Curtain Raiser

Lowering World Expectations, Colltalers

Don’t come to America if you don’t want to get shot. That’s what Amnesty International’s travel advisory means by ‘be extra vigilant’ when traveling to the U.S. Given this country’s 250 mass shootings so far in 2019, the human rights group has a point.
The fair warning came out just as an estimated 400 million people marked the historical significance of Aug. 9. Friday was the World’s Indigenous Peoples Day, and also the five years since an unarmed Michael Brown was killed by a cop in Ferguson, MO.
This August, which got off according to the script of being the month of ‘mad dogs,’ has also another landmark to give it some perspective: the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, a moment in cultural time that has proven surprisingly hard to even celebrate.
For those who lived through it, and actually believed that those ‘three days of love and peace’ were the beginning of something new, there’s now the realization that it exists only as a fantasy, a collective memory barely tettered in reality. On the other hand, it was indeed a moment of transcendence, and because it’s been virtually impossible to reenact, it remains unspoiled and fresh.
Many times people have gathered by the thousands since, under the banner of music, love, and peace, or most commonly these days, to rally for rage, hate, and war. No event has reminded anyone, though, that half-century ago it was possible for thousands of strangers to spent time together in the open, through rain, mud, and no basic sanitation, without a single incident of violence.
It was the 1960s ‘dream’ of living in harmony with nature and each other, now dismissed as a vain utopia. World leaders, and people over 30, were not to be trusted, make love not war and all that, plus the sheer belief that human kindness knows no limits.
Regardless of how or why humanity got so helplessly sidetracked, however, that same dream was as far from reality then as it is today. If anything, we’re now forcibly closer to realize it,

because there’s an imperative for survival in pursuing it. At no other time in history, we’ve been offered the chance to join all hands against a global enemy: climate emergency. Making progress yet?
Judging by the U.S.’ longest war – 18 years in Afghanistan and counting, with no sign it’ll end soon -, no assurances should be granted. Over 2,300 American troops and thousands of civilians have been killed, 97 pro-government forces and 35 civilians last week alone, and not a word about it by the media or the president. Plus Iraq and other gunpowder kegs. No, no progress in sight.
Worse. None of this war’s two major goals were achieved: it neither killed Osama bin Laden, caught in next-door Pakistan, nor it defeated the Taliban, still alive and raising hell and, as reported, about to strike a sweet deal with the Trump administration.
But the region’s biggest worry is with the Kashmir territory, whose autonomy was revoked by India. That raised already high tensions, put Pakistan on the defensive, and made the world lose sleep as it does whenever nuke nations get mad at each other.
On that note, mentioning Syria could bring more of the same bad news about war and carnage. But instead, there’s Mohammad Aljaleel, who spends his time among the ruins of Aleppo rescuing dozens of stray cats. Not quite a war hero, but a hero anyway.
The tragedy of Ferguson happened amid a wave of black youth being shot by the police, which has neither dwindled nor gone away. The crucial distinction was the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement, which arguably could’ve gotten Bernie Sanders the Democratic nomination, or Hillary Clinton the presidency. Instead, Brown, 18 then, remains a symbol of our national pain.
America’s original twin mortal sins, the slaughtered of its indigenous people and slavery, are now fittingly sharing an annual day that may help highlight their similarities. Whereas the genocide of natives was once about conquest, their survival is now linked to reversing climate change. The same way as fighting for racial equality means also to build a more just society for everyone.
Amnesty doesn’t usually issue travel advisories; it’s the State Dept. that does, usually referring to other places, not America. But it did now, along several nations, to call attention to the fact that the U.S. government has seemingly lost the will to protect its citizens and anyone from gun violence. It’s not about undermining the tourism and hospitality industries, but to protect all lives.
The weapons lobby has, once again, successfully suffocated any possibility of having a swift, effective and thorough gun control legislation, even if Mitch McConnell allows it to reach the Senate floor. Survivors and families of those victims of gun violence will, unfortunately, continue to endure constant reminders of this fact for the rest of their lives. So, tourists, please don’t come.
Elephants are thoughtful creatures, organized in matriarchal societies, and historically subjected to staggering cruelty and abuse.
But so far, our new understanding of the species hasn’t been enough to protect them from us. Thus today’s World Elephant Day, and its new pledge, along the usual resolve to protect the species, and end poaching and the ivory trade: Don’t Ride an Elephant.
The goal is to stop using elephants, or any other animal, for our entertainment. Just as circuses are on their way out, it’s time now to treat one the most intelligent and gracious giants to ever walk the planet with all due respect it deserves. Cheers. WC


3 thoughts on “Curtain Raiser

  1. We know the solutions,but we will not use them. People do not want to think. It’s very sad.

    Liked by 1 person

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