America's Culture of Death

For Jews, the most important value is life itself. We classically don't even accommodate quality of life issues. We strive to preserve all life.

With that caveat, I am astonished that millions of Americans prefer to endanger their neighbors, and all those with underlying medical conditions that might threaten their very lives with coronavirus. Not to mention, that increasingly we see that the virus leaves lasting and debilitating scars inside the organs of many who otherwise recover.

The United States embraces a culture of death.

Think about that for a moment. Does our culture, our assumptions about day to day living, support life or death? increasingly it's death.

Turns out that enabling everyone to have a gun does not support life, as the NRA claimed, "if we outlaw guns, only criminals will have guns." It just creates an increasing number of criminals by placing guns in the hands of people who otherwise would not kill or maim their neighbors. It increasingly has created an attitude that gun violence presents a solution to conflict. Rather than "seek peace and pursue it," as religious people claim, this new culture makes "dissing" a violent, intolerable offense that must be countered with assault and death.

Likewise, once upon a time in storybook America it seemed obvious that my freedom ended at your right to life. There's even a movement that has misappropriated that phrase. But they assert that your freedom ends where an in utero baby's life begins. Yet, it's ok to threaten my neighbor's life by not wearing a mask.

This pursuit of death persists into absurdity. Every leader seeks a healthy economy: "A rising tide lifts all boats,"to quote JFK. But the spread of the virus is destroying commerce as America's rank and file decide not to venture out and risk life and limb. The President dependent on a vital economy for reelection lies daily that social distancing, tests, and masks don't save lives. In other words, he is forced to resort to prevarications that will kill more people in order to brazenly fight the truth. This, where he could have been a national hero and ensured his reelection by competently handling this threat to all Americans equally, and our economic survival as well.

Now, in the face of a faltering economy that can only be cured with the cessation of the virus, Trump insists on opening the schools he refused to make safe by following those the examples presented by countries that followed science and have now ended this plague for themselves.

But this is not about Trump. Why have Americans embraced this Culture of Death as determining our future? Comparisons with auto accidents and the flu will not resolve this crisis. Large portions of our country, millions of people, are choosing death over life. Add to the virus racism, hatred of minorities, failure to provide health care coverage to all Americans, refusal to provide a living wage for all in the wealthiest country in the world, and you see a definitive case. Each movement, separate on its own, contributes to the embrace of death over life, pain and sorrow for others and disregard for "am I my brother's [sister's] keeper?" even while insisting that God blesses America, the best country in the world. Well, it's not, and failure to protect our neighbors against this virus and guns has proven it.

We are not merely in a medical crisis, nor even a culture war. We are in a cultural crisis, in which our culture justifies death over life.

A truly religious America would embrace life, as all religions do. Resolving our cultural crisis would increase our national happiness, and provide us with more joyous lives.

But for now, Trump embodies the Angel of Death, in our cultural war to embrace life. "Choose life, that you and your descendants may live." (Deuteronomy 30:19)

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© 2016 by Rabbi Mark H. Levin.