Curtain Raiser

Don’t Die to Save the Dow, Colltalers

Here’s Trump’s America: the world’s biggest climate-denying nation, with the largest prison population and a stellar healthcare system, of course. Also of note about this paradise are its 3.3 million-strong unemployment claims. Good thing Congress just signed a $500 billion relief bill. To corporations.
The world is in lockdown with more confined people than those alive during WWII. Numbers are staggering and bound to increase. But that sort of stats and its big numbers are mind-boggling: good for shocking headlines and little else. There are more important lessons to be learned from this all.
But first, our usual news roundup even as most seems to be either related to the new plague or to the catastrophic leadership of some top world leaders. Following the nefarious sway of the U.S. president, who called the virus a hoax and is still lying and misinforming the American people, many were caught flat-footed and are now behind the curve. Thus, there’s no global coordinated strategy and each country is doing its own thing. That is crazy.
The world spent 70 years signing agreements, forming alliances, and setting international organizations to protect dialog and peace, the food supply, labor and trade disputes, and the rule of law. Whether it succeeded is beside the point; Trump spent three and a half years cutting ties with allies and singing praises to tyrants. The ‘leader of the free world’ sowed distrust, threatened war, acted as a criminal brat while enriching himself and his family.
Even if Trump doesn’t get reelected in Nov. – which is as improbable almost as there will be an election in Nov., – the consequences of his acts will be felt for years. How will we survive in a world where China, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Venezuela, Ecuador, the entire African continent, and allies such as Germany, France,

and others can’t trust us? He made us all look like violent pariahs, white supremacists thirsty for power and armed to the teeth.
Part of that predates the Liar-in-Chief, for sure. Historically, so-called American exceptionalism drove us to do despicable things as a nation and justify them as needed for our survival. In other instances, it served to highlight how even a then healthy democracy can open its doors to authoritarianism. But there’s something about the history of this country that has always prevailed: no one is above the law and people have the right to pursue freedom.
It’s been hard to abide by these constitutional principles these days or even prove that that’s still the law of the land. Slowly and suddenly quickly, the downward moral spiral of average Americans tilted heavily to a raw individualism and the pursuit of personal gain at any cost. It took a deadly virus to reunite the majority under a spirit of solidarity and empathy. It’s a sight for sore eyes seen all over America, no thanks to current White House lords.
As ‘social distancing’ enters the global chatter, this has been the worst of times for Americans, Italians, Spaniards, Brazilians, all leading in cases and fatalities, and the prospect of prisons, refugee camps, and India becoming the virus’ next playgrounds won’t improve things. While Europe as a whole continues to battle the spread of the virus with all their weapons, Trump, Jair Bolsonaro and Narendra Modi, leaders of 1.9 billion citizens, keep lying.
India, which is now under the biggest lockdown in the history of the world, seems particularly problematic. Already marred in government corruption, brutal social inequality, and staggering poverty, it’s been asked again to sacrifice. Unlike other countries, though, there’s no place of progress and social harmony to return too. Modi made sure of that by all but outlawing 200 million Muslims. So even if there were no viruses, it’d still be in utter misery.
Brazil, which since the 2016 coup that ousted President Dilma Rousseff, is adrift amidst the dismantling of its industry and social institutions, is wising up to the fact that they’re stuck with the worst of the worst: no help on the way, and Bolsonaro. He presided over the start of death by fire of the biggest rainforest, the Amazon, and over the corruption of labor and retirement laws to favor bosses and the rich; now he wants people to go back to work.
Brazilians, who thought they had it rough with Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s social reforms prioritizing the poor over the elites, are now acting as if they couldn’t possibly have expected that an expelled Army Captain with zero experience or ideas, and a mean streak, would inflict so much pain to people.
Worst, that he’d be an embarrassment to the country by becoming a groupie to the American bully, from whom he seems to crave the attention. Even repentant ‘bolsonaristas,’ or rather, those who claim now not having a clue that their leader was so incompetent, are shocked. But will still vote for him.
That’s nonsense, certainly. And so is surveys that rated at 47 to 49% the job the U.S. president is (badly) doing with COVID-19. Granted, without tests many a red state doesn’t yet know how many are infected and how many will die from it, which may undermine his approval rate. But given his luck – despite all diatribes and risky political moves, nothing with potential to destroy his presidency had happened till this – he should beat the latest rap too.
But not without causing unnecessary deaths, and that’s a prospect that scares everyone during the next few weeks. If it’s already impossible to prevent that from happening, we must be ready to hold accountable every member of this administration, from top to down, for their unforgivable actions. And Congress, which unwittingly endorsed the biggest U.S. taxpayer handout to mega-rich corporations, while giving the working poor a few dollars.
The record $2 trillion stimulus package, which should help those affected directly by the administration’s failure to act, that is, salaried workers, ‘gig economy’ slaves, the undocumented, and the elderly, turned out to be close to a cruel joke. While industries that squandered huge tax cuts they’ve got in 2008 and 2017 won’t need to answer any questions, regular people will have to run an obstacle-ridden track to get a ridiculous one-time $1,200 check.
Small businesses, restaurants, bars, services of any kind across America won’t have the muscle to survive being closed for too long while competing with MacDonald’s and other rich franchises for the funds. Similar political leaders will prescribe similar harsh recipes too. Meanwhile, that biggest of nightmares that humanity faces, a global climate emergency, won’t wait till we’re done with the virus before striking at its multiple fronts again.
But we can’t close on ‘welcome to America, where you are expected to die to protect the Dow.’ The quote that inspired our headline must be credited to Jerry Ashton, last week’s happy 87 birthday boy who co-founded R.I.P. Medical Debt, an organization that buys medical debt and forgives its debtors. Arguably a maverick as today’s birthday genius, Vincent Van Gogh, at the ripe age of 167, Jerry’s already has a legacy too. But it’s one of compassion.
And that’s how we roll with this atypical column for a most atypical week in recent memory. Experts say the coronavirus crisis will get much worst before getting any better, but don’t tell us to give up on anybody. Well, maybe all the above-mentioned leaders. We the people, however, will last. Cheers WC

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