Curtain Raiser

The World’s Street Fights, Colltalers

Here’s something few of us ever think about if not directly affected by it: in 2019 alone, there are near 70,000 migrant children detained in U.S. facilities. Locked up with strangers, many may never see their parents again.
Other kids of all ages around the world, facing a future of climate catastrophe and social inequality, are fighting back. Anti-government rallies are still going strong in Bolivia, Chile, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Iraq, and now Iran.
An update on those is on its way, but first, let us focus on the week’s climate crisis picture: a flooded Venice, treasury of humanity and likely already doomed even before we started burning fossil fuel for energy. Still, the second-highest tide of its history matches, at least visually, what most of us already fear about what lies ahead.
And yet, what the submerged Piazza di San Marco may not show, besides that’s sinking faster than ever before, is that new global, man-made conditions may also drown other world cities, even if few are as pretty as Venice.
But for all the talk about radical revolution as the only way to reverse disaster and teen heroes at the vanguard of the charge, absolutely nothing has been done by those who count the most: government and big corporations.
We’re not near the pace of change required for anything meaningful, and really big, to be done about the tragedy. Next month’s U.N. Climate Change conference in Madrid – which yes, will feature Greta Thunberg, fresh of yet another hike

on an environmentally-sound cross-ocean boat – may be one of our last chances to set an urgent agenda of action to be undertaken in the next 180 days or so. Why three months? One’s got to start it somewhere.
Consider the Marshall Islands. During the 1940s and 1950s, the U.S. detonated dozens of nuclear devices there, before burying 3.1 million cubic feet of the resulting radioactive waste in what’s called the Runit Dome, a giant container locals call The Tomb. Guess what? Rising waters threaten to seep beneath it or worst, to crack it open.
Unlike its reinforced cement top, the bottom is vulnerable to water infiltration and spillage. If no action is taken by the Trump administration, and most likely, it won’t, radioactive leaks could render what used to be a paradise in the Pacific unfit for humans, punishing even further the already declining standards of living of the islanders.
That brings to mind Emmanuel Essien, a Ghanaian fishing observer who’s missing since last July. He was one of  Ghana’s network of protectors of the fishing population, each placed on the many foreign trawlers that crowd and have depleted of marine life the country’s territorial waters. Still, the depletion now verges on total collapse.
An illegal overfishing crisis threatens Ghana’s supplies and these guardians face overwhelming odds to succeed, or simply live, despite official support. If he’s gone as feared, he’d be the 18th observer to disappear since 2017.
In these three tumultuous years, the U.S. government has been accused of terrible atrocities against immigrants. Following brutally draconian policies, it has put children in cages, unsanitary camps, or inadequate facilities, and their serious neglect has caused a record number of kids to die under their ‘care.’
But the most horrid directive it has followed, a source of shock and disgust throughout the world, is their separation of families at the border. With the arrogance and lack of compassion typical of authoritarian regimes, the U.S. under Trump has broken and betrayed every humanitarian convention regulating the treatment of immigrants and refugees. Especially when it splits up infants and toddlers from their parents, with no reliable system to reunite them afterward.
The result is a growing population of traumatized children, a social time bomb bound to explode in our faces soon enough, no matter how the administration spins it. Whether detained or let out to fend on their own, these youngsters will join other impoverished Americans, struggling to escape extreme poverty. Where’s the outrage?
But as those fighting the establishment and its police forces on the streets of major world cities, there are ways to resist and defend everyone’s democratic right to a decent and just life. Even if by doing so, they’re exposed to the wrath of the state. It takes common citizens to rise and fight injustice, risking arm and leg. And yet, they do.
In H.K., the army stormed a college campus to arrest students barricaded inside and was received with Molotov cocktails. In Chile, as President Jose Piñera’s proposed reforms, a new constitution, and call to probe abuses by the military during the violent repression on ralliers he ordered, convinced absolutely no one, so fight is still on.
While Evo Morales, Bolivia’s indigenous president ousted by a coup last week found exile in Mexico, a fanatical evangelical, Jeanine Anez, used a bible to claim the government to herself. Naturally, the majority of Bolivians who are native will keep putting their lives at stake to oppose her and restore the nation’s embattled democracy.
Along with the continuous turmoil in the streets of Lebanon and Iraq, there’s now a not surprising new addition to what could be called a chaotic global resistance against tyranny: Iran. Tickled by higher fuel prices, working families – who Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called ‘thugs’ – have started a rare, 100-city wave of national protests.
That, and the recent 30-year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, make the Vision for Democracy recently endorsed by 150 civil rights groups so timely. Under the Leadership Conference on Human and Civil Rights, it mainly proposes strategies for guaranteeing the right to vote by traditionally disenfranchised segments of society.
The difference from other alike initiatives is that they offer a road map for crowds already on the streets, rallying for their dwindling rights. And that’s where they must remain till those demands are met. May we count on you?
In the U.S., where the president pardons war criminals decried even by their former commanders, and tweets to intimidate a witness while she’s testifying at his own impeachment, there’s no choice. Democracy is in peril and Americans must set the example and fight to prevent it from extinction. Or we’ll be the ones to be erased. Cheers WC

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