Curtain Raiser

A Clear and Present Danger, Colltalers

(Update) Living in troubled times means accepting whether things go or not our way. Roll with the punches, some say. For a nation, it also means that a stroke of luck may undo ages of hard work towards peace and prosperity. Or not. The coming U.S. elections pose just that kind of predicament.
It’ll be preceded by other important polls around the world, and if they share but one commonality is that they’re all have a referendum-quality about them: either voters will ratify this global wave of conservatism, racial hatred and increased wars, or they’re about to unravel it for good.
America’s democracy, universally perceived as a beacon for inclusion and tolerance, is being challenged like it never has, and it risks becoming a mere misleading label for a spectacularly powerful authoritarian regime. This is no hyperbole: fundamental principles and institutions, such as the Congress, the Supreme Court, and its free press, are under a coordinated attack against which they all have surprisingly few defenses.
Of the three, the first to have faltered has been the legislative, already under siege by the power of money, special corporate interests, and lack of morals by so many political leaders. Many already count the Senate out, and are focusing efforts only for a change in the House leadership.
For those not too familiar with U.S. politics, that may not sound so urgent. After all, what’s perceived as ‘America’ abroad is mostly its history and present-day foreign policies. But beyond the fact that this is not an issue restricted only to Americans, it’s not a partisan one either. What still calls itself as the Republican Party has been hijacked by a fascist ideology, pursued with such zeal to envy even Nazi Germany of the 40s.
And that definitely affects not just those who traditionally seek the generous umbrella of the American Dream, fleeing persecution and tyranny at home and finding protection as a proud immigrant. It impacts also how other nations deal with immigrants and refugees knocking on their doors. Suddenly, those whose lives

were destroyed by unfathomable wars lost even the sympathy from the nations that caused their Diasporas.
That’s a change that, had it happened in the WWII aftermath, for instance, it’d have made impossible the increased opportunities and the earnest drive for peace among nations that came after the canons went silent. It’s exactly that spirit which allowed the world to catch its breath, even if ever so briefly, that may face premature oblivion. It’s been said before, but it remains true: the Nov. elections may be the strike we all fear.
For the U.S. Constitution, for all its foresight and defense of individual freedom of expression and ‘pursuit of happiness,’ is still just a piece of paper. People make it relevant or obsolete. When they make it count, everyone benefits, but when it stands on its own, it’s a mere shopping list.
Part of this urgency is due to the fact that Americans usually fail to do what so many world citizens long to be able to: show up and vote. Consider the 2016 presidential election, when 58% of eligible voters went to the polls. The number is impressive in American terms, but most democracies have larger proportional turnouts. And given the built-in hindrance of an outdated Electoral College, it was nearly enough.
The result of that shortcoming is all too evident today: the Trump administration has been extremely methodical dismantling the most basic fundament that lends America, at least the patina of a progressive society, such as the right to dissent, of being informed by the media, of respecting women’s reproductive rights, of science education being taught freely, of labor and racial rights, of leading the world in the fight to counter climate change, the list is long and sad.
But what feels like a long time is actually less than two years, and if it’s true that things did not take such a radical turn overnight, or on the day after the elections, it’s also true that we still have a chance to reverse the tide and make a clear statement towards simple principles of dignity.
We mentioned that this is not a partisan issue for two main reasons: it’s not an invention of the Democratic Party to pursue an agenda focused on individual guarantees of freedom of expression and religion, of encouraging activism by all segments of society, of condemning all sources of hate among races and religions, and so many others issues. The party may falters at them all, but they’re still the conditions for inclusion, tolerance, and harmony in society.
The extreme-right minority that hijacked the GOP is not interested in any of these issues. Their goal is clear: sow division, boost xenophobia and zealotry among citizens, create barriers, all the while telling them all that the press is their enemy, not the unfair legislation they’ve just passed. Its current leadership abandoned all semblance of being the least concerned about blowing up the federal budget by favoring the rich.
The hypocrisy Republicans have displayed, by holding an empty Supreme Court seat that President Obama had the right to fulfill, and then trying to rush down our throats a suspect rapist nominee that seems to be part of a plan B to pardon the president in case it’s needed, is beyond appalling. It’s downright criminal. These individuals, who now control Senate and House, have no shame or respect for their poor constituents.
They’re in for increasing their own bottom line and that this is happening in America is the stuff many around the world have nightmares about.
Who’ll stand for them against tyranny, they wonder, even if they’re counting on an idea of justice rather than on an actual army of defenders coming to their rescue. For America as a lighthouse for justice seekers, more than an optimistic view of reality, it’s an ideal worth pursuing.
As for this weekly newsletter, in case you’re wondering, it’s a piece of my mind labored and agonized over, that it’s rarely produced without a soul-searching process, sprinkled with bouts of self-doubt. And even if no one has asked it, it is an attempt to offer something reasonably fresh to our not too many readers around the world to meditate upon, in the following week. That being said, I must say, I’m unsure I can keep it up.
In other words, just like democracy is not a spectator sport, as it’s being said so often, mine is just an opinion, as valid and relevant as the reaction it may provoke. And stands on equal footing to all other seven and half million minds who also have one, but whose majority may not have the same opportunity to express it as I have. Yes, I do take it seriously, but I wonder if it’s really contributing to progress or more chaos.
Living in these times means a lot of different things to different people. Progressive values, compassion, acceptance, though, is what bring us together. We all wish to contribute and be part of the conversation toward solutions to crucial issues of our age, but it’s hard to always have the clarity and gumption to be effective. What makes it worthwhile is to think that you, the reader, share the same urge to act. For that, count on us. WC


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