Congressional Big Boy Pants
Just when you think things can’t get more ridiculous, along comes a congressman from my district that makes an astonishing remark. Congressman Trey Hollingsworth, Indiana’s Ninth Congressional District actually said that we should all put on our Big Boy Pants and agree that protecting our lifestyle during this COVID 19 pandemic is more important than protecting life.
I haven’t published much on my blog recently as I know there are many other valuable voices during this time. However, the letter below captures my “energy” and my sadness at the irresponsible ways many of our supposed leaders are seeking to avoid responsibility and blame others. So — here is that letter:
Dear Congressman Hollingsworth,
Greetings, sincere best wishes, and prayers for you. Hearing your comments on a WIBC Indianapolis radio interview regarding our society in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic left me dumbfounded. I thought the news reports that you said we should protect our “way of life” as being more important than the “lives of our citizens” was a reporting error. Then, this evening, you doubled down suggesting again that we have an either/or choice of life or livelihood. You were suggesting that some should be sacrificed so that our lifestyle would not suffer.
I don’t know your faith tradition – you are listed in religious preference for congressmen as an “unspecified Protestant.” Your comments are far afield from the teachings of people of faith and moral persons everywhere. Could you please send me information on the teachings you follow? Exactly what kind of Protestant are you? Are you familiar with the teachings of Martin Luther, John Wesley, John Knox or others regarding the sacredness of life? I am certain your Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim and Jewish constituents would find your stance outside their understanding of the central value of life. Most non-religious folks I know have a stronger moral core. Would you say you get your moral clues more from Ayn Rand or Jesus the Christ? I am just wondering if you value that silly idea from Jesus and other religious thinkers about each of us being “our brother’s keeper.” I guess such ideas are to be jettisoned in the event of a pandemic. Lifestyle over the life of some – is this what you are saying?
So, I am “putting on my big boy pants” as you suggested in your interview and writing you about your comments. (BTW, I have been wearing BBP for over sixty years.) Might I be among those to be sacrificed so you can proceed with your livelihood? If not, what are you saying?
Three reflections for you to consider:
1) Which lives should be sacrificed, exactly? Suddenly, persons on the lowest rungs of our social order are deemed “essential workers.” Are these the lives we now sacrifice? I am speaking of janitors in hospitals and nursing homes, those who stock shelves, work at checkout counters of grocery stores and pick up our garbage. What about our nurses, medics and physicians? Many of these persons struggled to have decent food and lodging prior to this pandemic — and are even more threatened now. What are YOUR PLANS to make certain these “essential” ones critical to a restart our economy will be rewarded and well treated now and in the future? Please send me a copy of the plans you supported for the needed economic stimulus and point out how lives of these essential workers are valued in the plan. The plans you and your Republican allies in the House propose don’t seem to include these good and essential folks in your desire to get back to “livelihood” of those you think who matter.
2) As with so many things, you set this dilemma up as a dichotomy, either life or livelihood. Binary thinking seems to be the way of so many, especially in the Donald Trump era. Sir, if this false dichotomy is an example of wearing big boy pants, I would simply say, it is small, immoral and dangerous. Just where will you draw the line as to human sacrifice? I would genuinely like to know. Maybe this is the way you want our social order to be handled? De we want our health care workers following such a false choice? How about our public safety officers? Our teachers? Might we encourage them to think about who should be sacrificed so that the livelihoods of those you prefer can be secure? I would pray that when you make decisions regarding our nation’s fate and future you consider multiple variables and shape arguments that are more than a simplistic either/or. NOW is the time for humility and exploring the difficult calculus of saving both life and lifestyle. In my experience, those who wear BBP are the ones who understand that we do all we can to save BOTH life and lifestyle. Fortunately, Governor Holcomb, a Republican who seems to wear his BBP well, is modeling a more mature view and practice.
3) Over recent months I have sent you questions regarding our national leadership — and you have avoided answering them. I now understand a little better why. You must have thought these to be a bother because they might require nuance, a humble admission that life is complex and that you might not have all the answers.
Perhaps a clarification or apology is in order. Or, perhaps you might want to go help carry bed pans at a hospital in Jeffersonville or work with medics on a life-saving run in Greenwood or sit with the preschool children of nurses in Bloomington and then tell us all about your belief that life-style is more important than life. It is not a forced choice – it is a false one — I think you know that. I will wait to hear you admit it.
Dear sir, please stop embarrassing those of us in the Ninth Congressional District of Indiana you were elected to represent. See if you can find some genuine BBP that might look like they fit a United States Congressman.
Most sincerely yours,
Rev. Dr. Philip Amerson