When a natural disaster occurs in the United States and I receive a request for help, I don’t ask for specifics about whose lives are in danger. It doesn’t matter their age, skin color, ethnicity, religion or political viewpoints. Americans reach out and give each other a helping hand. If that fundamental idea from America’s civil religion weren’t enough reason to help, my Jewish practice gives me other reasons. Judaism teaches me that we are all created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. Our sages preached that when you have saved one life, it is as if you have saved the entire world. Our mystics speak of the spark of God that rests within all of us, if we only choose to look.
That’s why I was horrified to learn that a national plan to combat the coronavirus may not have been implemented for political reasons. An article in Vanity Fair about the lack of a national plan says, “Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert [who was interviewed for the article] said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. ‘The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,’ said the expert.” (See https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/07/how-jared-kushners-secret-testing-plan-went-poof-into-thin-air.)
Now, there are people denying this occurred, but, in today’s political climate, it’s not difficult to accept that politics are playing a role in life and death situations. After all, the federal government has threatened to cut funding to states that are reopening schools and businesses more slowly than the feds demand. Even our president once declared that the decision to wear a mask was a political statement against him. Fortunately, he has changed his mind – at least, enough to don a mask on occasion.
The fact that someone might even suggest that it’s OK for people to die for political reasons – so that one party or another would win an election – is un-American and goes against Jewish (and Christian) principles. What’s even worse is that it’s stupid! As I write, it’s states that voted Republican that are now facing some of the biggest virus threats.
A national effort was needed early in this fight. A national effort now could still help. We shouldn’t wait until more people suffer from or die of this virus. And if we can do anything to stop its spread – wear masks, stay home – then we should do so. We should also help those who suffer from businesses closing or those who can’t work. That would be the American way – reaching out a helping hand to each other without asking foolish questions like, “how did you vote?”