Monday, May 18, 2020

Meditation 60

18 May 2020

I founded the Compassion Hui on the UH-Manoa campus in 2014 in order to create a space for grieving. A young man named Abel had fallen to his death in a public place, but the institution failed to acknowledge his passing. As I looked into the issue of absent losses, I discovered that other institutions have protocols. They announce the deaths of students, faculty members, employees, and when needed, they provide links to resources, like suicide hot-lines. A small group of us organized a memorial service at which people on-campus could grieve. It was well-attended, and the circles of grief grew larger and larger as the event went on. Fireless candles lined the stage; we ate after. That was 2016. There has been no service since; admin did not take our advice to make it an annual event, such as those at Berkeley and other campuses. Now over 90,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, and a kind of anti-grief has come alive. Rather than call a national day of mourning, the president is working to “open up” the country. The economy is more important than human lives; getting a hair cut trumps protecting the hair cutter. Essential persons are those most at risk, while lowest paid. The mask has been torn off our culture (and those who favor “opening up” refuse to wear them, as if symbolic value trumped public health). If you want to control your population, forbid them to grieve. Tell them the losses make hospitals money; point out corruption in the health care system, the media, the government, the language. Do not trust anything. Even death has become a hoax, or an outcome earned through years of breathing bad air or eating bad food, none of which we share. The rich can emigrate to other states, taking Pascal’s wager against the disease. The rest of us shelter in place, or wear masks and gloves and pray. To forbid someone to grieve is to deny death. My mother tried that, after my father died. My institution tried it for years. Even after a death protocol was slipped into a larger set of rules and regulations, deaths were cherry-picked. Someone at the rec center died of natural causes. A beloved professor died of old age. No mention of the suicide on July 4, or another on-campus by someone who may or may not have been a student. If you find someone hanging, keep your mouth closed. Students will be upset if they know someone died. And, if they know, it would be worse to tell everyone else. We walk in clusters of half-cooked sorrow, unable to imagine that what happened was true, yet incapable of piecing together a different story. Some would be super-spreaders, but we quarantine them, offer them therapies that cannot be found in the real world, shun them. We cannot see what they carry, but know it might infect us. In our minds, they wear crowns of corona virus, lit by red points, resembling a dog’s toy, or a funny Olympic mascot. If we make a toy of our suffering, we can always play along.

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