Curtain Raiser

We Do Not Lack Conviction, Colltalers

All the suffering COVID-19 has caused – over six million cases worldwide and close to 400,000 dead – almost pales in comparison with what the 200-year-old open wound of racism has exacted upon people of color in the U.S. Even if they’re also the majority of the virus’ victims. Yup, it’s on again.
The explosion of protests that erupted over the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, knee-chocked to death by a white police officer caught on camera is not only absolutely justified but has now a troubling component too: white supremacists disguised as allies inciting violence and looting.
It’s been hard to focus but did you hear that? It’s the silence about what should’ve been major news: Hong Kong and its struggle with its motherland’s crushing hug. The Trump administration rushed to help Beijing again by revoking H.K.’s special status, a colonial relic that allowed Communist China to do business with the West. No one needs that now. As for the violent repression and persecution of pro-democracy activists, there’s now just silence.
Another one? hunger. Actually, the threat of child starvation, not in remote African villages or war-ravaged Yemen, Gaza, and Syria, all caused at some level by one-sided U.S. foreign policies, but here in America. Be it for the temporary lockdown, as school lunches are often the only meal millions of American children eat daily, draconian cuts in the welfare support systems, or downright neglect by the administration, the fact is, hunger is growing.
Study after study has shown that what was already a disturbing trend, that of academic scores getting lower as food availability becomes scarcer, may become a catastrophe of its own. Given that most data was collected before the crisis forced 40 million to file for unemployment benefits, the potential negative impact of childhood hunger on the future is obvious. Worse, it also exposes how the world’s richest nation treats and feeds its own children.
And Brazil, a sentimental favorite never so riddled with political dysfunction as now. As it’s crossed the half-a-million mark of COVID-19 cases, President Bolsonaro stuck to his ‘little flu’

posture. Like Trump, he won’t mention the rising number of deaths. Or wear a mask. Rather, he’s oblivious to the infection; on Sunday he paraded on horseback at a supporters’ rally against a Supreme Court probe into his campaign’s spread of fake news.
There’s another disgrace going on under the cover of the coronavirus crisis and that’s led by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency Trump has instructed to deny even the most basic human rights to asylum-seekers and refugees, and deport the greatest number of them as quickly as possible. Thing is, ICE’s not equipped for the enormity of what’s happening and as a result, it’s causing its own spread of the virus among detainees.
Not that it cares either way; for weeks immigration and justice rights advocates have demanded it to release all those potentially infected, which may be the majority among the detained, and immediately stop deportations and relocations of the undocumented, in some cases workers living and paying taxes in this country for decades. The same goes for for-profit prison companies, whose overcrowded facilities have also become virus epicenters.
But the big story is an old one with no relief on sight. After the president called ‘thugs’ people seeking justice for the murder of Floyd in Minneapolis, of Breonna Taylor, a medical technician shot multiple times ‘by mistake’ by the Kentucky police inside her own home, and of course the execution-style murder of Ahmaud Albery, in Georgia, the lid blew off. And now come reports of the presence of out-of-state instigators among the crowds.
It’s a scary prospect, that of having far-right extremists using the unrest as a cover to further destabilize already hurt communities of color. Some have been seen leading the destruction of property and businesses that locals would hardly think of harming, and their actions seem to be well coordinated.
It’s insult added to injury, and black leaders disavowed these imposters who pretend to be allies. But their trail of destruction does put the Black Lives Matter under unfair pressure. For at the end of the day, even the language conspires against the already victimized, by calling ‘riots’ a democratic right to dissent, or demanding peace and conformity when black, Latinx and every minority community is being targeted and ravaged by police brutality.
In this context, the timid and inadequate measures Twitter took, placing labels on the president’s inflammatory tweets, are a flash in a pan. And the cynical, tone-deft Mark Zuckerberg statement, about Facebook not ‘getting involved’ in content, is just a lie and a shameful admission of where his true loyalties lay. It’s an unrequited, amoral intervention of yet another billionaire whose greed and ambition knows no limits. FB should be broken up.
As for now, police and, reportedly, army helicopters scrutinize crowds in their fourth-day of NYC protests. The absurdity of having the police arrest and at times beat up participants of a protest against police violence is not amiss among those calling for accountability by law enforcement agencies.
That some police officers were honorably kneeling with protesters doesn’t take away the fact that these killings don’t happen in a vacuum. We’re way past the ‘bad apples’ excuse; only institutional reform, starting by setting jail sentences to killer cops, will show that America is serious about crime. That includes those using their own vehicles against protesters, and the unlawful-behavior-setter-in-chief, the orange cockalorum himself (look it up).
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world./The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned.’ When W.B.Yeats wrote the often-quoted The Second Coming, in 1919, the world was still in the throes of two scourges, WWI and the Spanish Flu. Millions had perished but ‘the worst are full of passionate intensity.‘ These are just such times and it’s fine to find ways to grieve.
We pay homage to Antonio Bolívar, an Amazon indigenous elder, the last of the Ocaina tribe, and an actor who died of coronavirus at 72, in Colombia on April 30; and to Larry Kramer, longtime AIDS and LGBTQ activist who never lacked any conviction, to paraphrase Yeats again, at 84 in New York on May 27. Both Bolívar and Kramer embodied an ideal, an aspiration for a just and happier world, and by applying their lives to it, they’ve changed it.
Not everyone is a hero, a champion, an outstanding member of society. We’re mostly painfully aware of our flaws and have missed way more than got anything right. But we do come to moments when our name is called and we must choose. Whether there are witnesses around is irrelevant; in a split-second, we are our own judge. There’s no knowing what’s coming but there are ways to be ready for when it does. Prepare to do the right thing. Cheers WC


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