Curtain Raiser

The 12-Year Countdown Is On, Colltalers

2019 is upon us, and retrospectives and best-of, or worst-of, lists flood the media waves. Somehow, this has been a wake-up-call year for mankind. The fate of the planet, and that of 7 billion-plus, taken as a whole, may have finally come to focus. Or has it?
For despite unprecedented efforts to take climate change, for one, as the potentially civilization killer that it is, and global uproar against social inequality, racial hatred, xenophobia, sex discrimination, gun violence, and all that, we’re still ending the year losing.
Taking the U.S. as a starting point, protests, indignation, legal battles, and the overwhelming election of fresh faces for Congress, committed to new policies, haven’t prevent the thousands of immigrant children from being locked up at sinister tent camps being built all over the country. And last week’s brutal death of a 7-year-old migrant, under Patrol Border custody, will haunt us forever.
Jakelin Caal Maquim came from Guatemala, and got detained along her father and a group of 160, but two days later, was dead, likely from exposure, in a cell within a facility with not even minimal medical resources. No official agency’s taken responsibility.
Even though the Valentine Day’s massacre of 17 at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas HS, in Florida, triggered a national movement for gun legislation, led by the survivors, the issue was successfully muted by the NRA, the Republican Party, and many a Democratic leadership. The students, and millions of supporters, stood tall, and yet, over 13 thousands were killed by guns in the U.S. this year.
Some hope may be on the horizon. But given that most people killed everyday by gun violence in this country is black, any changes in gun regulations, and prison sentencing, need to carefully consider one of the tenets of imprisonment in the U.S.: race.
It’s an interrelated issue that seems to resist all efforts to address it: prison overcrowding. Roughly 57% of a staggering 2.3 million U.S. inmates are people of color, mostly African-Americans,

who represent, however, only 12% of the population. Only 5% of the world population is American, and yet, near a quarter of all incarcerated people anywhere are Americans. Land of the free? Hardly.
In both instances, a new factor is also making matters much worse: for-profit companies managing prisons and the detention of undocumented immigrants. These ‘businesses’ now generate billions of dollars annually, with little or no oversight or regulation.
For every white supremacist found guilty, such as Heather Heyer’s murderer, for killing her at a rally in Charlottesville, N.C., last August, more could be planning their next terrorist act. And yet, law enforcement is often biased, protecting them and going after their targets. White rage incidents are on the increase, but rather than the perpetrators, it’s been mostly protesters who get booked.
Climate change, however, is the most glaring example that clamor by billions of people, demanding action from world leaders, have fallen in deft ears. Particularly ferocious hurricanes, floods, and wild fires, with unbearable human loss and astronomical material costs, are still to be turned into action. Here’s another Number 1 position we should hate having: world’s biggest climate denier.
The Climate Change Conference that’s just ended in Katowice, Poland, also reflected this inexcusable ambivalence displayed by world leaders. Never mind the fact it was staged in an old mine, in a country proud of its coal mining industry, now helped by the Trump administration. The COP24’s 11-hour resolution, which was at risk of never being reached, was to merely continue talking.
The large presence of fossil-fuel corporations during the negotiations, which were to confirm the 2015 Paris Agreement agenda, while many environment protection groups were denied representation at the event, didn’t bode well either to what we’re up against. Even more outrageous was the U.S.’s sideshow, selling the ‘virtues’ of oil, gas, and coal, like it’d done in the prior summit.
COP24 was most worthwhile, though, for featuring an enthusiastic, progressive, and radically committed generation of activists, out for fighting climate change. Among them, Swedish 15-year old Greta Thunberg, who assailed world leaders for their omission, and others, from Asia, Africa, South America, the U.S. and Europe, who make us all proud, but also challenge all of us to do more.
Politically, too, the year was disappointing. While the midterm elections in the U.S. produced some encouraging results, right wing conservatives gained the most votes in the rest of the world. Autocratic leaders got elected in Brazil, Italy, Sweden, and Germany, to name a few, along the predictable Russia and Hungary. Thank goodness that Mexico and Ireland held on firm; we’ll need them.
Some think that worst than end-of-the-year lists, are lists of things we didn’t do, and should have, or steps we failed to take, and most definitely shouldn’t. This turned out to be one of the latter, unfortunately. But at this point, ‘bearer of bad news’ is a quip we should be willing to accept. We’ve got only 12 years to save the planet, if ever, so it’s OK not always having time for rosy platitudes.
Here’s a cartoon someone may have already drawn, about America and the state of its democracy: at the corner of a boxing ring, the Founding Fathers, battered, black-eyed, weary, are conferencing and looking to a fat Trump jumping and saying, I’m winning. Who’s going to battle him next? what punch will finally knock him down? We don’t know, but for sure, another round is coming.
We don’t know what’s in store for us next year, and the next after it. It’s also uncertain that we’ll even be around to see it all. What we do know is that, if 2018 was heroic and many deserve acknowledgment for being altruistic and fighters of the good fight for our survival and the Earth, more needs to be done. For now though, thank you, Happy Holidays and New Year for each and everyone. WC

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