From belligerent “Karens” refusing to wear masks to conspiracy theory nut cases ranting on social media, it would seem the pandemic has brought out the worst in us. Pandemic fatigue is affecting everyone in one way or another, and a recent news account about televangelist Marcus Lamb, an ardent opponent to COVID vaccinations, dying from COVID brought that fatigue home in a disturbing way.

I reposted that news on my Facebook feed with a brief comment about how sad I was for his family and friends. That was true; I was sad for them. But I readily admit I felt a rush of schadenfreude that this man who had encouraged others to shun vaccines died, even though he could have been saved by a simple needle stick.

I was not prepared for the glut of vehement comments from friends regarding how he somehow deserved to die and, worse, those facetiously quoting scripture about “vengeance” and “divine retribution.”

It’s obvious that they were letting out a good deal of resentment, and I fully understand that. But in these stressful times, it might be best if we tried to lower the temperature of the rhetoric rather than turning up the heat.

We in the LGBTQ community have already dealt with one deadly epidemic, one which has been slowed but is still ongoing. And as we are learning to live with this new pandemic, it might be worth remembering how many people saw HIV/AIDS as “divine retribution” on us.

How many cruel jokes and hurtful remarks were slung at us during the early days of the crisis?

Ignorance was rampant back then as well. People were afraid, and some even refused to be served by LGBTQ waitstaff in restaurants. What’s worse was that some in the medical field also refused to provide care to people suffering from the opportunistic infections that resulted from HIV.

I know how that felt. I remember. I lost many friends to that epidemic, and I know the pain and suffering of the families and friends they left behind. And we know how much worse the situation was made by the misinformation and malice that sprang up in the press, in legislatures and churches.

Thankfully, that happened before social media.

Another thing I remember is the number of people who responded to the hatred and ignorance with compassion and love: The lesbians who cared for their gay male friends in hospitals when the staff would not. The straight allies who stood up for research funding and stood against harmful legislation. The pastors who refused to shun LGBTQ people and who, often times, officiated at funerals of men whose family churches refused to bury them. The mothers who cared for men who were not their sons, showing them the grace and compassion that they so needed.

Remembering that makes me pause and reconsider feeling gleeful at the death of someone who promoted stupidity.

I am not happy that Marcus Lamb died of COVID. I am sad that his fear and ignorance led him to promote crackpot theories and refuse the vaccine. I am sad for his family who, no doubt, miss him very much. I have sympathy for his followers, who are living in the same fear that we all are. I am sad that they have let that fear rule their lives and so refuse a life-saving vaccine.

Yes, it is tempting to say, “They got what they deserved.” But that is the same phrase I heard so many times as thousands of gay men died in the past decades.

I do not believe anyone deserves a disease. I believe everyone deserves to live a long healthy happy life. But reality sticks it’s ugly head in the door and reminds us that we are human beings, and, as such, we are subject to the frailties that come with that state.

I believe we also have the ability to show grace and compassion for our fellow humans — and that is the hard part. It requires that we look past a person’s politics and religion and see them as another human, just like us. Maybe they are afraid or ignorant or obstreperous, but they are human.

I hope our community, which has the depth of experience with epidemics, might show the way to a better response than we received. That is what grace is about, after all. And if I may wax theological for a moment, it is the divine grace given to all of us.

Let’s pass it on.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and chairperson of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance board. His blog is at