The Upside of Stopping the World

Easter weekend reflections on the impact of COVID-19 and the global economic shutdown

Being Irish and growing up Catholic, Good Friday has lots of significance, a day of crucifixion, death, which then gives rise to the resurrection - victory over death! Love and hope conquering fear and dismay!

Let's not forget the Good Friday Peace agreement between Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Ireland where arms were put aside after years of hate and warfare finally returned to a relatively stable existence. Ironically, Good Friday 2020 is touted as the day our death toll will peak, and not Easter Sunday as currently projected from the Washington State model.

Good Friday Peace agreement IGOR PETROV / FOCAL POINT / FLYDRAGON / SHUTTERSTOCK / THE ATLANTIC

As Dr. Fauci, the nation's leading expert on infectious diseases, said on Friday, this is "the end of the famous week". The death toll worldwide has surpassed 100,000. With 18,000 in the US - up 11,000 since last week.

These are not merely numbers, but lives - fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, friends, neighbors, our aged community, our most vulnerable. Such loss has shattered our communities as we struggle to find a dignified way to lay them to rest forever.

However, after such a devastating week we have seen progress. As a result of our concerted efforts to slow down the spread, a flattening of the curve is now visible. Fauci said that despite these small advancements, it's "not time to be pulling back." We must continue to wash our hands and maintain social distancing by wearing masks and keeping 6 feet between us when in public.

The decision to reopen the economy will be President Trump's biggest decision of his life. Asked what metrics he will use, he pointed to his head, which indicates that he'll be the one making this decision. He is hoping for a May 1st reopening, which gives rise to a difference between economic advisors and health advisors.

Trump aims to achieve this soon by creating an "Opening Our Country Taskforce" which he'll announce on Tuesday, April 14. It will be composed of prominent medical professionals and business leaders from across the US who will forge a bipartisan, united front to get the nation back on its feet.

Today the war rages against the "invisible enemy." Is Trump the Churchill of our time, rallying us to beat the enemy not by his rhetoric but by the things he is doing behind the scenes? Who are our enemies? Is it a microscopic virus? Is it our trusted organizations that were created by the US to protect us?

The Pandemic stopped the world. It stopped travel, shut down borders, and drove everyone off the streets into the enclaves of their homes. It caused a monumental shift in how business is done daily. Not to mention an upsurge in technology by students being taught online and employees working from home.

Some of these new mechanisms will remain long after the virus is gone. We may see a more self sufficient America with its own energy supply and a less reliance on China for production of our household items.

Another beneficial change is that great American corporations such as GM and Abbott Labs, are manufacturing needed supplies. Many companies large and small are bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. "Made in America" has a deeper resonance during this unsettling time.

The Pandemic has highlighted health disparities and exposed a wealth divide. Particularly hard hit is the African American community living in low income communities across New York, Milwaukee, Chicago, and New Orleans.

Black patients are disproportionately dying from COVID-19 which illuminates lack of resources and the medical challenges that black communities face every day. Now that this is highlighted America must funnel more funds and resources to support these vulnerable communities.

Black people seeking treatment for Coronavirus in Chicago Joshua Lott/Reuters

There are numerous proposed roadmaps for reopening the economy, but antibody testing is getting the most attention. This past week, people who tested positive to COVID-19 are being asked to donate their plasma in order to help those with the disease. If we can get these tests out in plentiful supply we can see who may have been exposed to the virus but has resistance.

There's more availability of medical supplies and medications such as hydroxychloroquine. Two companies now have the go ahead to sterilize critical PPE such as masks and gowns that will be provided to critical areas very soon.

We are in uncharted water, no one knows what will happen when we return to work. Will there be a spike, a second wave? We can only rely on the data from the countries who have reopened before us and use this to create the models we have all become so familiar with over the past few weeks.

All this is to slow the spread and see the curve bending toward a hopeful May 1st opening of the economy.

