You might have come to my web site today looking for some kind of April Fools joke. I do one nearly every year. Sometimes they’re pretty funny (if I don’t say so myself). Last year, I broke with tradition by launching my half-serious presidential campaign. I thought it would be funny to leave people wondering if it was an April Fools joke or a serious endeavor. Surprise! It was both!
My original plan for this year was to continue the tradition. A month ago, when I started to set it in motion, I thought it would be funny to do something related to quarantines or viruses. That became less funny as time went on. As the COVID-19 outbreak moved from a Chinese problem to a worldwide problem, and as my local, state, and federal authorities took more and more serious action to try to slow it down, my original plans quickly got overtaken by events.
I considered doing something different for April Fools Day here on the site, but I ultimately decided against it. In part, I didn’t have enough time to start over. And even if I did, it’s hard to be hilarious in such a strange time. What could I joke about while I’m under a government-imposed house arrest? What’s hilarious in the midst of a widespread and deadly viral outbreak?
I don’t mean to discount the power of diversion. I’m still reading and enjoying the satire on The Babylon Bee and the The Onion. And I am not condemning those who chose to plow ahead with their April Fools plans . . . I especially liked the one from A Blog To Watch, since I’ve been really into wristwatches lately. Everybody is dealing with this crisis in their own way. Some deal with it with laughter. Some deal with it by not really feeling like laughing. This is, in almost every way you can imagine, uncharted territory.
I am a Catholic, and I coordinate the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program at my home parish. This is the process by which adults—whether they be non-Christians or Christians from a non-Catholic background—join the Catholic Church. I went through this program myself in 2008-2009. So, not only do I have to stay home each Sunday, since there are no public masses being held in my diocese, but I have had to tell five people who were intending to become Catholics at Easter that we will have to delay their reception into the church that Christ founded. This is heartbreaking for me. I’m sure that it is heartbreaking for them.
And yet I am lucky. My day job was mostly work-from-home anyway, so shifting to full-time work-from-home was no serious problem. My income is unaffected. And even if it was, my family is financially stable and can ride out a storm for at least a couple of months. I am well aware that others are not so lucky. Even many people who thought they were in good shape a month ago have found themselves suddenly unemployed. This can be the consequence of poor planning or poor decisions, but when something like this comes along, that’s not always the case. Some are completely innocent, and are being ‘punished’ by circumstances anyway. Life is not fair.
There is a lot more that I could say about the COVID-19 crisis. You should not be surprised to hear that I have opinions about all of this . . . about how we got into this situation, about how our governments are handling it, and about the best path forward. I might post about some of this in the future. But, today, I mainly want to ask you to pray. Pray for the people who have been killed or harmed by this virus. Pray for the leaders of our governments (even those you don’t like) that they might make good choices. Pray for an end to this crisis.
And if you, like me, are lucky enough to have a stable income in the midst of all of this, please consider making a donation to a reputable charity that is working to help make things better for others. I personally recommend Catholic Charities USA and the American Red Cross.
Ed. Note, December 1, 2023: This post originally included links to three charitable organizations: Catholic Charities USA, the American Red Cross, and the CDC Foundation. The link to the CDC Foundation has been removed. I should not have included that organization as a recommended charity in 2020, and I do not recommend it today.
The CDC Foundation is an independent public charity whose mission is to help the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) “do more, faster by forging partnerships between CDC and others to fight threats to health and safety.” The CDC is itself is the U.S. national public health agency. It has primary responsibility for dealing with disease outbreaks.
In April 2020, it appeared that the CDC was doing a reasonably competent job of leading a science-based response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the summer, their guidance grew less reliable. By fall, they were offering an incoherent mess of pseudoscience, false assumptions, and politics. This continued for another two years, which irreparably destroyed the public trust. Many Americans will never believe anything they say ever again. Why should they?
The CDC has since acknowledged some missteps, but took the wrong lessons from them. The officials who lied the public have not been held accountable. And there has been no reckoning with the fact that we do not have a credible public health agency that can provide trustworthy guidance when the next epidemic comes along.