Curtain Raiser

There’s Work Left Undone, Colltalers

It’s been a remarkable time to be living in the U.S., absent any sense of misplaced patriotism. And last week was a particularly gut-wrenching one, with a handful of worth-following breaking news that drove us collectively from agony to ecstasy in just a few days.
Grief, which took over the nation following the June 17 murders of nine black church folk in Charleston, and joy, as a result of the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, were the brackets of a week that forced other, less relevant reports to recede to the background.
Not that everything else did not count, inside the U.S. or abroad. But it’s still rare to see a few history-making stories to top the headlines. As the media in this country has all but given up to accurately report real, unvarnished news, the change was refreshing.
We’ll go back to those still developing stories in a moment, but it’s also important to comment on two other events that helped make this one of President Obama’s best weeks in office: congressional approval of fast-track authority, giving him power to negotiate the Trans-Pacific trade agreement without pesky input from anyone, and the Supreme Court’s other vital ruling in support of Obamacare.
Fast-track authority gives the president a huge edge to pass the TPP legislation, whose full text hasn’t yet been disclosed. Based on WikiLeaks documents, though, there’s an unfair bias for protecting American corporations’ interests above all, including other nations’ own regulations and sovereignty. No wonder the administration is so reluctant to publish the terms of the agreement.
What’s curious is that Democrats in Congress argued successfully to thwart the approval of fast-track powers to the president, two weeks ago, because of the trade’s expected negative impact on jobs and wages of American workers. They did that by including and opposing (yes, that’s possible in Washington) a piece of legislation aimed at protecting workers likely to be affected by the TPP.
But the removal from the bill of that, the Trade Adjustment Assistance – in any case, insufficient to minimize the agreement’s impact on labor – has been what ultimately helped pass the fast-track gimmick the second time around.
It was quietly reintroduced and approved in the House last week, as a standalone bill, and will probably sail through the Senate in the coming weeks, preferably when no one will be paying much attention. It’s not the first time some labor legislation is used as a paw in Washington political games.
Besides the potential damage it may have on already demoralized labor relations, the biggest criticism about the TPP is how it grants almost unrestricted powers to big companies to dictate and change laws, so to optimize their profits, now on a global scale.
And despite President Obama’s misguided cheerleading and personal involvement on its approval, this accord has less to do with global trade than with exporting a certain way of doing business that’s at the odds with the very idea of sustainable progress.
As for the other piece of positive news in the past week, albeit one full of qualifiers, the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act was an immense win, this time not just for the president, but for at least 15 million Americans who risked losing federal subsides for their health treatments, if the decision had gone the other way. It was thus the least that the court could have done.
Now, that Obamacare is flawed, there’s no denial. It continues to rely upon, and make huge profits to, insurance companies, who remain more important in the equation of public health than both their two main players, the patient and his or her health providers.
With all the energy, and political capital, spent in six years by the administration to establish Obamacare as the law of the land, one could argue that the much better option, the single-payer system, or some variation of socialized health care systems in effect around the world, would’ve had full support of the American public. Still, the fight to defend the law has been admirable nonetheless.
Moving on. The national grief over the South Carolina shootings has all the markings of a game-changer, as it reignited debate over racism and boosted the overall acknowledgement that there’s, indeed, something heartbreakingly wrong about America on its regard. Signs were everywhere, and the public demotion of the 1961-created ‘Confederate Flag’ was as good as any to illustrate such change.
The massacre also forced some elected officials to promise support for any efforts to get rid of such a hate-gathering flag, but we’ll see about that. Even if it comes to fruition, it’d be just a gesture, and in itself, it’ll do little to advance racial equality.
Some stores are now refusing to sell such fake Civil War memorabilia, but there remains the question: what will it take to gear this conversation towards real change? For there seems to be more factors conspiring against it than Republican presidential candidates.
Something way more substantive is required to bring justice about what happened, given the attacked church’s storied past as a temple to race struggle in this country, and the fact that the shooter’s a millennial, member of a new generation of domestic terrorists.
As we mourned the victims, and the president himself offered a rousing, singing eulogy to them, five churches in black communities of Southern states and Ohio were burned this week, most with suspicion of arson. And just so no one forgets, white supremacists are already ostensibly and unapologetically attempting to own the murders with promises of more to come. No, no change as yet.
Just as the reduced debate on guns fades quickly after yet another mass murder, and few lawmakers have the guts to push legislation to prevent a new one, the much needed conversation about a new batch of domestic terrorists may go the way of concealed guns too.
Perhaps the biggest problem is that we’re lacking a social glue that will tie these movement against racial-motivated aggression within our society, with other progressive struggles that move other millions of Americans, sharing a common thirst for justice.
So, we’re glad that gay rights, for instance, have reached a point of seemingly no return, and we all will benefit from their accomplishments, just as the entire American society benefited from the fight by the black community for equal rights in the 1960s.
But may we suggest to gather women’s reproductive rights advocates in this front too? And labor leaders and undocumented immigrants, and fighters for better and affordable housing and education, healthier food and also environmental activists?
Going back to that bloody but progressive decade, the movement against the war may have been arguably the one that galvanized all others. And they had then what’s not hard to find among our own contemporaries: a genuine desire to improve our society, to change the world, and conquer the right to dream a better future for people, not corporations. That’s why we all have homework to do.
To the Supreme Court, great, you did well and we’re reassured by your autonomy. Now, let’s go back and devise a constitutional amendment to fix your biggest mistake so far: let’s reverse the Corporations Are People ruling and put back democracy on our electoral process, shall we? Since we’re at it, why not fix the second amendment too, and get the scourge of guns out of the streets?
To the LBGT community, we can’t be more proud of you, or glad that you’re now a reference point to human relations. Your fresh approach to marriage and example of dedicated parenthood are reminders that yes, it’s all about love, and it does win sometimes.
Now, let’s extend equality to work, housing, education, and specially, to the still much discriminated transgender people, to whom even the act of going to a public bathroom can lead to years of humiliation and despair. They too deserve as everyone else the right to live dignified and productive lives, without fear of draconian laws that religious zealots and racist goons wish to impose on all of us.
This week, the focus will likely switch to Greece, whose progressive new government, and disenfranchised people are facing an uncertain future. The world should care about the Greek, for if it’s true that the European union is a dream worth fighting for, it’s also true that it doesn’t belong to government bureaucrats, or big banks, or austerity hawks, preaching sacrifices to other people’s kids.
We’ve had a hell of a week in the U.S., with both sobering and exhilarating news. But while headlines fade, our resolve should not. There’s a lot to be done, but luckily, we can handle it. Enjoy the extra leap second tomorrow night, and the heat of the northern July. WC


One thought on “Curtain Raiser

  1. unclerave says:

    Unfortunately, the passage of the fast (fat?) track for TPP just strengthens big corporations’ grip, making it even more remote that Citizens United – ending corporate personhood – will be repealed. And, I doubt the ACA is benefiting 15 million. It looks at income only, for a specific period of time. It doesn’t ask if you have permanent employment/source of income, and it doesn’t look at one’s expenses, like mortgage payments, etc. Single payer would have been ideal, but the Public Option at least could have forced some of these ridiculous costs down. — YUR

    Liked by 1 person

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