Why I’m Becoming a Catholic in 2019

I have come to believe that atheism is a kind of cultural cancer, a nihilism: in essence, a cultural depression.

"Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue." - Air Traffic Controller Steve McCroskey (Lloyd Bridges) in Airplane

Why would anyone become a Roman Catholic at a time like this? Fresh new reports of victimization (nearly all of it preceding 2002, for those who care about such details) are still in the headlines and many more embarrassing news stories are on their way. Church leaders are openly quarreling over the cause of the recent abuse crisis and even the future of the Catholic Church. There are even rumors of a schism by the American Catholic Church. Joining this group would be like being adopted into a family going through a custody battle. Why would anyone do that?

Well, look around. We increasingly live in a world where up is down, right is wrong, compassion is ridiculed, and forgiveness is nonexistent. "Truth" is defined by the websites you repeatedly check and the Twitter personalities you follow. On the right, you are regularly admired for how much you can humiliate the other side. On the left, you are admired for your status as a victim or your level of self-condemning "wokeness."

Social and cultural norms are collapsing all around us. What it means to be a good person is being warped by navel-gazing notions of "social justice" or "happiness"—two seemingly zero-sum endeavors for folks on the left. It is now worse to utter an offensive thought than to get someone fired from his job for uttering or, more likely, tweeting an offensive thought. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream of a colorblind society is a laughably quaint notion in a culture that created and eagerly wants to believe Jussie Smollett.

What does all this have to do with Catholicism? It is what happens when a society once rooted in Christian values loses its way. As America has increasingly eradicated Christian references from the public sphere and as folks on the left openly ridicule Christianity, our culture and national identity have given way to the anodyne multiculturalism (Easter egg hunts are now "spring egg hunts" at my local library) and moral relativism that defines modern life.

But in my own experience, I found an even darker side of atheism. At times, my atheism led me to believe that life was pointless, that it would be a terrible thing to bring kids into this cruel world. My son reminds me continually how foolish that kind of thinking was. It is through that experience that I have come to believe that atheism is a kind of cultural cancer, a nihilism: in essence, a cultural depression. It is choosing to be an orphan in a cruel world. It was out of this realization that I found myself looking for answers in the Catholicism of my grandparents.

I wasn't merely rejecting the incoherence and short-sightedness of the secular world, though. I've always been drawn to the many beautiful aspects of Catholicism. For one, it's a better way to look at the world and has an answer to every difficult question. Viewing all those around you as God's children is a great remedy for racism, sexism, and many of the other "-isms" and "phobias" that the left obsesses over. Loving your neighbors and enemies makes the many rude motorists out there somewhat easier to tolerate.

The Catholic Church, more than any other institution, upholds the centrality of family in a culture determined to chop it up and redefine it. Indeed, the reason the Church struggles so mightily with how to handle the issue of homosexuality is a testament to this. The Church does not want to do anything to undermine the traditional nuclear family while loving everyone. It's complicated.

I'm also drawn by the discipline of daily practice and Catholicism's many beautiful traditions. Daily prayer, daily expressions of gratitude, weekly mass, seasonal spiritual renewal: These are the keys to a life in which you have your priorities straight. And in this time of spectacularly high rates of loneliness, when so many of us live across the country from our families, it offers connection to others. This cannot be understated as a social problem. The growing disconnection from family and community that modern humans experience is a cultural catastrophe. If we allow it to continue, rates of suicide, addiction, and other measures of cultural despair will only grow.

Finally, there is the notion of God. Like many, I struggle with this one somewhat. But for the first time in my life I've opened my heart and mind to a higher power. As I read the gospels and study the words of Jesus, I am at times blown away by the moral perfection of His statements. Maybe this is wishful thinking or maybe my heart is changing the way God wants it to. Either way, it is clear to me that Christians are not the "crazy" people in our society; rather, it's the people who think they know enough to navigate the world alone who are lost.

@dogma_vat is an editor and writer based in Washington, DC.