown in jail, that political recalls have been all but banned, that our police have begun to manage many communities through surveillance.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a political man; I am Catholic, and vote in accords with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Yet, I must admit that what I have always known to be the grand experiment of America, seems to be ending in front of my eyes. I grew up with the assumption that martial law was impossible here, now I am not so sure. Our nation seems to be turning communist as I watch, and I am unsure what to do about it.
So for those few who read my blog, I would remind you of this: God set us free. We were born to be free. Freedom is the single most important thing we possess, even greater than our lives.
When Our Lord gave us the Ten Commandments, think of His first words:
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.-Exodus 20:2
Notice, He doesn’t say, “I am the God who created the universe”; we might think that bringing all of creation into existence might be the bigger deal, but He does not. He does not say, “I am the God who made you, so you should do what I tell you.” which He certainly has the right to say. Instead, He feels the most important attribute, His greatest gift, the thing that He wants us to remember about Him, is that He is the one who SET US FREE, who brought us out of bondage.
Freedom. Especially the freedom to choose the good, is the single most important gift we possess. Without it, there can be no true good. Coercive good is simply not good. If I force you to give me a present, then you didn’t really give me one, I gave it to myself. All gifts must be free.
If we as a nation choose to allow ourselves to no longer be free because of this virus, we will lose much more than our lives. We will find ourselves in chains. Perhaps I am being hyperbolic, but with each passing day, I cannot help but feel that common sense has gone out the window.
How is laying on the beach dangerous, but shopping at Costco is not? How is going for a walk in the forest risking lives, but grabbing lottery tickets at the gas station not? When did we choose that our department store is essential and let our entire community go there, but our hair salon with 20 customers a day is courting disaster? Aren’t we, as free Americans, able to make our own choices and take our own risks? Are we not free, both to be wise, but also to be foolish? Isn’t that exactly what freedom is?
But worst of all, how can our society be free, if we are not allowed to comment publicly on society? How can protests be illegal? How can dissenting information be taken down from the internet? How can due process be taken from citizens? How can political offices be unassailable? How did we get here so fast?
I hope I’m chicken little. I hope I’m overreacting and that everything will be fine in no time. I hope that it’s just my pessimism showing itself off to the world. I hope there is nothing to worry about, and we’ll get back to our political bickering in no time. But I fear it could be worse then even I imagine.
I fear chains. I don’t want to be a slave. I fear that much, much more than death from this virus. Death I am assured of and I leave to the Lord, freedom for my children and grandchildren I am not.