A Photobook of Tragedies, Colltalers
Heatwaves shouldn’t make summer headlines. Unless they start breaking records at an unusual rate. Recent 114F temperatures that killed dozens, ignited wildfires, and cut power in seven European nations have one unmistakable cause: climate emergency.
19 of the richest nations have tried to show they’re concerned about that, at the just-finished Osaka, Japan, G-20 summit. But their words sounded hollow, and even their final declaration missed the signature of the world’s biggest carbon polluter: the U.S.
But none of the pictures of devastation and misery caused by the continental scorcher had the emotional punch of the one taken at the southern border of the U.S.: a little girl embracing her father, both face down, who drowned crossing the Rio Grande river.
The viral photo of Salvadorean Oscar Alberto Martinez and his 23-month-old daughter, Angie Valeria Martinez, tops an already staggeringly heartbreaking collection of images that summarize the Trump administration’s awfully cruel immigration policies.
In these dark times, toddlers in cages, mothers and kids running from tear gas, plus reports of record numbers of children dying, or being abused at border patrol facilities, almost fail to catch our attention. At each new image, we’re forcibly becoming a bit more acquainted with the infamy. But the fate of Oscar and Angie should, or rather, must put a stop on this madness. But will it?
One wonders, because just a few days prior, a harrowing account of what’s like being detained in an overcrowded
border station in Clint, Texas, had caused shock but not much else; no sustained media coverage, and even less reaction as a result of it.
Would it be that pictures are not enough to move us? Have we turned our heart blind, and no longer can connect the plight of those fleeing persecution, murder, and extreme poverty, with our own humanity and natural desire to seek a better world for our loved ones? Are we sure that that’s what we believe should happen to those desperately knocking on our door?
A group of lawyers reported that hundreds of children, as young as seven, were caring for infants they’d just met, ‘toddlers with no diapers relieved themselves in their pants, and teenage mothers wore clothes stained with breast milk.’ No one had access to showers or toiletries, amid the unbearable stench of human filth. To believers, few descriptions match what hell must be like.
Speaking of faith, irony would be a word to describe it too, if there wasn’t another one more precise: hypocrisy. For in a country where religious fundamentalism, i.e., intolerance and hate, is on the rise, and the zealotry of so-called pro-life activists threatens to criminalize a woman’s right to choose, no one of that front has said anything in protest or showed up to support the children.
While they proselytize a new authoritarian order, where fetuses have more rights than living, flesh and blood people of color, the horror show at the border has become a ‘Wish I Were Never Here’ postcard-like of life in America under Trump, circa 2019.
Another type of show, usually introduced by an expletive, is often provided by the president himself, whenever on a world tour. At every new outing, he manages to top himself, either with another display of ugly-American-ism, or by smilingly posing next to some tyrannic leader. He followed the script again last week, while also adding new touches of unacceptable showmanship.
At the G-20, Trump not only posed with Vladimir Putin, mockingly asking him, by request of the international press, to not meddle on U.S. elections, but also made a sick joke about getting rid of journalists, to a man accused of having murdered them.
Worst: for the summit’s ‘family’ pic, he made a point of shaking hands with Saudi Arabia crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, who a United Nations panel accused of ordering the murder and dismemberment of U.S.-based Saudi reporter Jamal Khashoggi.
The warm handshake was witnessed by a roster of cheerful leaders, including Putin, Turkey’s Recep Erdoğan, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, and Canada’s Justin Trudeau, all happy to wave, contrasting with a subdued U.K.’s soon-to-be ex-P.M. Theresa May.
The fact that the G-20, as a bloc, won’t put the maximum priority on the climate crisis, reveals more about how the system is set up than about its nation members, some of which are indeed taking (baby) steps for change. But overall, the picture is not good.
For instance, take the country formerly known as the land of the free, or U.S., for short. In two nights last week, 20 Democratic presidential contenders have debated and seemed all eager to speak on behalf of a renewed party, almost unashamed to reassert its refocused social aim. Climate though was nearly dwarfed by what candidates, but not the public, consider as urgent priorities.
2019 may turn out to be among the hottest in recorded history, as fires will burn towns, downpours will flood streets, and people will die. But so far, a new, comprehensive legislation, such as the Green New Deal, is yet to be voted on, let alone implemented.
All 20 agree that climate is an issue that turns all others irrelevant, but until Trump’s opponent in next year’s election is picked, count only on the young and the willing for something to be done about it, not on the Democratic party’s leadership, or ex-special counsel Robert Mueller, for that matter, even as he’s finally agreed to testify to Congress on July 17. We won’t get fooled again.
The U.S. celebrates its 243rd anniversary this Thursday, and Americans will have B-B-Qs, parades, games, and fireworks to marvel at. There may also be plenty of grandstanding and ‘support the troops’ speeches, but that’s the part to avoid. Take it easy and skip coal, if you can. More importantly, tell yourself, we’re not that kind of nation; we’ll back you up. Happy Fourth of July. WC