Bad Things and Bad People

Moses in Dublin Castle chapelIt is getting really hard not to be angry at people who, during this crisis, are taking advantage of the situation for personal gain. Andrés Spokoiny recently noted that even though everyone is wearing masks, now is the time the masks come off and this is a time when we see people for who they truly are. Sometimes, I don’t like the people I am seeing.

I hear about states that purchase critically needed healthcare supplies only to find out that the source is bogus. Or that the person is selling materials that are substandard or useless. Or that there are companies that are charging outrageous prices for the same things that were once inexpensive in the marketplace. Capitalism at its ugliest.

I keep hearing about people spreading false news about what people should be doing in this health crisis, about how it is not a crisis, about how Coronavirus is just another political stunt.

I keep hearing about people who are not telling the truth about what scientists and doctors are saying and who say that what scientists and doctors are really saying is not the truth.

I should not be surprised that there are people who wish to make money off a crisis. That there are people who will always do the opposite of what they are supposed to be doing. That there are so-called leaders who do what is in their own best interests and not what is in the interests of those they are leading – and some of these so-called leaders are clergy.

I wonder how it is possible for some people to be so self-centered and so cold hearted that they think that every moment is an opportunity to make money and promote themselves when so many others are suffering and sacrificing.

I am not a fool who thinks that everyone is altruistic, charitable, loving, caring and kind. I know most people are giving, and I know some people are not. In my life, I have been personally affected by those who seek to scam me and my family, and I know what I need to do and what I have done to protect myself and my family from them. It hurts me to know that I can’t be as kind and loving as I wish to be for fear of being hurt – physically, economically, and/or emotionally. As the great sage Hillel said in the Talmud, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” I have to take care of myself. I cannot risk my life to save another. I have responsibilities for my own health and wellbeing. But this responsibility does not allow me to enrich myself at another’s expense. Hillel goes on to say, “but if I am only for myself, what am I?” We all can do something to ease the suffering of others. We can make a donation, make a phone call, we can do what we can to show our support for those on the front lines of this crisis.

I don’t want to be angry at people who think that they are getting away with these ugly and illegal acts during this crisis. They think that people don’t notice; they think that there is no time for someone to call them to account. They think that they can turn this crisis into personal gain without any accountability. I find that I am hoping they are wrong. In this time of public shaming, and “Me Too”, that there will be, in the end, exposure, anger and maybe some justice that they will have to face. I would like to tell those who think that they are getting away with their outrageous behavior that there will come a time of reckoning. There will come a time they will have to pay the price for their actions.

And yet, as frustrating as it is to see so many people trying so hard to delude others, to send them astray from where they need to be, who give others false information and fake news to attain their own political or financial advantage, I refuse to give up hope that things will eventually work out. That those who try to lead us astray will themselves be frustrated; that those who are honest and faithful, will find good people to follow their lead and bring about good outcomes in the areas of health care and the nation’s economy and that we will find ourselves in a country, at the end of all of this, where people are more caring, generous, understanding and compassionate. And that those who are not, will find themselves at the far margins of civilization.

Elijah the prophet gave up hope in the people and God condemned him to wander the earth forever to see the good things that people do; how they are kind to each other and faithful to God.

I have said many times that I don’t believe in magical thinking. I have a sign in my office that reads, “I don’t believe in miracles*” the asterisk leads to the small print that says, “*I only rely on them”.

I plan to work every day to make this world safe, healthy, just and kind. If you like security, health, justice, and kindness, I hope you will help in this work and every day try and leave the world a little bit more of any or all of these qualities. Maybe we will have to rely on a miracle, maybe not. Maybe if we all work together, we will be the miracle.

That will certainly make wearing a mask bearable.

2 thoughts on “Bad Things and Bad People

  1. Everything that you said Rabbi – I say yes. But I do believe in miracles, Or perhaps another way to frame it is divine intervention. Despite knowing that, I have found myself making recommendations to the Almighty… but then I realize I am only a “team parent” and not the team coach. There ARE things we can do, and when this is all said and done, what’s important is will we see ourselves as a team player on the side of the good solution or on the side of the diseased. I want to be on your team – always!

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