"Recoleta Cemetery" Buenos Aires, Argentina 2019
I remember it clear as day. “Mark my words, people are going to die because of him. So many people are going to die. He bankrupted 5 businesses, he’s going to bankrupt our country. He doesn’t care about anyone other than himself, he thinks he knows more than experts in every field, and people are going to die as a result.” I said that the night of the 2016 presidential election. Jesse and I were out of our minds with grief over what had just occurred; a corrupt, selfish, and vile man had been elected with the unanimous votes of people who we grew up with: our parents, our siblings, our aunts and uncles, all living back in the midwest. They were Christians. They were supposed to be Godly. They were supposedly the wisened, the salt of the earth, our nation's moral compass, the people Jesse and I could turn to in moments of need. And in one night they had shown their blind ignorance and put us all in grave danger.
Jesse took off work the next day and so did I. We drove down to San Onofre to the beach where we knew we could be alone, breathe in some fresh ocean air, hold each other, and mourn. At the time, I cried for the loss of my family who I knew I would never have the same relationship with again. I cried for the loss of my LGBT brethren who I knew would suffer at the hands of the new administration, and I cried for our climate, our endangered species, and for our world at large that depends on America to lead the way towards what’s right and good. And yes, I even wept for the poor souls who had voted for the president elect, who had lost their way, who were so blinded by zealotry that they didn’t see the darkness that had just engulfed us all. But mostly, I shed tears — monumental tears — for the people who were going to die.
Three years passed before we would begin to see the deaths that might shake us, not the outliers we could shrug off like the thousands of Syrians, Yemenis, or Venezuelans who perished because “America first” or our fellow citizens who perished in Puerto Rico from the hurricane, or the countless LGBT Americans who, hopeless, committed suicide behind closed doors. No, it would take an unseen assailant that no ridiculous border wall could hold back and no racist travel ban could immobilize, only a fraud elected by gullible minority who would follow him into a chamber of death where literally breathing would end not only their lives but the lives of so many who had no choice but to follow, too.
I can hear my mother and her friends, my old pastor, and the leaders of my former church, cheering on the serpent they elected because he would end women’s rights, gay rights, environmental rights, and social safety nets, while expanding gun rights, corporate rights, and nationalism. These were the same people who let kids in our congregation, including myself and my sister, be molested by members of the flock, who illegally skimmed money from the church coffers, who put bald-faced swindlers behind the pulpit and convinced the faithful they were prophets. They told me to forgive my father who literally strangled me and beat me with his bare hands when I was too young to fight back. They believed what was unnatural was natural and what was right was wrong. It wasn’t until a few years ago I realized the lesson really being taught by these charlatans of spirituality was that feelings are facts, that if you believe something enough in your heart — despite all proof against it — it’s true. That's called “faith” they would say, and who can argue with “faith?" But feelings ARE NOT facts. Feelings are not science. Feelings have no basis in reality for anyone other than the person feeling them. In fact, true love isn’t even a feeling. Love is something much, much greater. If only these dogmatists understood this. If only they realized when they say “God is love” that statement spans a universe of possibilities they refuse to comprehend.
So, here we are in this black and white world of death and life and Coronavirus. And I knew this would happen. People are dying. Not in Japan. Not in South Korea. Not in Germany. Not in places where they’ve used science to root out the deadly disease like the cancer it is. No, people are dying here in America where we’re being led by a man who has “feelings” about things, who doesn’t listen to scientists because he knows better than they do, a man whose sycophants follow him like followers in a cult terrified of being booted from his almighty approval. The air we breathe has literally become toxic. The distance I needed to take from my friends and family three years ago is now more than a mere decision of morality, it is now a matter of mortality. And what I can’t help but wonder is what happens after this?
Interestingly enough, the only solution to our current heartbreak may be feelings. The most basic human characteristic is that we run from pain and pursue pleasure. And maybe when enough people die. Maybe when the pain becomes great enough, folks will begin to open their eyes and see truth for what it is. We’re not a nation alone in the world. We’re not states alone in a nation: We’re all in this together — ALL OF US. And we will never agree about subjective things like sports teams and religious beliefs, the food we eat, or the entertainment we enjoy. But we must — MUST — believe in objective facts and science! We should all have the ability to reason with our minds in spite of our hearts. If we don’t, we’ll all eventually be destroyed not by what we know, but by the naked ignorance of what we choose not to see.