In March, my wife’s grandmother passed away after a long (non-COVID-19 related) illness.
We just had a funeral earlier this week.
Like many others who experienced the passing of a family member during the coronavirus lockdowns, holding a timely funeral couldn’t be done. Social distancing guidelines simply didn’t allow it. No one liked it. Funerals provide family and friends an opportunity to say goodbye and to have closure, and countless people were denied this opportunity because the authorities said it wasn’t safe.
And we believed them. “We’re in this together,” after all, right? Let’s bend the curve, wear masks, keep six feet apart, and not gather in large groups because that’s what it takes to get through a pandemic like this. We all have to be on the same page to achieve the goal of returning back to normal.
And then, on May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed by a police officer.
Several memorial services for him were held a couple weeks later. A funeral service at North Central University in Minneapolis, and was attended by state and federal officials including Senator Amy Klobuchar, Governor Tim Walz, and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. The service was attended by 500 people, directly violating Governor Walz’s own social distancing guidelines for funeral services.
Another service was held in Houston, Texas a few days later. It featured local leaders and celebrities. Al Sharpton delivered a eulogy that sounded more like a political speech at a rally. Joe Biden even spoke via video, and if you look at photos or video, Texas social distancing guidelines didn’t appear to be properly followed either.
The message sent to the entire country was clear: Memorial services for George Floyd were exempt from social distancing guidelines. Your loss was less important than the exploitation of George Floyd’s death.
And let’s not be afraid to call it what it was. Why else would the governor of Minnesota attend a service that quite clearly violated his own guidelines. Why else would Al Sharpton deliver what sounded like a political speech at the Houston service (evoking memorials of Senator Paul Wellstone’s “funeral”), and why would Joe Biden (whose participation was based solely on his being candidate for president) deliver a video message?
Much like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio allowing Black Lives Matter protests in spite of his own ban on large gatherings, the apparent exemption from social distancing for George Floyd’s memorial services tells the rest of us that our political leaders are placing arbitrary guidelines on us that can be broken based on the politics of the situation. Leaders tell the public to wear masks to protect themselves, while simultaneously sending the message that holding a “Black Lives Matter” protest sign or perpetuating the correct political narrative instructs the Angel of Death to pass us over.
Almost every aspect of the pandemic has been politicized. When rules don’t apply equally to everyone for the sake of their health, it undermines the message that the pandemic is being taken seriously, and reveals that political considerations trump health concerns—which is, interestingly enough, exactly what lots of local and state leaders accuse Trump of.
Matt Margolis is the author of Airborne: How The Liberal Media Weaponized The Coronavirus Against Donald Trump and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis