We are in the middle of a deadly pandemic caused by a new viral infection. Many people have died, many more were made seriously ill, we all felt the impact in one way or the other. Not having any vaccine or direct cure, governments around the world tried to slow the spread of the contagion by implementing different levels of quarantine (social and physical distancing). As a result all around the world (but especially in most developed countries) the economy declined rapidly, unemployment is higher than anyone remembers and social and political discontent is spreading. In our US situation it certainly does not help that we have an impotent federal government led by an utterly ignorant and incompetent president (probably the worst in national history).
After two months in quarantine we are all getting restless and emotions are flaring. I know from first hand experience and from colleagues that pastors are dealing with an increasing numbers of intricate and ever more complicated pastoral situations. But we need to put our predicament into the proper context. If we think we had it really bad, being locked in our homes for two months, being unemployed and living with great social and medical insecurity, then let us think twice! Let us think for instance what our colonising ancestors did to Native Americans just two and half centuries ago!
Some Native American Peoples lost 90% of their population within a generation or two because of the imported infectious diseases! In the second half of the 18th century the well documented smallpox epidemy killed about 30% of the West Coast Native Americans in just a year or so! And at least some of this disaster was man-made by the colonists who were gifting Native Americans with blankets intentionally infected with the smallpox (it is documented for instance in the correspondence between Sir Jeffery Amherst the supreme commander of the British in North America and Col. Henry Bouquet, the Swiss mercenary under British pay).
Even in our pandemic hotspot which is our beloved cosmopolitan NYC, the death-rate has never approached 1% of population, not even among the most exposed groups with the possible exemption of the residents of nursing homes (numbers are not yet fully clear). Now think about the Native Americans losing the entire one third of their people! I do not write this to downplay and trivialize the suffering, hardships and losses in our days, I write this, because I believe that our hard-earned firsthand experience with pandemic can help us understand our history and what we did to native peoples specifically in America but frankly around the world (I know about similar history in Hawai'i). Let it be to all of us our firsthand lesson.
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