A recent article by the Harvard Business Review identifies the collective discomfort we are feeling amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic as a series of griefs. While some of the losses are obvious, like routine, normalcy, social activity, and adventure, grief expert David Kessler also says a lot of what we’re feeling is anticipatory grief. Though we know this is temporary, the fear that it may not be looms over us.
When it comes to the unsuspecting residents of Hamtramck, however, that collective discomfort has a face, at least two kids, a stack of Bibles, a YouTube channel, and also, possibly, coronavirus. For the residents of Hamtramck, discomfort is Alyssa Carone — a xenophobic, militant Baptist Christian, a distracted driver, and the type of woman who urinates in a Tim Hortons coffee cup in her car after she is denied use of their restroom, and, on another occasion of peeing in a cup in her car, laughs maniacally when her husband proceeds to drink from it later — and talks about it on camera.
Last week, as the pandemic panic ramped up in Michigan, a video began surfacing across Hamtramck resident-moderated Facebook groups. The 34-minute video revealed Carone in her car with her two children embarking on what she called a “weird opportunity” to run errands and throw Arabic Bibles to Hamtramck Muslims after dropping her husband off for work.
Her husband Nathan, a pastor and house painter, has made the news at least once when he acted as a lone protester berating customers of the newly opened Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club in Lincoln Park in January 2019. He is described as having braved the cold to call patrons “perverts” as they entered the not-yet-sticky strip club.
“Call me crazy, call me what you will. Somebody has to deal with this perversion in our city,” he shouted, according to an MLive article. “I pray to God this place gets shut down.”
Oh, and Nathan recently appeared in one of his wife’s videos, something he rarely does, to conduct a convoluted experiment involving charcoal toothpaste and a DIY COVID-19 medical mask to demonstrate how much spit flies out of our mouths when we talk.
Anway, back to Alyssa, who at the top of the video claims that the streets of Hamtramck are normally “mobbed” with homeless people, which is why she typically chooses to steer clear of the city, especially when traveling with her children in tow.
“A lot of peoples’ hearts are tender right now, a lot of them trapped in their houses, pretty much,” she says. “Luckily, right now, because of coronavirus, the streets are empty. This is the perfect opportunity to leave Bibles behind.”
Later, she adds that if it weren’t for “this plague,” she wouldn’t be in Hamtramck, something she happily credits God for.
One aspect of Carone’s Hamtramck mission that rubbed people on social the wrong way is she mentions that she and her son were sick but feeling better, and that her son’s fever had broken. A previous video shows Carone going to five different stores in an attempt to track down a thermometer. Neither her nor her children wore masks or gloves during this venture. In another video, Carone expresses concern after a coronavirus case was discovered near her house and admitted to having a fever, stomach ache, and “delirium” and “weird dreams.” In the Hamtramck video, she admits to having lost her sick son’s coat, which is something that can easily happen to a frantic on-the-go stay-at-home mom who is non-stop recording mundane handheld daily videos, but proceeded to bring her children to the Conant Family Dollar. Upon leaving, she hands a man a Bible tract (one of those “God Loves You but You’re Still Going to Hell” type of pamphlets) and then, on the way to her car, says she spotted a prostitute running down the middle of the road.
“As the merchandising field rep for that Family Dollar, it freaks me out that they were in there spreading their flu!” one commenter posted. “On top of her religious insanity & xenophobia.”
Upon discovering the video, some concerned residents began reporting Carone's videos and YouTube channels as terrorism. In one of several response videos, Carone claims people have gone as far as to file a hate crime report for her Hamtramck visit. In that same video, she says her Bible gift is as vital as toilet paper and medical masks and suggests that anyone passing out those items should also be cited for hate crimes. Her channels, which are called “Alyssa Carone Leading Many To Righteousness” and “Looking Unto The Fields,” have been shut down by YouTube as recently as two weeks ago.
“Thank goodness the infectious colonizer is doing her part by spreading her cholera bibles to the godless ‘natives,’” one commenter said. Another compared her Bibles as the “new pox blankets.” Someone speculated that perhaps Carone purposefully brought her illness to a Muslim community. Another upset resident said that since they’re out of work due to the coronavirus shut-down, they hope Carone visits their house because they have “2 weeks to spend in jail.” Others echoed this sentiment and requested the hypothetical confrontation to be livestreamed.
People quickly began sharing whatever details they could find online about her: The make and model of her car, its license plate number, her phone number, home address, any mention of her husband in the news, the location of the church she is associated with — and in one comment, a GIF of a cartoon church on fire.
Even Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski chimed in: “Wow. Just f’cking wow.”
Majewski, however, says she's proud at how her city handled the situation.
“Hamtramck residents quickly jumped to the defense of our city and its residents, particularly their Muslim neighbors,” Majewski tells Metro Times. “Beyond the xenophobia evident in this woman's remarks, the very real danger that she was spreading disease — possibly Covid-19 — to households she believed to be Muslim was immediately recognized and condemned loudly and passionately. We look out for each other in Hamtramck.”
In order to discern Carone’s motives or, as several commenters boldly allege, mental illness, we spoke with Carone, which was almost immediately posted in its entirety to her YouTube channel — something we did not agree to or see coming — because of course she did.
Thirty-four-year-old Carone says she only started doing daily video posts over the winter, but she has had some incarnation of a YouTube channel for almost 10 years. Her grandparents, who played a major role in raising her, moved from Arkansas to rural northern Michigan on a farm. Up until 12 years ago, she identified as a militant atheist, and claims a mass suicide at her high school is what led her to challenge theories of evolution she was taught in school and embrace the Christianity her grandparents had been trying to get her to adopt since she was a child.
