San Antonio Methodist Hospital. Photo: GOOGLE MAPS
San Antonio Methodist Hospital. Photo: GOOGLE MAPS

Many of my friends have responded to this news story with expressions of disgust at this man’s stupidity: attending a COVID party, disbelieving the danger he was exposing himself to. I had a similar reaction, at first. But after thinking about it a bit, I see something much worse.

“I think I made a mistake.” Ok, yes. It was a mistake to attend a COVID party. But it breaks my heart to think he might have died feeling he alone was responsible for his death. (I would rather believe this quote—reported by a nurse who treated him—wasn’t really something he said.)

This is a person whose community failed him. This man had a family, friends, and people he worked with. He had local, state, and national governments. He had people he depended on for guidance on TV, radio, and social media. These people—intentionally or unintentionally—misled him. They clouded the facts, making it hard for him to know the truth. They “spun things” to their advantage instead of his. They confused his judgement and steered him in the wrong direction. They—and yes, by “they,” I really mean the collective “we”—are also responsible for his death. I feel deeply sad for this man.

Was he stupid? I have no idea. I don’t know anything about his background. But that honestly doesn’t matter. Not everyone is born blessed with what we think of as clear thinking or “smarts.” And, Lord knows, “smarts” don’t always protect a person from being confused and misled by an uncaring community.

Bottom line: I don’t believe it’s okay for members of a community to look on each other with disgust. I especially don’t believe it’s okay for individuals in a community to prey on others or treat them as “expendable.” I don’t believe it’s okay to allow “survival of the fittest” to lead to the deaths of our fellows. Communities have a responsibility to take care of everyone, especially those who need it.

The idea that it might somehow be “okay” for a community member to die because he or she wasn’t smart or as well-connected as we are is toxic. We live and die with our communities. And directly or indirectly, we are all responsible for our communities, what they’ve become, and what we want them to be like going forward.

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