Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
We are now living in an age where established norms of civilized peoples have been turned upside down and inside out. This is due to combination of events, some that I mentioned in my last post. however, the most troubling that I see is for people in positions of power where they could actually do good to mitigate our losses in the novel Coronavirus 19 Pandemic, either directly contribute to its spread, or turn their backs knowing what is happening. Holocaust Historian Yehuda Bauer wrote: “Thou shall not be a perpetrator, thou shall not be a victim, and thou shall never, but never, be a bystander.”
But here we are again with that choice. Like the Holocaust it comes down to the question of who lives and who dies. But unlike the Holocaust where those decisions were made by people who killed their carefully selected victims by bullets, gas, medical experiments, euthanasia, or who worked and starved them to death, we are brought to this point by the lack of preparation and callous indifference to the disease when it had a chance to be stopped, slowed, or brought under control until a vaccination or an effective treatment can be found. Now, doctors and nurses, themselves potential victims because they do not have adequate personal protective equipment, will have to make choices about who lives and who dies because they do not have enough ICU beds and ventilators to treat everyone. Last week I wrote about the coming combat mass casualty triage that many hospitals will have to implement in the coming days and weeks. To those who have not seen combat, been in mass casualty situations, or really their history, the decisions will seem cruel, and maybe even unjust, but that is the reality that we are soon to face here.
Honestly I don’t see the doctors and nurses who have to make such decisions as perpetrators, as they too are being infected and dying. They are also victims, as are the infected and dying. The real perpetrators are those that allowed this virus to spread, who denied it being a threat, minimized the threat, those who delayed acting, and those who have profited by it are the perpetrators.
The rest of us have a choice. We can take the side of and do everything we can to help the victims, or we can join the list of perpetrators by perpetuating their lies and crimes, or be bystanders who turn a blind eye to what is happening, neither taking a stand for or against what is happening. Sophie Scholl who lost her life at the age of 22 by writing the truth about the evils of the Nazi regime wrote:
“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.”
I haven’t mentioned the numbers lately. They started to remind me of the nightly casualty counts that were shown like baseball box scores on the nightly national news broadcasts on ABC, CBS, and NBC. Sadly, every one of these numbers is a real person. The infected and dead are of all races, religions, genders, rich and poor, good and bad alike.
So I ask that when you read them to remember that, each one a real person with hopes and dreams, either ended or put on indefinitely by the virus. Then there is the ripple effects, all the family members, friends, acquaintances, and colleagues left behind. There are now holes in lives of people who have lost loved ones or friends, that cannot be filled by pious talk, blaming others, or by saying that this is God’s will or judgement.
Each of these people, the infected, the dead, and even those who recover bear the physical, emotional, and spiritual know the feeling of the God forsaken, as do those who knew them, loved them, and suffered with them. Forgive the intrusion of faith here, but for me it is the image of Jesus the Christ, hanging on a cross, forgiving a thief, comforting his mother, can crying out to his God and Father in defense of those killing him, “forgive them they know not what they do.” But then there were the bystanders who just sat back and watched, whose inaction be it from their agreement to what was occurring or fear of speaking out allowed them to do nothing. Elie Wiesel wrote “What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander.”
So here are today’s latest numbers. Worldwide the toll stands at 1,261,095 infections, 68,468 deaths, and 260,032 recoveries. A death rate that is now up to 21% based on the resolved cases, be they recovered or dead. Of the 932,595 active cases we have no idea as to how their cases will resolve. Hopefully the numbers of recoveries against deaths in these cases will begin to lower the death rate number. However, we cannot know that number until the cases are resolved, but the death rate among resolved cases has climbed from the 14%-15% rate to 20-21% in about ten days worldwide.
But in the United States, for once we are now leading the world in terms of the number of infections, despite the fact that our intelligence agencies wanted the President as early as mid January of what was coming. The President, denied, delayed, dithered, and dispersed the blame to everyone but himself until he saw the stock markets tank.
