We are living in a time of physical suffering and death as well as economic uncertainty and extreme hardship, triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, there is a striking similarity to what we are experiencing. Some of us seemingly don’t matter as much. Our tragedies can be dismissed or forgotten, lost in the number of casualties. We are easily discarded and marginalized. It’s a world where the victim gets blamed, the weak get scapegoated, and the bully gets celebrated.
Two incidents this week bring this into relief, each with a ringing refrain that has become too familiar. One springs from my experience as a first-generation American and the other from the anger about a hate crime.
First, reporting from the NY Times revealed how Stephen Miller from the White House is continuing to pursue hardline immigration positions. (Read “Before COVID-19, Trump Aide Sought to Use Disease to Close Borders”) Blaming immigrants for what ails us is commonplace. This Administration has used the tactic before and, with COVID-19, it was easy for them to target the Chinese this time. When in doubt, demonize the immigrant and close the border, even if neither presents a solution to the actual problem. “Other” the people who don’t look American. Set them up to take the fall. Even though many individuals with an immigrant heritage (like myself) claim the label of American as proudly as anyone, we become strangers in the land of our birth.
There have been so many reminders of character this past week for me. The daily COVID-19 briefings from the White House where character — and the lack thereof — is on clear display. You can guess which individuals on the White House Press Room podium register well on the exemplary character barometer for me.
In my blog “Inspired by the Journey,” you read the story of the Rev. Dr. P.K. Geevarghese, my father. He was a man of character, courage, conviction and commitment. I was humbled and honored to eulogize him at his wake and funeral in October 2018. Because of him and other key figures, I came to know early about these attributes and why they mattered.
During this Passion Week, as a person of faith, I was also struck by the example of Christ and how the model of service, humility, sacrifice, empathy, strength, compassion, love and character were exemplified by his life. Can we recognize these attributes in our leaders today? Do we believe they matter? I believe they do, even more so in a crisis.
Inspiration can come from different people and can manifest in different forms. It can also come from respect for struggle, perseverance, and courage on the journey. While there are many sources of inspiration for me, this moment to start a new endeavor like SGG Insight is inspired by my father Rev. Dr. P.K. Geevarghese and his journey.
I grew up hearing the stories of my father’s early life. It was one marked by both relative affluence and then poverty, joy and pain, hope and disillusionment. Two images associated with my father influenced this moment to create SGG Insight. My father and I shared a love of nature and the picturesque settings that invite deep personal reflection. My father spoke of his spiritual awakening in the mountains. I, too, found significance in my own mountaintop experiences. It is also in these moments that I gained perspective and insight into my own life, purpose and path.