Curtain Raiser

A Season For Fire & Turmoil, Colltalers

They are back! Surprising no one with a frontal lobe, wildfires are again ravaging California, in an opening salvo of sorts for bad weather to come. Will current Kincade Fire – yes, they have nicknames now – dwarf last year’s Camp Fire, the deadliest so far?
Political stability, a South American old foe, is also rearing its ugly head again. Either new presidents in Argentina and Uruguay, and a reelected Evo Morales in Bolivia last week ease the continent’s institutional turmoil or they may as well extend it further.
Elsewhere, Chilean students and worlds-away Hong Kong democracy fighters are not about to fold their demands and go home quietly. To top it all, a giant oil spill of origin still unknown has coated 2,000 miles of coastal areas of Brazil, in one of its worst environmental disasters. As with the Amazon Rainforest, which is still burning, little is expected from President Bolsonaro.
Don’t count Catalans out of contention either. Massive protests over the weekend, demanding freedom for separatist leaders sent to prison with harsh sentences, and for an independent Catalonia state, continue to dominate the national conversation in Spain.
This being the ‘season of the dead,’ Thursday’s timing of the exhumation of dictator Francisco Franco’s body

from the place it’d rested for 44 years to a family plot, was at least curious. It was also a win for the few survivors of the Generalíssimo’s iron-fisted regime, who have been battling to prove what should be a universal unanimity: despots should never get a public mausoleum.
Guess which other nation is fast approaching its own institutional reckoning? the good ole U.S. of A. The impeachment against the president has produced some pretty startling revelations, which nevertheless, have failed to gather steam outside the Capitol Hill walls. Good thing it’s moving fast, but as vital as this process is, it won’t remove Trump from office; voters may, though.
A concern running high among Democrats is that we may waste too much time pursuing a pie in the sky, and not enough going about the business of telling every American in clear terms what exactly is being taken away from them, bound to hurt us all. And how important values such as honesty, dignity, and solidarity must define us as a nation, not having an ogre as your leader.
As well-heeled lawyers – and back-on again global persona-non-grata Stephen Bannon – feast with the legalities of impeachment, the administration undermines environmental and civil rights legislation, and continues enforcing its cruelty towards refugees.
We seem to be losing our sense of outrage. An American Civil Liberties Union study, for instance, has found that over 5,400 immigrant children have been split up from their parents at the border since 2017. Meanwhile, there are now one million fewer kids receiving Medicaid or other government assistance programs. Still, neither of the two bad news made into media headlines.
The Kincade Fire, which already forced the evacuation of over 200,000 Californians, and at least one hospital so far, and others that’ll likely follow it, is a direct result of, first, climate change, and secondly, our own neglect to act. Let’s not kid ourselves, nothing has been done since Paradise was lost to flames, a year ago. 85 people died when the entire town was burned to a crisp.
But Democrat funders don’t want to support a candidate who’s committed to radical climate emergency action. And suddenly, from a leadership position in the polls, the two top contenders, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, are under ‘friendly’ fire for being ‘too extreme.’ Big-money backers hope someone else (besides the 20+), maybe a billionaire, steps in and takes their input.
Suspect any talk about ‘moderation,’ ‘incremental steps,’ or that old favorite, ‘two sides of the aisle,’ being repeated everywhere by a parroting media. Like, ‘the impeachment is a sham,’ or the never-casual use of the word ‘lynching’ by the president, these buzz expressions are crafted by an elite of conspirators who use them to rally bases while hedging their bets in case it all goes South.
Yes, it’s time for front runners to come up with a few ‘back of the envelope’ solutions to most urgent issues affecting Americans, and be off to the races. Turn them into a repeatable chorus, as Republicans do with great efficacy, or take the time to emphasize the likely long-term consequences of reelecting a president who broke the bank, er, the budget, and ran away with the cash.
Once again, neoliberal wet dreams got badly dashed in Argentina as President Mauricio Macri ends a particularly disastrous one-term administration. But Alberto Fernández, who’s set to replace him and his vice, former President Cristina Kirchner, do not represent too much of a change; they’re both Peronistas, as in dictator Juan Perón, the ideology that ruled Argentina for decades.
A different picture is next-door Uruguay, which’s been the continent’s most consistent success story. Daniel Martínez is on track to maintain the unbroken string of leftist presidents, which started in 2005 with the election of ex-political prisoner José Mujica. Running again for the Senate, Mujica remains popular and still enjoys support for his brand of socialism by many Uruguayans.
As for the ‘sleeping giant,’ as it’s mentioned on the lyrics of its hymn, Brazil has found a hole enough to sink in, and there seems to be no end to the suffering of its majority poor. A special interests-driven ‘reform’ of social security has increased the retirement age and mandatory contributions of workers while exempting the military, the political class, and hundreds of Bolsonaro lackeys.
Halloween is upon us, as well as the aforementioned Dia de Los Muertos which jumped frontiers and now it’s an integral part of the playful holiday worldwide. Ghosts and goblins will show up on Thursday as scheduled. But today’s focus is on a monument that has grown with the country, and proves its relevance by simply standing there: it’s the Statue of Liberty’s 133rd Anniversary.
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore,’ as goes the Emma Lazarus poem dedicated to the statue, reflects the compassionate spirit of Americans. It’s also a timeless message to navigate this dark age. Today is a great time to meditate on the meaning of those words and recommit to those values. Cheers. WC


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