“My grandma actually grew up with Johnny Cash and was a friend of his, a childhood playmate,” she claims. “So, she was a gospel singer and she, you know, passed along her views to me a lot. And my grandpa was a strong Christian, and basically I fell into their lap when my parents got divorced and I was a baby. My mom had a lot of problems, so I was with them most of the time.”
She started doing daily outreach when she lived in Kalamazoo by handing out gospel tracts which explain how one can be saved. It was then that someone encouraged her to start a YouTube channel where she could freely talk about her faith and reach people of all religions. The goal? Convert as many people as possible.
She says she and her husband have converted “probably 25 Muslims,” and even have a conversion caught on camera. (We found the video titled “Five Muslims Renounce Islam And Accept Jesus!,” in which Nathan “saves” two children who appear to be around the ages of 7-12. Neither seem to really know what’s happening.)
“I've read the Qur'an, too. And I posted that, you know, when I was reading the Qur'an and showing how different the Qur'an is from the Bible. It's like a child wrote it.” Carone says, racist-ly. “It's very, very simple, where the Bible is complex. The Qur'an is very messed up, very simple and messed up.”
Carone says she identifies as a Fundamental Baptist. “So I believe anybody that's not a Fundamental Baptist, you know, isn't exactly right,” she says. “My main goal is to convert people because I was once an atheist, I was once lost. And I don't think they're going to heaven. So, you know, I'm concerned for them. But I do disapprove of bad Christians like Joel Olsteen, Joyce Meyer, you know, I dislike Kid Rock. I think he's a very bad Christian.”
To Carone, deep-fried rap-rocker Kid Rock is into the “money grubbing” like evangelist Benny Hinn. “We’re against that,” she says.
It should come as no surprise, though, that Carone and her family are supporters of President Donald Trump, who is, for all intents and purposes, a xenophobic money-grubber. A video posted in February shows Carone in a star-spangled top with her children bouncing on her lap chanting “Trump, Trump, Trump, yay!” before she proceeds to list the many reasons she loves the president.
One reason, she says, is under Trump she can preach to Muslims freely, without having her “head chopped off.” She also likes that Trump talks about god in his speeches and enjoys Vice President Mike Pence's “humble and godly spirit.” She praises Trump for his stance on abortion and wonders how many babies have been saved during his presidency. At one point, Carone plugs her children’s book written and illustrated by her called What Makes America Great, which splices American history with scripture and follows characters like Liberty the eagle, Justice the donkey, and Faithful the elephant. A hardcover edition can be purchased for a curiously high price of $40.39.
“I don't think he's a good Christian, but I like that he supports Christian values,” Carone says of Trump.
So, by not being a good Christian?
“He supports our freedom as Christians to, you know, live our lives peaceably in his legislation,” she says. “But his personal life I think is crap, you know? Cheating on his wife is not acceptable. The way that I look at it, I think he did a lot of bad things 10 years ago or whatever, and now he's trying to live better, or it appears that way. But my big concern is just his legislation. That's what I care about. I don't care about, you know, his personal life as much as what is he allowing us to do or not allowing us to do.”
Carone claims that under President Barack Obama’s administration, her right to pass out tracts was being threatened
“I was reaching out to 2,000 people a week, giving them all tracts and stuff like that,” she says. “Under Obama, he was bringing up hate speech and it was getting scary. I didn't know if they were going to shut me down and not allow me to give out tracts anymore. ... Under Trump I don't have that worry at all.”
It is clear that Carone is no stranger to trolls. After she posted the Hamtramck video, she had been rapidly deleting negative comments which called her derogatory names or threatened to hurt her. Some called her ugly, while others were threats to bash her face in. She says she’ll gladly keep comments that offer something “intellectual.” According to Carone, she’s used to threats and receives them regularly. When asked if she’s concerned for her children’s safety, she’s not.
“We haven't seen anybody try to do anything. If they did, my husband is a very big, strong guy. I think he could, you know, pretty much take any of them. And the police department is close to our house.”
One irrefutable fact is the frequency at which Carone films her videos on her phone while driving, almost always with her children in the backseat — something she did when she gave her misguided tour of Hamtramck, pointing out every time she saw someone in religious Muslim garb. The phone is not in a holder or planted stationary on her dashboard, but in her hand — a fact that many commenters latched on to. Carone says it’s because people hate her religion.
“That’s usually the issue,” she says. “If I was a militant atheist, they would not have any problems with me. But because I'm a militant Christian, you know, they want to throw me under the bus. But I'm not against, you know, changing anything up. I mean, obviously an outsider's viewpoint can be a good thing, you know, just see what they have to say. And I can put it stationary, or something like that, if I did more videos in the car. I've seen other YouTubers doing the same thing, so you know, I'm not. I never considered that being an issue. To me, it doesn't distract me at all to have a camera sitting there while I'm still driving.”
The distribution of religious literature is technically allowed without a permit. And holding your phone while driving isn’t deemed illegal either, though that depends on the city.
Hamtramck’s Jeff Fournier, who was an active commenter when the video was originally posted to the Facebook group, thinks Carone’s message might come down to one thing: attention.
“From my perspective, it seems that either she is completely tone-deaf or just trying to drum up likes from people who are tone-deaf and afraid. I see no redeeming purpose for what she is doing,” he says, suggesting that upsetting people could be a way to garner attention for her YouTube channel.
“It is worrisome to me to have the intention to bring her kids around possibly sick people and to have them expose themselves if they are sick to people in our community since Hamtramck is the most densely populated city in the state,” he says. “Especially now, when people will tune into this sort of ignorance because most everybody is home and bored.”
As for Carone, she says she and her family were not trying to hurt anyone or make anyone sick.
“We're just concerned for their soul,” she says. “As far as I was concerned, I just don’t think we have coronavirus. Obviously my goal was not to hurt anybody, but to help them save them from hell.”
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