Curtain Raisers

Beauty That Still Remains, Colltalers

In February, most people here and abroad suspect it; by March, they were sure this was already a tragedy. Now, COVID-19 has killed near two million worldwide, 22,000 just in record-holder U.S., and it’s evident who else also knew it all along: the president. Many told him about it but he ignored them.
As more black and brown people catch the lethal virus, though, the conversation’s shifted: not so much about how this crisis reflects income inequality but when to reopen the economy. Never mind that it may cause a deadly reoccurrence; the established media will latch on this topic the whole week.
It’s the absolutely wrong thing to focus on right now but when did that stop this administration from going ahead and perpetrating another avoidable blunder? Some 2,000 are dying every day in the U.S., there’s no widespread testing or sign of a vaccine, and we don’t even know when it’ll strike next. But the people who dismissed this threat when they’d a chance to stop it, and kept denying it for over a month, now want to make that fatal decision.
The half-full version of any scourge is how some rise to the occasion, usually followed by a technological leap that lands us on the other side with a better outlook in life. The half-empty one sees an epidemy as an opportunity for leaders to tighten up their grip on power. To hold contradictory visions within one’s mind is Ok but while being half-full is grounds for a cheer, leaders trying to seize even more power is something worth fighting against.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. The past week, all hopes that the U.S. presidential election would represent a change of pace toward a more humanitarian, progressive even direction were dashed. Bernie Sanders has bowed out and Joe Biden is the Democratic presumptive candidate.
It was a contest that started unusual and promising, with lots of diversity candidates, several women to break the glass ceiling, and great debates on issues crucial to the well being

of Americans. Climate change, Medicare for all, and to a lesser extent, immigration, and a green new deal were all debated at length. That was a first, at least in numbers and intensity. But it’s all gone now. First the Latinos, then blacks, then women, and here we are.
Once more, the dominance of white males of a certain age prevailed and we’re left to dream on about a time when the President will resemble more of what Americans really look like. And then, down to Sanders and Biden, with one committed to full change, and the other, well, we don’t know it yet.
The candidate the Democratic establishment wanted all along has been mostly missing from the battle against the virus. Two months ago, his positions were alike that of a traditional Republican if there were any left: a gradual, incremental change of some kind at some point in the near future, but nothing to be done right away, as the moment requires, when the world is burning, millions of people are starving, and democracy slowly wanes.
Rather, under such stewardship, it’s unrealistic to expect that income inequality, for instance, or an immediate stop of any fossil-fuel processing would be addressed any time within the next four years. And that’s too long, and it’ll be necessarily too little too late. Above all, can Biden beat Trump?
The seven months ahead will be though even as the election itself is under threat of cancellation. But every segment that has given us hope in these past few years that change can come if we really fight for, climate action, protection of the poor, labor justice, and reproductive rights guarantees have stated their conditions for supporting the former VP. Again we can only hope he’s listening, and the choice of a running mate will be crucial for that.
But the two ideas he came up last week, reducing retirement to 60, and partial student debt forgiveness, do not address the urgency of their, and our concerns, as they both seem inadequate and out of touch. In fact, 20 years ago, ultra-conservative Joe Lieberman was already proposing Medicare for 55-year-olds. And the student plan doesn’t even begin to tackle the crippling reality of millions of graduates who are slaves to their debts. Really, Joe?
Isn’t now the time to be bold and demand the impossible so as to at least get our foot in the door? These sound like an almost coward strategy to ‘ask for permission’ to change. But change happens, as Sanders has said, and it’s still on us to pressure Biden to fight for and represent most Americans.
One word about exempting churches from the ban on public assembling: why? Isn’t this whole thing about religion a matter of invisibility, of being alone with god, spiritual congregation and all that? So why are followers allowed to go to mass and spread a deadly virus in the name of their beliefs? Isn’t it enough that certified pedophiles like George Pell walk free among our children? Have you heard anything about it on the pope’s Easter sermon?
Compared to such callous behavior, virus hard-hit Italy again has shown its resilient spirit. Take the ‘solidarity baskets’ for the homeless of Napoli. Repurposing an old costume of busy mothers lowering baskets with money to purchase supplies from street vendors, two musicians decided to lower baskets too but with food for the hungry instead. It’s a simple and generous way to show true love to others in need. Maybe it’ll set a new standard.
The global threat of having half a billion people suddenly being thrown into poverty because of the lockdown requires an urgent economic rescue plan for developing nations, said international charity Oxfam. Or risk those broken economies collapsing and dragging the world into a much deeper hole.
So as the so-called king of reality TV shows that he can’t handle reality, and New York officials talk about burying people in public parks, at least for a while, we’re suffused with bad news we see on screens, and encouraging acts of heroism and solidarity we witness in our current predicament. Time to remember Anne Frank, who was killed in Berger Belsen just months before British troops liberated the concentration camp, 75 years ago Wednesday.
For all this time, she’s being a source of optimism people distill from quotes of her diary – which inspired our headline. She resisted and found ways to carry on. Just like our deli and grocery workers, our delivery people, the bus and train and cab drivers, farmworkers, GE employees demanding to make ventilators, and of course, nurses and first responders who are out there, so we can be in, sheltered as we can. That’s why we’re in, actually.
We’re not only protecting our immediate family. We’re but making sure we’re not actively infecting others under the excuse we don’t know any better, or we’re not in a risk group, or simply because we don’t believe in science. The longer we stay in, the faster everyone will be able to also stay in, safely.
If there’s the need for some encouragement, look no further than to the indigenous peoples everywhere. ‘Get up, because we can it,’ says Alessandra Korap, leader of the Amazon’s Munduruku tribe. She was born inside the cause of saving the Rainforest and protect the vulnerable, both universal values to live by. There are so many others, natives whose wisdom makes us stronger. Here comes week 5; don’t be discouraged, we’ll win. Salut WC

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