Curtain Raiser

The Killing of Native Sons, Colltalers

No matter the national event or moment: a virus killing thousands or a rogue government with no competence or decency: in America, racism is never far away from anything else. COVID-19 should be a glaring example, but there had to be a cold-blooded execution of a black man in the mix too.
‘Skyrocketed.’ That’s what happened to deforestation of Brazil’s Amazon between Jan. and April, according to a Greenpeace analysis. While President Bolsonaro got busy dismissing the coronavirus, the razing of indigenous lands increased by 59%, raising fears of fatal contamination and genocide.
But let’s start with the grim task of reporting the tragic, broad-daylight ‘lynching’ of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old stalked and shotgunned to death in February, while jogging outside Brunswick, Georgia. The father-son duo of murderers was known by local police but hadn’t been charged until now.
That’s because the video of the execution surfaced last week, and while the elder killer has been arrested, neither his son nor the friend who captured it on camera has been so far. The case reminded us of the late Trayvon Martin, another black youth murdered eight years ago, who’d also be 25 now.
Even as the killings of black young men by police or white supremacists, or a combination of both as in this case, is so terribly frequent, just as mass shootings of any kind, it never ceases to devastate us. Their brutality and banality of their killers’ obsession convulse our guts deep down to near exploding our hearts and minds over it. Why? Not why they do it and mostly get away with it, but why we accept living in a society that allows that?
As if the profoundly unfair toll of this pandemic hasn’t been enough to shock us all, for its crushing majority of casualties among people of color. A preliminary study by Amfar, an AIDS research group, found that despite one in five counties nationally is black, representing only 35% of Americans, they account for nearly half of COVID-19 cases and 58% of deaths. As of Sunday, there were 1.35 million U.S. cases with over 80 thousand deaths. Factors such as

‘health care access, density of households, unemployment, pervasive discrimination, and others drive these disparities,’ the study notes.
A new ProPublica report adds a twist to the disparity of fatalities due to institutionalized racism: the undocumented, the millions of Trump-villainized quasi-invisible workers who nevertheless are still tending to our every need, even without any government relief or leniency from law enforcement.
Even when trying to enforce the law, the majority of our urban security forces can’t help it but go after the black and brown. Despite crowds of armed, mostly white people protesting the lockdown in major cities and on behalf of far-right, pro-gun, and militia activists, the great majority of people charged and arrested for violating lockdown regulations are black, a ProPublica report found. Some arrests caught on video are truly terrifying.
Thus, only in America, every instance of social upheaval and disgraceful display of inequality seems to have a racial overtone to it. And we usually know who’ll be murdered, beaten, dispossessed of their dignity, or denied legal support. It’s a moral bloodstain we can’t seem to be able to wash it out.
Before we go, remember the climate emergency? It hasn’t been canceled and we should count our dwindling blessings for it hasn’t ‘attacked’ us this year yet (knock on wood). Research by the U.S. academy of science, PNAS, shows that ‘over the coming 50 years, 1 to 3 billion people are projected to be left outside the climate conditions that have served humanity well over the past 6,000 years.’ It’d be up to us to radically cut down emissions. Now.
Speaking of moral bloodstains, the Department of Justice’s appalling case dismissal of self-confessed Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and the shameful ‘history-will-be-written-by-the-winners’ comment by U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr has to have set a new, even lower bar to this administration. It shows that there’s definitely a claque of undignified officials who no longer even bother with the rule of law at the White House.
Lastly, the clumsy attempt, by former Green Berets, of staging a coup in Venezuela last week, and possibly kill President Nicolas Maduro follows a long string of failed unlawful attempts, even if none as feeble as this one. What, you wanted to take over a nation with a dozen combatants? Seriously?
A shout out in protest against what’s happening to Mubarak Bala, a Nigerian human rights activist arrested for criticizing Islam on Facebook. Many are very concerned that he’s been taken to Kano, a state ruled by Sharia law, which determines that ‘blasphemy’ against the religion is punishable by death.
So we have our work cut out for us. And so does the person dressed up as the Grim Reaper who last week tried to scare off Floridian swimmers and sunbathers, now allowed to congregate by the thousands, virus be damned. It didn’t work but thanks for trying. Florida and other states now reopening seem unfazed by paying for their foolery in human lives. Trump and the GOP are not kidding though: their goal no matter what is to win the election.
So from Republicans to Fox News to the president’s own minions, it’s time to call victory over the virus, even as its death toll continues to escalate. We still have no mass-testing, not enough hospital beds or medical supplies, and frontline and essential workers are making the ultimate sacrifice so to help the sick. But for the administration, an estimated loss of over 100,000 lives, likely many more, is worth opening the country for business. Heinous.
Plus, with 33 million unemployed – again, possibly way more – hundreds of thousands of small businesses closed down for good, and a general feeling that the U.S. will be left behind to deal with this pandemic, while the rest of the world slowly gets on its feet, what economy they plan on pushing as a ‘success story?’ We’ll pay with our lives, but Trump will need so much money to buy up his second term that one almost doubts he can win. Almost.
It’s a sad time for America, and more so if, like the black writer James Baldwyn, one takes it up for its fascistic ways. Our headline today paraphrases a book title by this great American who graced the cover of Time 57 years ago next Sunday, and to whom ‘power without morality is no longer power.’
On the somber 75th anniversary of the end of WWII, Americans need to heed the lessons of history and press for government accountability. We must throw the whole lot of them in jail for their crimes. Eugene Jarecki had the right idea: the Trump Death Clock lists in real-time fatalities from COVID-19. It’s up in New York Times Square for the whole world to see and never forget. No one guilty for this disaster will get away with it if we can help it.
We’ve lost so many good people, hard-working, dedicated, already victimized by income inequality and racial prejudice, people simply caught doing what they’ve been doing all along: helping others. We must not forget them and we must honor their radical altruism. We must be them now. Cheers. WC


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