Curtain Raiser

This Ship’s About to Sail, Colltalers

‘The U.S. President issued a stern warning to China not to use military force to curb protests in Hong Kong. In other news, the president called his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to express worldwide concerns about that country’s nuclear program.’
These headlines, which may have flashed in some alternate universe, are made up, but reports of microplastics raining over the U.S. are scaringly real. What links these issues, however, is authoritarianism as it rises in the U.S. and links us to those regimes.
Holding that thought, let’s scan for other news. Starting by the terrorist attack in Kabul, which killed 63 wedding guests. It’s been claimed by Daesh, a.k.a. Isis, not the Taliban with which the administration expects to draw an Afghanistan withdrawal accord.
The new tragedy poses the disturbing prospect that, after the U.S. supposedly leaves the country, the Taliban will again invite the caliphate to rebuild its pre-2003 ruthless, terrorist-training theocratic regime. This time, with the extra advertising prop of a war-ravaged land. The American legacy won’t be of noble efforts to democratize Afghanistan, just the savagery of a useless conflict.
Also within this cycle, the world saw astonishingly what it’s like for a nation to be ruled by a power-hungry leader, staking his political future in a foreign would-be despot: Israel’s P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu’s abided by the U.S. president’s demand to stop U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, both Muslims Democrats, from entering the country to visit the Gaza Strip.
Tlaib wanted to see her 90-year-old Palestinian grandmother but obviously also to be there to express critical views of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. In other words, besides having a potentially final reunion with her relative, she and Omar were going there to do their job, which is expected by their constituencies. Ultimately, the ban was lifted but Tlaib gave up on the trip.
There’s no other way to put it, it was Israel’s lamest hour. It may have also deeply embarrassed Israelis who can’t be

swayed by Netanyahu’s political expedience and abhor what he’s doing to their country, and to the Palestinians, in order to remain in power.
In the domestic arena, the latest mass shootings in the U.S., once again, haven’t been enough to pass gun control laws. If not now, then it may be never, but no one is giving up this fight. Unfortunately, neither are would-be copycats. Law enforcement agencies have reported a spike of young, white men with mass homicidal plans, so far thankfully cut short by concerned citizens.
That’s far from comforting, as attack weapons remain widely available throughout America and the president is bound to make yet another speech or two, encouraging white-supremacist hate. If Democrats don’t see this is as a worth-addressing issue, just as better training of law enforcement agents, and media ban on mass-murderers’ names, they’ve got another thing coming to them.
Republicans, instead, are always sure about priorities: help the rich, rape the land, take it while you can and walk away. And lie. But one, who’ll remain unnamed – a hint: he’s the Citizenship and Immigration Services head – had an idea about the Statue of Liberty, that’d surely revive Lazarus, so to speak. To justify restricting the poor from immigrating to the U.S., he’d add to Emma Lazarus’ ‘Give me your tired, your poor…’ words, ‘who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.’
To propose such an absurd revision to one of the most famous declarations of empathy, compassion, and humanity, and for good or bad, identified with America for two centuries, could only have come from a truly inept anti-American politician, who’d previously doubted President Obama’s place of birth, and had proposed to make speaking Spanish on the job a fireable offense.
In two years, Trump has signed the U.S. off the Paris Agreement, the Iran nuclear deal, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. And in every instance, we’ve paid for it. The fight against the climate emergency has lost its most powerful ally, Iran has restarted its nukes program and now represents a real threat to Israel, and now, Russia was caught testing new weapons.
No wonder Hong Kong residents are out protesting for democracy and pushing back China’s tightening grip. They deserve our solidarity, and some would really wish that first sentence was true, as the threat of a new Tiananmen Square massacre looms.
All that Severodvinsk dwellers know is that a nuke-powered rocket engine exploded and killed seven people a mere 20 miles away, on Aug. 8. But however sinister is Putin’s plan, an arms race is already on, and this time, press freedom won’t help us.
That the billions of dollars that such a race will cost would be enough to fund a global strategy to reverse climate change in just a few years, if we were really the smartest species on this planet, is hardly ever mentioned in the U.S. media. Which is, as usual, busy hammering the false claim that social welfare programs and retirement pensions for working-class are simply unaffordable.
But the fact is, plastics are being found everywhere, from the bottom of the seas to the stomachs of marine life to snow rain in high mountains to the deepest corners of our own digestive system. All without affecting an iota of annual plastic production.
The massive amounts of this eternal litter we’re damping on the planet is one of the reasons why any ‘gradual’ plan to combat the climate emergency is nothing short of B.S. An excuse to punt meaningful steps that would eventually criminalize pollution and take its manufacturers to account. Again, if Democrats, etc, etc. Rather, we must do our part, for surely they are not doing theirs.
‘We won’t stop organizing for ourselves, our children, and for the soul of this nation,’ says the only manifesto worth reading these days, that of notable members of the Latinx community. Published in major U.S. newspapers last week, it protests recent white supremacist hate and mass shootings, and Gestapo-like ICE raids, one of which arrested over 700 workers at a Mississippi plant.
Perhaps some will still sail to fabulous vacations without noticing the scourge of climate change wherever they go, and won’t hesitate to ride a gas-guzzling SUV, believing they’re entitled to do so. A word of caution: don’t waste time arguing with them.
The world may be running out of choices, but the privileged few like us do still have options. As Joni Mitchell wrote 50 years ago, on her Woodstock anthem, ‘We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion-year-old carbon, and we got to get ourselves back to the garden.’ Not sure about that garden, but to each its own. If not for the children, let’s do it for ourselves. Just climb aboard. WC


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