Curtain Raiser

The War, Harvey & the March, Colltalers

There’s an upside of being swamped by breaking news, while still handling what’s always happening, plus all White House diatribes: be able to pick and choose. All else, fake or otherwise, is bound to be covered elsewhere. Still, the last seven days were atypically meaningful.
By recommitting the U.S. to a perennial Afghanistan war, Trump’s dropped yet another piece of broken glass on our path to peace; Hurricane Harvey’s powerful landfall is a sign of what lays ahead of us; and so, one hopes, is the Anti-White Supremacy march to DC that starts today.
Sending more American troops to die in a distant land, albeit tragic, is not a change of approach. The only difference from President Obama’s strategy for our longest war, is that, well, this time there’s not really a strategy: neither pulling us out of there, nor defining what exactly we’re doing. For if it’s fighting to steal valuable Afghan minerals, we may need to first wipe out 34 million people, before even touching its soil.
Also, it’s become more evident that this 16-year-old-and-counting conflict is in the hands of generals. Who, by doctrine, will never admit what’s clear to everyone: that this is an unwinnable war. They’ll lose control of it, though, not to Afghans but to private contractor armies.
No one should be in the business of wishing a catastrophic failure in the president’s handling of the first major natural disaster of his term. As with what happened with Bush, however, chances are he will. He may even blame it on Obama or something but that should not be the point.
The fact that major storms like these are bound to occur ever more often, boosted in part by climate change, but above all, by the steps we still haven’t taken to minimize its effects, is. Dismissing the science behind it, cutting crucial funding to research and prevention, dropping out of the Paris Agreement, and supporting the coal and oil industry, are all the elements that combined may surely result in very bad news indeed.
What Katrina caused to New Orleans was utterly preventable for two reasons: key agencies such as FEMA were led by incompetent buddies of the president, and needed infrastructure investments had been lacking for years. But that it brutally hurt the poor was not by chance.
After over a decade, they’re still dispossessed, and work at the levees remains uncompleted, with the city itself not exactly rebuilt, but opened to a wild real estate gentrification process.

Something similar may happen again to parts of Texas and other land on the path of the hurricane.
In the case of George W., one can arguably say that no one could’ve possibly predict the level of destruction the flood was to inflict. Trump does not have that luxury, even if he excuses himself by the exact same reason. But at this point, few really believe that he even cares about it.
There’s a strong possibility that even this disaster may be thrown into the overdraft account of those living near or below the poverty line. Anyone can picture politicians in charge of the Federal Budget invoking just this kind of spending as the source of higher costs of living. They’re likely to dismiss defense spending and tax cuts for the wealthy as the real burden on such faulty calculation. But we shouldn’t.
And that may begin as well today, when the March to Confront White Supremacy starts its 10-day cavalcade from Charlottesville, Virginia, to Washington. Called out by a coalition of progressive groups, such as the Woman’s March, Working Families Party, the Action Group Network, United We Dream, Color of Change, with more to be added, it inserts itself into a rich American tradition of resistance marches.
Dr. Martin Luther King led many in his time, and so did prominent heroes of the civil rights movement, activists for racial equality, labor organizations, Women’s Lib, the LGBT, and countless others. Thanks to them, America did get closer to its dream of freedom and equality.
It’s a work in progress, and no one should give the president credit for triggering, even if involuntarily, a new wave of widespread protest against racial discrimination, xenophobia, religious intolerance, and Fascism. But it may be our shining sword against such powerful interests.
‘I already have a concentration camp. (…) It’s called Tent City.’ This is the direct quote to be remembered about ex- Sheriff, and still outlaw, Joe Arpaio, the man Trump took the unprecedented move of pardoning last week. The ‘city’ was a degrading open-air refugee camp, where a population of illegally detained undocumented, and legal residents, were kept in Arizona, at times, under temperatures reaching 125 degrees.
While this ‘model citizen,’ his racist actions, and the despicable monument he build, now being teared down, may all shall pass, his cruel legacy may not. Just Friday, as Harvey approached, agents of the obscenely-named ICE left 50 asylum-seeking women and children stranded at a San Antonio bus station. The agents had been instructed not to do that, and knew full well service had been canceled ahead of the storm.
So the march couldn’t have been more timely, as other ‘Superdome moments’ like this should be expected. It’s been said, nothing strikes more fear into the heart of the powerful than large crowds seeking social justice. For when people parade in the name of their communities, their families, their dignity – unlike violently shouting for hate – they line up with centuries of civilization and what means to live in a fair society.
Let’s hope the upcoming news are about what the oppressed, the discriminated, the wronged have to say, and not about what a self-centered egomaniac has in mind at the moment. Let’s greet a potential new generation of humanitarian leaders only this kind of movement can breed. History, like another September, seems to be knocking on our door, asking Americans to come out and stand for what’s right. Let’s answer it. WC


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