So with that being said let us talk about the United States and how many people are infected, died or recovered here. In the Good Ol’ USA, which if we remember the words of our President had become great again under his personal leadership, there are now 331,285 total cases, 9,479 deaths, and 17,091 recoveries from the virus. That is a 36% death rate. That rate among the resolved cases has remained constant between 35-40% over the last week and a half. additionally we have only tested 1,751,296 people, and thousands of they tests have not been processed because the laboratory system is overwhelmed. But the number of Americans tested is just slightly over one half of one percent of the Census Bureau’s 2019 population estimate of 329,450,000. So we cannot be sure of how many people have been exposed to, infected by, recovered, or died of the disease.
Likewise we now lead the world in total infections, our deaths only trail those of Spain and France. We’re number three, can I get a cheer for that? I doubt it because within a week at the most we will also lead the world in deaths. So let’s hear that chant of USA! USA! USA! And We’re number One!” Can I get an Amen brothers and sisters? I hate to sound flippant and sarcastic at such a time, but with so many people ignoring social distancing and doing nothing to stop the spread of the virus, including pastors who flaunt their state laws and Federal recommendations and continue to gather, or Florida’s Governor Rick DeSantis who reopened his states beaches barely two days after he closed them, how can I not be somewhat sarcastic and flippant? It’s gallows humor. These people are going to spread the virus or contract it themselves. The data shows that each infected person spreads the virus to an average of 2 to 3 other people. Do these people want others to become infected, or spread the virus to their friends and families, or do they have some kind of death wish?
I’m sorry, but those are rhetorical questions No sane person would want that to be the case, unless they are brainwashed cult members, apocalyptic Christians, or sociopaths who only want the worst for others in order to achieve their own salvation or annihilation. You cannot be too sure about religious ideologues, some of them get a kick of thinking that they will be martyrs for their cause, even if that cause were a lie. Just ask the 9-11 hijackers, but they are all dead. Ideologues, religious or otherwise who seek to kill people and then want the honor of martyrdom are simply narcissistic sociopaths who could care less about the death they inflict and the subsequent consequences, because it is really all about them.
But the President was not alone in first dismissing the virus or the impact that it would have. It appears that China’s President Xi did the same thing, as did Russia’s President Putin, and many other world leaders. No matter who they are or what country they lead, if they denied, delayed, or otherwise left their people unprotected in the face of this virus they are the perpetrators. Especially leaders that ignored the warnings of their medical and scientific advisors and urged people to go back to work as if things were still normal and the virus couldn’t kill them. Admittedly, their is a scale of culpability in this, early on many nations said that they were not like China, or then like Italy. Denial is not just a river in Egypt, but the sooner a nation and it’s leaders got over denial, the sooner they began to actually take action to protect the lives of their people.
Likewise so so called religious leaders who encourage the ignorant sheep in close proximity of each other fully realizing that some or many could be contagious, supposedly in the name of religious freedom, but more to gather their cults and collect their money as for profit prophets, promoting imaginary cures based on supposed secret “words from God” or miracle cures that can be purchased, and providing you have faith will work. They and others like them are the perpetrators.
But that leaves the rest of us. Will we speak? Or will we for whatever reasons, as logical as they may seem to be we have a choice of what we will do.
But then there are the heroes who save lives and are punished for doing so. One of them is Captain Brett Crozier, the Commanding Officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, tried to inform his chain of command of an large outbreak of COVID-19 on his ship that was threatening to overwhelm the capacities of his medical department. He did not get a satisfactory answer so he blasted out an email to many Navy officials, which was leaked by someone and published by the San Francisco Chronicle. But his email got attention, and he was allowed to take the ship to Guam, where he was able to begin transferring infected sailors off the ship and arranged to have the rest of the crew tested, and placed in safe quarters.
He was also bound by the DOD’s decision to follow CDC guidelines and not to have his crew wear Personal Protective Equipment if they were not medical personnel, or already infected and showing symptoms. That CDC guidance was finally changed Friday, and I just received a text saying we were now allowed and encouraged to wear cloth masks. Thankfully, during this period many of our workers were teleworking or on paid administrative leave due to they or their family members are in high risk groups for contracting the virus. Commanders of ships at sea didn’t get that opportunity.
