It is a time to pray, not to blame; to send help, not to close borders; to love more fully, not to exclude more effectively. The H1N1 virus threatens our immune systems, but our spirits must repel the equally dangerous contagions of hatred and fear. We must offer an active resistance to bigotry.
There is deep danger in assigning blame for the virus along ethnic lines, as radio talk show host Jay Severin did by calling Mexican immigrants “criminaliens,” “primitives,” “leeches,” and “women with mustaches and VD” on Boston’s WTKK-FM last week. This reactionary response to a real public health crisis spread false information and racist language. WTKK-FM has yanked Severin from the air, but the bigotry that inspired his words is being echoed in scape-goating blog posts and cartoons across the United States.
It is imperative that people join together and stand on the side of love. Think of what you can do to be a healing agent in this time of crisis. Writing blog posts and letters to our papers confronting dehumanizing rhetoric is important, but also consider other ways to be in solidarity. A radical ministry at this moment may be as simple as having a joint potluck with a Mexican church. Or, if day laborers congregate in your neighborhood, bring some baked goods or coffee one morning.
We need to come together, even if we are wearing masks and disinfecting our hands every five minutes. We cannot let any virus destroy the fabric of our human family. So next time you are driving by a Mexican restaurant and someone in your car cracks a joke about the swine flu, maybe you ought to pull over and have a delicious dinner of rice, beans, and carnitas.