An Essay by Eric Fretz (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Regis University, Denver, Colorado
In these challenging times, it’s easy to give up hope, to turn away (if we have the privilege to do so) from the chaos of the world and to retreat into our own private worlds. 'The Plague' not only cautions us against doing so, it provides a road map of thought and action to help us navigate the chaos. As Camus writes toward the end of the novel, “There can be no peace without hope."
In May of 1942, Albert Camus was living near the seaside French town of Marseilles with his second wife, Francine Faure, when he was struck with a tubercular fit that left him short of breath and coughing up blood. His physician recommended he head to a drier climate, so Camus packed up his bags and, sans Francine, headed for St. Etienne, a little village in the French Alps, to recover while Francine traveled back to Oran, Algeria where the couple had previously resided.
A few months later, while Camus was recovering in the Alps and Francine was ensconced in Oran, the allied Army landed in North Africa, effectively preventing Camus and Francine from reuniting. In a letter to Francine, Camus expressed his frustration at being precluded from leaving France by declaring that the two were “[c]aught like rats!”
And it was in this exile in the French Alps that Camus began in earnest to imagine and write The Plague, a novel that since its publication in 1947, has perplexed readers and critics alike and which is doubly resonant for us today as we face both the pandemic of covid-19 as well as the continued threat of authoritarianism.
The first edition of the novel sold out quickly. Since then it’s never gone out of print, and it has been translated into at least 15 different languages. During times of high anxiety like what we are currently experiencing, it’s not unusual for The Plague to be referenced in opinion articles or for the novel to receive a resurgence of interest among readers and cultural critics.
The Plague offers a prescription and a road map on how to live our lives at moments when we stand to lose all that we value most, but stand to triumph in a certain way as well.
Together Louisiana, an advocacy group made up largely of clergy, called on the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prioritize testing for New Orleans, a hotbed of the epidemic that's home to most of the state's known cases.
Broderick Bagert, an organizer with the group, noted that even with limited testing, the rate of known cases and deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in New Orleans makes the city one of the worst-hit areas of the country.
Resources - including testing capabilities - need to be steered to parts of the country battling the worst of the epidemic, including New Orleans, said Rev. Sheron Jackson, a Shreveport minister who's active in the group.
''Direct test capacity to the areas facing the worst outbreaks,'' said Jackson. ''I don't think the outbreak is the most severe in the NBA or the NFL.'' Story here.
What is the connection between a lack of commitment to collective well-being and social disaster in a time of crisis?
Why has it been so difficult for our government to give straight answers about the threat of COVID-19?
I don’t know if I have had the coronavirus (COVID-19). What I do know is that I developed pneumonia two weeks after returning to Los Angeles in early February from a visit with my wife’s family in Northern Italy.
I started feeling ill on a Friday — aches, chills and overall weakness. By Monday I was coughing. On Wednesday I was in urgent care – four days after reports that Northern Italy was experiencing a major outbreak of COVID-19. After an X-ray determined that I had pneumonia, I asked the attending doctor about being tested for COVID-19. She told me that it was “too expensive” to test everyone. Full story HERE.
100,000 have virus in Ohio; "The federal response has been a fiasco" - Ashish Jah, Harvard school of public health
Ohio health official estimates 100,00 people in state have coronavirus
"We know now, just the fact of community spread, says that at least 1 percent, at the very least, 1 percent of our population is carrying this virus in Ohio today," Acton said. "We have 11.7 million people. So the math is over 100,000. So that just gives you a sense of how this virus spreads and is spreading quickly." Story HERE.
Have you checked with your local drug store for N95 respirators lately?
“To state it clearly, we are enduring crimes against humanity,” said Verlon M. José, the governor of the Tohono O’odham in northern Mexico and a former vice chairman of the tribal nation on the American side of the border.
“Tell me where your grandparents are buried and let me dynamite their graves,” said Mr. José, emphasizing how visceral an issue the blasting has become among O’odham-speaking peoples. “This wall is already putting a scar across our heart.” NY Times story here.
Barbara Paulsen, at right with microphone, a member of Nevadans for the Common Good, listens to Nevada gubernatorial candidate Dan Schwartz agree to support the organization's platform during a candidate program May 8, 2018 at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Las Vegas. Nevadans for the Common Good is an interfaith coalition that includes the Diocese of Las Vegas and 10 Catholic parishes. (CNS photo/courtesy Nevadans for the Common Good) See IN-DEPTH-POVERTY-NEVADA Dec. 16, 2019.
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Back in 2017 as hundreds of elderly Nevadans were on a waiting list for the Meals on Wheels program, Natalie Eustice and her friends at Nevadans for the Common Good learned the state was spending just 27 cents a meal for the program.
It was the lowest rate in the country -- by far -- and Eustice, a member of St. Thomas More Parish in Henderson, near Las Vegas, knew it was time for the state to boost funding so the long list could be pared down. Story by Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service here.
Coloradans for the Common Good (IAF) leaders led a Fast for Farm Workers, joined others in a press conference, and attended a public hearing asking Gov. Jared Polis to remember the farm workers and extend CO Dept. of Labor's protections to them as well.
"Every time we eat food grown by unprotected farm workers we are complicit. We consume food grown from ground fertilized by sadness, oppression and isolation." - Rabbi Evette Lutman
Colorado Independent story by Forest Wilson here.
“My daughter and her friend work for Grub Hub and live off tips,” said Donna, “and they live with me because there is no way that they can afford to live on their own.”
Donna’s story hit me hard and here is why.
(Adrienne McCauley provided this photo of herself and her father, Kelley, a former UTU/SMART TD member, who was able to provide for his family thanks in part to union protections.)
My dad made a choice at 18 that if he was going to make a decent living, he could never do so off our family’s struggling cattle ranch in Arizona. So he hired out on the railroad, and with that he joined a union.
The first 15 years of Dad’s career were rocky. He was often laid off, sometimes for six months at a time (priority in scheduling went to railroaders with more seniority). Then Mom would get a job, Dad would create a side hustle — working for his father’s plumbing business, hauling freight in a semi-truck, working the family ranch, selling pipe for corrals as I remember — and my parents would nervously piece together their $250 weekly meager income to cover their bills for a family of five.
"A Right Christmas" by Rev Lionel Edmonds, Pastor, Mt Lebanon Baptist Church and Founder of Washington INterfaith Network
If you ask people what they think about organized labor these days, many - if not most - might respond based on the version of labor depicted in the recent Martin Scorsese film, The Irishman. The filmmaker points his camera at the link between the Teamsters and organized crime in the era of Jimmy Hoffa. So the image portrayed is of profoundly corrupt union officials in cahoots with habitually violent mafia thugs.
While that might make for a dramatic movie - endless as it is - it crowds out any other part of the rich and complex history of organized labor. I grew up in the Midwest and never ran across anyone who resembled the characters in the Scorsese movie. In my community of Fort Wayne, Indiana, organized labor was closely and publicly connected to organized religion. Your pew neighbor during Sunday worship service was often the factory worker next to you on the assembly line during the week. My father was a shop steward in his union and an usher at church. My mother worked in a parochial school and taught in Sunday School. Work and worship, labor and faith, were as married as my parents were. In fact, to my young eyes, the labor movement was another expression of religious activity, somewhat similar to singing in the choir, serving on the usher board, or teaching in Sunday School. We even had ministers in my city who worked in the factory during the week, and ministered to their congregational flock on weekends.