No one would argue that Rep. John Lewis doesn’t deserve a proper memorial. He was a civil rights icon and a long-serving member of Congress who was beloved by his colleagues. In the middle of a pandemic, however, how do we decide who gets the pomp and circumstance of a traditional burial and who has to watch their loved one go six feet under via Zoom call?
Funerals are important: they acknowledge the sanctity of life and allow friends and family to come together to grieve their loss. This reality doesn’t change based on how famous or revered an individual was to the general public: it doesn’t hurt any less to say goodbye to someone who was just a dad or just someone’s child or just a dear friend. Their lives aren’t any less significant. Yet politicians have decided that celebrity affords them the right to override the onerous restrictions on funerals that so many average Americans have been forced to accept.
Yes, Georgia is unique in that it allows anyone to have a funeral. However, the governor’s executive order prohibits gatherings of more than 50 people if social distancing cannot be maintained. Photos of Lewis’s funeral in Atlanta showed that many more than 50 people attended and that social distancing was not maintained in parts of the church, nor during the burial outside.
‘Even if social distancing is possible, the National Funeral Directors Association strongly recommends that funerals be limited to immediate family and close friends of the decedent,’ the Georgia Department of Public Health’s funeral guidance says.
At the same time, a significant number of attendees traveled from out of state to attend the funeral. 50 members of Congress, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, attended. Mayor Muriel Bowser issued a mandatory two-week quarantine for anyone who travels to Washington, DC from a coronavirus ‘hotspot’. Georgia was one of the states designated as a ‘hotspot’ on a list released by the DC government on Monday. Nevertheless, Pelosi (an essential worker) flitted around the Capitol all day Friday, almost gloating about her freedom from the rules. If politicians are above the restrictions that apply to the rest of us, perhaps they could at least successfully negotiate a COVID relief package?
How could any person who has lost a loved one during the pandemic see this blatant hypocrisy and not be incensed? You had to decide which family member could enter the hospital and be the last to see their father alive. You had to have last rites read over the phone. You could not touch the casket before it’s lowered into the ground. You could not embrace each other as the dirt was shoveled. All the while, the same politicians who lectured you about making sacrifices to stop the spread traveled with impunity, attended large funerals without proper social distancing and avoided quarantines upon their return.
The funerals for Rep. Lewis in Atlanta and George Floyd in Houston — which was attended by Jamie Foxx, Channing Tatum, Revd Al Sharpton, Ne-Yo, and others — are a reminder of how the elite prioritize their own lives and needs ahead of the rest of us. They don’t just think they are better than you; they act like it, too.