Curtain Raiser

Watch Out For Viral Excuses, Colltalers

Over 100,000 cases worldwide; 15 million Italians quarantined; no contingency plans in the U.S. The Coronavirus is doing what viruses do, including exposing authoritarian regimes’ ineptitude: good at self-preservation, ugly at saving lives. It’ll keep spreading and you’re on your own. Don’t catch it.
Torture, (cruelty), outrages upon personal dignity, rape, and sexual violence.’ The International Criminal Court is probing possible U.S.’s war crimes in Afghanistan. But peace talks won’t bar the Taliban from oppressing women. For this and other reasons, they’ve marched around the world yesterday.
Speaking of women’s independence, Elizabeth Warren became the last to drop out of the presidential race leaving us with, brace for the unexpected, two old white males who’ll slaughter each other for a while, big bucks vs youth enthusiasm, while Trump shadowboxes and weights a cancellation.
Wait a minute? Does that mean that if the virus explodes in the heart of America, against everything the White House had said about this health crisis, the president may actually cancel the Nov. elections? Yes and the 50 million or so Americans who have seen this coming are not enough to prevent it.
Going back to Senator Warren, democrats of a certain understanding, and gender, are mourning her departure because she had actual ideas on how to change the national conversation. More than the other five women who’d already left and have now promptly endorsed Joe Biden, Warren was fearless and yet enthusiastic about the future. And she’s held steady her support to front-runner Bernie Sanders, a fact his campaign must consider carefully.
Most Americans grew up with the notion that, despite the First Amendment, to display Nazi symbols or to propagate supremacist ideas was illegal. So it was a shock to see someone

boldly unfold a Nazi flag at a Sanders’ rally in Arizona, before being escorted out. But it’s just another step down the ladder of what the president started four years ago: hate of ‘them,’ the ‘other,’ or in a Maga kind of way, just calling any opposition enemies of the nation.
The seeds for this new, terrifying era of fascism have been sown right at the gate, in Trump’s inaugural speech. He remains as oblivious to the rise of attacks on Jewish, black, and brown communities as he’d promised to be on that address. It’s also from the same time his outrageous claim that he’d get away with shooting someone on 5h Ave. But while his supporters love him for even making that claim, let’s not let him have any chance to prove it.
‘The unchecked brutality of autocratic regimes and the ethical decay of democratic powers are combining to make the world increasingly hostile to fresh demands for better governance.’ Given the above example, many Americans would agree with this year’s Freedom House report’s assessment. 
The organization whose founders included Eleanor Roosevelt and Wendell Wilkie, a 1940 Republican presidential candidate, surveyed 150 countries and 15 territories and if in 2010 freedom in the U.S. was at par with Switzerland and the U.K., now it sits behind Slovakia and Mauritius. But despite its lucid conclusions, the report frames only the most obvious authoritarian regimes, such as China and India, and doesn’t mention Brazil and Mexico.
That’s a glaring omission that doesn’t compromise its results though. A U.N. report estimated that in 2017, 50,000 women were killed worldwide for their gender, a feminicide. But last year only, Brazil and Mexico have reported over a thousand murdered in each of their territories, a reason for anger and one of the themes of International Women’s Day marches in both countries, according to Brazil’s G1 and data from the Mexican Interior Ministry.
India, on the other hand, did get mentioned in the report for its quasi-government-sanctioned violence against Muslims, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal brand of cruelty is cited along with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. Unlike these, however, India is still called ‘the world’s largest democracy,’ and is not featured with Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, Somalia, and yes North Korea, among others as ‘the worst of the worst.’
A survey conducted by the National Nurses United, the largest U.S. union, shows that most hospitals and healthcare facilities are unprepared to handle and contain cases of COVID-19. It found no plans, isolation procedures, and policies in place; poor communication between employers and staff; lack of personal protective equipment: and no training offered to handle the crisis. And that’s even before U.S. cases are expected to reach a critical mass.
But that display of extreme incompetence, arrogance, and callousness comes from the very top. At the same time that the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention issued its initial guidelines to begin a resemblance of virus containment, the president was ‘advising’ the old and the sick to go to work.
And here’s one of the ironies of our present quagmire: over 40% of the American workforce can’t afford to skip a day of work: they won’t get paid for it. So it’s almost cruel to blame likely high rates of contagion on the backs of working people. Worst: the administration won’t commit to guarantee free treatment or vaccine to those affected. All overworked, underpaid Americans want to hear is that they’ve got yet another ‘out of pocket’ medical bill.
As the 19th American died from the coronavirus, almost the entire world is under lockdown and, spoiler alert to the president, markets will tumble and fall. That’d make no difference to average citizens but counts a lot to the 0.01%, backers of whatever is necessary, whoever the despot du jour, to keep the status quo. Would that be a destabilizing factor or a viral excuse for authoritarians to cancel elections they’re not sure to win? Tune in next week.
The Hague, Netherlands-based ICC, which began activities in 2002 and is recognized by 120 nations but not the U.S., decided to proceed with a probe into American armed forces in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, and later in clandestine C.I.A. facilities in Poland, Romania, and Lithuania. Although it has the right to persecute non-signer nations if crimes were committed in any signer’s territory, it has no law enforcement arm to go after perpetrators.
On March 7, 1965, now Georgia Representative John Lewis and hundreds of voting rights activists began a 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery. They got beaten and injured while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge for the crime of advocating that all Americans – regardless of their skin color – should have a vote and a voice in democracy. The 55th anniversary of that Bloody Sunday, which ushered the passage of the Voting Rights Act, was celebrated in Selma Saturday. The Act has since been bludgeoned by the court of Chief Justice John Roberts but that’s a matter for future litigation.
While Women’s Day is marked rightfully so with rallies and marches in defense of women’s rights to live free and have agency over their own bodies, today is Barbie’s 61st anniversary, an event that’s no longer taken kindly giving all the appalling sexual, racial, and class stereotypes it helped inculcate on innocent minds. But we did evolve, slightly, and today no doll holds such strong sway over society anymore, not like tablets or cellphones anyway.
Still, in politics as in life, we must adapt however we can so to hold close to our principles, regardless of barking dogs, race supremacists, corrupt leaders, or social mores. We must honor those who were brutalized by what they were. Let’s not coward before the enormous challenges of our age.
Carry on with the task at hand: protect democracy, fight inequality, restore the U.S. to standards of human rights, and save the planet from climate collapse. It may sound like it’s too much but it’s nothing compared to the ultimate sacrifice of early civil rights militants. What’s better in our world than it was in theirs is due to their courage to dream a new day. And R.I.P. Joyce ‘The number you have reached is no longer in service’ Gordon. Cheers WC

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