The strange thing to me is that multiple Naval Commanding Officers whose negligence, lack of adherence to Naval Regulations, or concern for the welfare of their crews and safety of their ships enjoyed the benefit of a full hearing by experienced Naval Officers before they were relieved of their commands. This did not occur with Captain Crozier, who was relieved by Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly against the advice of the Chief of Naval Operations. Modly has noted that he understood and admitted that President Trump, a man who fired Modly’s predecessor Richard Spencer who publicly stated that the President’s defense and pardoning of convicted war criminals harmed good order and discipline in the Armed Forces, wanted to fire Captain Crozier, despite the fact that he protected his ship and crew. However, against the advice of the Chief of Naval Operation and other senior Naval officers, Mr. Modly relieved Captain Crozier before such a board of inquiry could be convened, which meant that there is no chance of one occurring now, except as a means to decide if he should be prosecuted for his actions.
Of course any such board would have probably affirmed Captain Crozier’s actions, unlike the Commanding officers of other ships who covered up their ship’s training, manning, and technical or mechanical deficiencies and who by doing so sacrificed the lives of their sailors, and grave and costly damage to their ship which rendered those ships non mission capable for more than a year each. Despite the lies being presented by the President aided by his media and political apologists, Captain Crozier exhibited the finest of Naval tradition in protecting his ship and crew, and boldly risked his career for the defense of his crew and the nation. And it appears that he too has contracted COVID-19 and may be prosecuted for his actions. In this case it appears to me that the Navy’s justice system has been turned inside out and upside down.
So I must make a judgment. Captain Crozier acted in the best interests of his ship, sailors, the Naval tradition, sore values, and truth. In doing so he was afforded less justice then men whose lack of concern for their ships, crews, and the nation were given. Likewise, though his actions saved lives, and will result in the ship and crew being fully mission capable with a few weeks. Yet he was given less respect or protection for his actions, by the President has in pardoning convicted war criminals.
But as a veteran of over 38 years of military service, in peace and war, I have to admit that I am ashamed of our political, military, and moral leadership which would pardon war criminals, give full hearings to men whose actions led to deaths of their crew members and long term costly repairs to their ships, before relieving them, who then condone and defend their actions against Captain Crozier whose real offense was trying to save his crew. He is a victim of both the disease, and the Navy leadership, who have become perpetrators of injustice.
Captain Crozier was denied a fair hearing, and and condemned because the President wanted it to happen. That my friends, as an officer whose oath is to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and not the actions of any a political party or President, demands that my honor is based on defending the Constitution, and at the same time knowing that it is not my career that is sacred, but the honor and reputation of the nation in upholding our laws, Constitution, and institutions of the nation, against usurpers who only seek to expand their power and gratification at the expense of the United States, and its citizens, even using the police and military power of the state against them to do so, I have to make a stand for truth, and like General Ludwig Beck who resigned his position as Chief of Staff of the Wehrmacht in defiance of Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, and who lost his life in Operation Valkyrie in 1944, I have to state like Beck:
“Final decisions about the nation’s existence are at stake here; history will incriminate these leaders with bloodguilt if they do not act in accordance with their specialist political knowledge and conscience. Their soldierly obedience reaches its limit when their knowledge, their conscience, and their responsibility forbid carrying out an order.”
For me, my friends, that is the heart of the matter. This is about the public health and the welfare of my neighbor, not about me. If any order is issued in contradiction to the the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the U.S.Constitution, or the Uniform Code of Military Justice, I must raise my voice against it, and as a matter of honor defend those accused of breaking them. How can a man with any sense of honor not due so?
We all have a choice. Will we be a perpetrator, victim, or bystander during this crisis? I cannot be a bystander, I cannot be silent. I have to echo and proclaim the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
So until after that tomorrow and I wish you all the best, and please be careful out there.
2 responses to “Perpetrators, Victims, and Bystanders in the Age of COVID-19”
Crozier should get the CMH for his actions.
I sincerely hope that when the next President fires Modly, that he would seriously consider Captain Crozier as his replacement. The Country and the Navy need men of demonstrated character in leadership positions. While some in the Navy might feel embarrassed, the fact is that, if they had done their jobs, Crozier would not have been put in a position where he had to make a choice between his career and his men.