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From Inside the Quarantine: Americana

While part of me watches America rage with this seemingly unstoppable virus, there is this other part of me that can’t get November out of my mind. I have this friend who keeps telling me that Donald Trump may still be president after November 2020, and there is a fear that the refuses to leave me because that just might be true.

I guess I foolishly thought that the America that enslaved my ancestors and segregated my grandparents and parents was an America in recovery. Sure, I agreed with Frederick Douglass that America was a land of hypocrisy. I wanted to agree with Dr. King that America was a land of hope. I needed to believe in Barack Obama’s vision that America pulsated with promise if we just saw her unlimited potential. If we kept moving forward then we could change a past filled with hatred and meaningless democracy into a future where American was exceptional in truth. And then Donald Trump happened.

My horror that Trump is the president of the United States is this never-ending nightmare. How could a man who cared so little about poor people move poor people to cast their vote for him? How could a man with so little respect for women convince women to vote for him? He is like some type of AntiChrist, conning millions of people into seeing a greatness in him that does not and never has existed. And now, because of him, thousands of Americans have lost their lives to Covid-19.

The other day, I thought about how death and destruction follows him, and I had this Biblical moment. I thought of Moses in the land of Egypt when GOD sent him to free the Israelites. For every sign that Moses showed of GOD’s power, Pharaoh’s magicians threw down the same sign. Locust for locust. Boils for boils. Blood for blood. But every time GOD sent a sign, Pharaoh refused to listen. He told his magicians to match Moses’s power and they did. Finally, because Pharaoh was so doggone stubborn, GOD decided that he would allow Pharaoh’s stubbornness to take root and grow. HE would teach Pharaoh a lessen that Pharaoh would never forget.

Because Pharaoh fought so hard to defy GOD, GOD sent the Angel of Death to kill every firstborn son. Every time, I heard this story as a child, I would be troubled by GOD’s cruelty. Why would HE kill the firstborn son of all the Egyptians, even those who were merely citizens under this stubborn ruler? But it wasn’t GOD that killed the firstborn sons. It was the stubbornness of the Pharaoh. The inability of a king to look past his own selfishness and make a choice that was best for his people. The firstborn sons of the Egyptians died because that was what it took for them to end the enslavement of the Israelites. I mean think about it. It took the death of those they loved to finally set their slaves free.

And then that still wasn’t enough. Pharaoh was so stubborn, so consumed with the desire to defeat GOD, that he followed the Israelites to the sea. He watched Moses cross the sea and still refused to admit that he was merely a man in the presence of GOD. He watched a miracle happen but was so focused on winning his battle with GOD that he drove his men into the sea. The crazy thing is that he expected GOD to let him walk across the sea and recapture the Israelites. Like, how narcissistic can you be that you think a miracle performed by a GOD who just sent the Angel of Death to your home will be performed for you too? Just how narcissistic can you be?

In the America that is being devastated by Covid-19, I wonder who is Pharaoh? who is Moses? and who are the Egyptians? Is Donald Trump like Pharaoh, narcissistic and stubborn enough that it will take the deaths of thousands for him to recognize the limits of his power? Are we the Egyptians who have allowed his stubbornness and narcissism to kill our firstborns? All Egyptians paid the cost for their Pharaoh as we pay the cost for a mere man who sees himself as a king and imagines himself as a GOD. I wonder about this, about the way the Angel of Death is sweeping through our nation unimpeded because it takes the death of a loved one for too many stubborn people to see the truth.

Every great nation falls. Is that not what Dick Gregory said years ago? Every nation from Africa to Asia to Europe has fallen because empires don’t last. And nations fall when their people allow their leaders to think they are gods. Maybe my Biblical moment is just me remembering the stories of my church-going childhood and how those stories fascinated me. Or maybe, just maybe, I wonder if the plague sweeping our nation offers an opportunity to reflect on where we are as a country and decide if this is the America we want to be. I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t want to find out if it will take the parting of a Red Sea for this train wreck to stop. If it does, then how will America survive? and what kind of America will she be?

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