Curtain Raiser

100 Seconds to Midnight, Colltalers

Back-to-back coverage of a contagious disease, say, the coronavirus, is good to raise awareness about preventive measures and not much else. But it’s terrible for other reasons: unjustified panic, baseless prejudice, racial and cultural biases. Oh, and for kicking other relevant news out of the headlines.
Which, as we know, are not without fault. Take the impeachment of the U.S. President for instance. At its 11th hour, the media has done a poor job separating provable fact, backed up by witnesses, tapes, and testimonies, and what it’s basically denial. We know where this is all going. Or do we?
But that’s for later. Today’s most transcendent news is actually a celebration of history and its gift to teach humanity not to repeat it: the Red Army’s liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp 75 years ago. It’s one of those anniversaries that never lost its urgency, a perennial warning to the living from those who didn’t survive the despicable horrors of white supremacism being run as a government policy. It killed over six million Jews.
It’s heartbreaking to realize that we’re again risking to repeat history, for Jews seem to always be the first to be slaughtered, and with them or right after, minorities and political foes. Some would argue that the killing of a few is different from a mass killing, but they need to shut up right now: no matter how many, they got murdered only when citizens focused on stupid things like that, and did nothing, believing they couldn’t possibly be next.
What’s tragic about the America of the 21st century to begin resembling the 1940s Germany is how vulnerable our democratic institutions are at this moment to prevent it. And how come there’s little rage about it. When the president claims

to be above the law, dismisses constitutional checks and balances mechanisms, and openly demoralizes Congress (i.e., the people), we are in effect in a no man’s land. Let us know when they come for you.
Speaking of other horrible things, equally preventable, Saturday marked the year anniversary of Brazil’s Brumadinho dam collapse, which launched a tidal wave of 9.7 million cubic meters of mining sludge that razed a town and buried over 270 people. Iron ore producer Vale, which owns the dam and mining operations that caused the tragedy, was also behind the catastrophic collapse of the Mariana Dam not too far from there, just four years before.
Both disasters contaminated nearby waterways and soil, ruining the land and compromising the water quality of Belo Horizonte, a major metropolis. And yet, no restitution or allocations have been set up by Vale. Given President Bolsonaro’s support to mining, it’s unlikely that any will be forthcoming. The Army-expelled far-right captain shares yet another trait with other despots, apart from cruelty and incompetence: he doesn’t care. Sounds familiar?
Consider Glenn Greenwald, the American journalist who made public devastating evidence of wrongdoing by the National Security Agency, provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. He’s now on Bolsonaro’s crosshairs for publishing secret recordings that debunked infamous Car Wash operation, which through deception and fear, prevented ex-president, and 2018 election front runner, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from running then or ever again.
The tapes leaked to Greenwald by a hackers group proved an extensive manipulation of facts by Sérgio Moro, a judge in charge of the probe and now Minister of Justice. After going for the hackers, now they’re ‘investigating’ Greenwald, who’s married and has kids with a Brazilian politician. It’s an outrage and an attack on the press the likes of, well, those we’ve been seeing from Trump. It’s unlikely it’ll grow legs, but it’s nefarious to democracy.
The outbreak of the coronavirus is soon exposing yet another side of the authoritarian Chinese regime: even as the virus has killed over 50 people and is spreading across borders, nothing justifies to quarantine millions of people in the name of safety. Viruses have existed since the dawn of times and many couldn’t be cured in time before they vanished on their own. To use an outbreak to corral and catalog citizens is inefficient and morally wrong.
The Holocaust can and has been repeated before, but we don’t have to take it this time. The already too many recent massacres of Jews should’ve given us pause about this administration, for what it didn’t do to avert them, what it did to actually boost them, and for inspiring and praising the murderers.
But Trump’s lying – how come his lies are not front-page news and how come they’re given equal footing as facts and witness testimonies? – his rapist mentality, his disastrous foreign policy that brought us closer to WWIII, his mendacity, and utter indifference to suffering and injustice, his use of the White House as a business counter, are, sadly, not on trial at his impeachment. ‘Only’ his breaking of the law. Why is that even up for argument?
Above all, it’ll be part of history the cowardice and utter contempt of a certain class of politicians, now closing ranks with a corrupt leader. It’ll be written, unfortunately, with the blood of innocents who sacrificed their careers to inform Americans, but nevertheless, it will be remembered. Just like the shameful Marshall Philippe Petáin and his collaborationist Vichy France, or the Catholic Church’s omission about the murderous Nazi regime.
Doomsday Clock, the conceptual device that tracks risks for a nuclear, potentially final worldwide conflict, has just been reset. It’s now 100 minutes to midnight, its closest proximity since its creation in 1947. Nukes proliferation, climate change, and cyber-based misinformation were cited as reasons to make the alert be expressed in seconds, not minutes like before. But the world’s most powerful power, and its deranged leader, have a lot to do with it.
R.I.P. Kobe Bryant, the late basketball great whose tributes are deservedly filling airwaves. For comfort, listen to the mournful Clarinet Quintet K581 in A Major by W.A. Mozart who’d be 264 tomorrow. As a 20-year-old, he was surely acquainted with the American Revolution, and it’s a pity he can’t testify on the Constitution his contemporaries have drawn. These two improved the world, which would look good on anyone’s eulogy. Chin up, folks. WC


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