Curtain Raiser

A Trail of Tears Haunts Us, Colltalers

It’s now frighteningly easy to predict the COVID-19’s expansion. With the U.S. set to reach 3.5 million cases, and Brazil, two million and counting – the two top spreaders have no discernible health strategy to slow it down – worldwide cases may reach 14 million next week. Will they change? Nah.
Not even if Trump gets sick, as Bolsonaro and many members of their inner circle did. There’s no pro-democracy movement in Brazil, as Hong Kong had, and in the U.S., the Supreme Court just wrapped its ‘full of sound and fury, signifying‘ well, little term. So the president pardoned another crook.
To begin unpacking this chock-full of news week – you’d be surprised – let’s get to the issue affecting most nations around the world: when should kids go back to school? Many leaders have detailed plans to proceed in stages, along with testing and tracing for new cases, while social distance measures are to remain in place. Some countries have also enviable public policies for child care and health coverage so it all can be orchestrated accordingly.
Not the U.S., of course, and neither Brazil, as it’s clear their leaders’ rule number one is to self preserve by any means necessary. They’re not just quickly becoming global pariahs but their policies have the potential to encourage other far-right would-be despots to seize more power on the slight.
India and Russia, the two following coronavirus record-holders, have reportedly close to a million cases each, even though knowing what’s really going on in any of these four nations is a game of educated guesses. The bottom line is countries with virtually half of all cases have no school plan at all. In families struggling to remain above the poverty line, no classes also mean less time to earn income, and worse, no school meals available for the kids.
In the U.S., as daily cases of infections are beating all-time records, the president is bullying schools to open, threatening to suspend federal funds if they don’t. It’s not hard to know why:

businesses running, schools open, rallies and a promised vaccine by October, all mean just one thing: reelection.
Many of the nations signing off from the pandemic’s casualty roll have implemented unemployment benefits and extra protections far beyond anything considered by the ‘sleeping giant’ below the Equator, and its big bro in the North. The nearly 50 million Americans who filed jobless claims in the past months may see benefits dry out as soon as the end of July. Other temporary protections, against evictions, for instance, are also set to be phased out.
Will that spell a robust opposition to the discriminatory, racist, and incompetent policies of the Trump administration? Meaning that Black Americans and their allies will soon be joined by every American affected by this crisis and Trump’s tragically misguided response? Let’s not trust twice-told tales.
While conservative estimates see the COVID-19 scourge being extended to the far side of 2021, there’s something else that may extend for a thousand years: global warming. A study by U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization found that annual global temperatures could exceed 2.7°F over the next five years. That goes against the below 35.6°F or less which 195 minus-the-U.S. nation signers of the Paris climate accord had committed to pursuing.
That may drive another nail to the Amazon Rainforest coffin. Scientists at NASA have predicted a season of hell there, as nearly of forest were cut down during the first three months of 2020, 51% more than in the same period last year, and the extra dry season may set widespread fires.
For now, as no one is tending to the store, what’s widespread is the land-grabbing of government and indigenous territories, plus illegal mining and logging. A new law bans forest fires but lawlessness in the region has increased since Bolsonaro ordered an overhaul of environmental agency Ibama for conducting a single raid that irritated big landowners in his constituency. Result: the beating (of the forest) will continue until morality gives up.
In the latest package to address the rising number of obits and new infections registered in Brazil, Bolsonaro vetoed legislation that would guarantee natives free potable water, hygiene, cleaning, and disinfectant products, and access to hospital beds. Not completely unrelated to that is the passing of Chief Domingos Mohoro last week, another indigenous leader who’s died either by the coronavirus or by an assassination squad. R.I.P. old warrior.
To offer a reprieve, we’ve got some good environmental justice news: thanks to the effort, moral compass, and sacrifice of Native and African Americans, major oil pipelines have hit the dust or at least, halted for further reviews of their environmental impact. The first was the stoppage of the Dakota Access Pipeline construction, fought against by the Standing Rock Sioux and tribes of the Lakota People, along with help from the EarthJustice group.
On July 5, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy canceled the 600-mile-long Atlantic Coast Pipeline, that’d have carried fracked gas from Virginia to North Carolina. Tribes including the Lumbee, Coharie, Haliwa-Saponi, and Meherrin had opposed the project for years and so have Virginia’s Black communities.
On the next day, the Supreme rejected Keystone XL’s permit, which the Cheyenne River Sioux had opposed from the get-go, in 2008. The last one was one of the rulings by the highest court on land that led many to believe there’s a silver lining on its term that’s just ended. There isn’t.
In fact, the Supreme Court has clearly had its favorites that, one can bet their soul, will be enforced, no matter what. One is to avoid a wrestling match with progressive forces. The other is faith, or rather, its free reign interfering in state matters even when that poises a blatant constitutional challenge.
The court ruled, for instance, that religion-devout employers can deny health coverage for abortion. Viagra, however, is fully covered. Court decisions like this have little to do with morality and everything with values cheered by a patriarchal society. While abortion is a personal decision with social implications, forced upon by harsh realities, the Blue Pill is mostly prescribed for vanity and age-old sexual delusions. Self-interest? Let’s not be crass.
The arguably most enduring decision of the court presided by Justice John Roberts was about Trump’s tax financial records, maybe a crucial indicator of his misdeeds before and while president. In a verbose, overwrought, and pompous decision, the court proclaimed that no man is above the law. But the many caveats it encrusted onto the ruling put any chance for the American people to gain access to them right up there where the sun won’t shine.
That’s why only Shakespeare to put it all properly as he did on Macbeth. In four terms under Trump, and in many before, the U.S. Supreme Court has consolidated a political and partisan role in decisions that have affected the lives of the majority of Americans. That’s why there’s so much money in electoral campaigns, voting became subjected to the ill will of corrupt leaders, and now, a woman remains a second-class citizen for getting pregnant.
The decision was one that unmistakenly favors the powers of church and religion, of the extreme kind, who still insist that abortion and homosexuality are worse crimes that the sexual abuse of kids by priests. Speaking of the Catholic Church, it’s one of the groups that’s received what most Americans have not: a substantial federal aid to compensate for COVID-19 disruptions. It’s got a cool $1.4 billion that it will likely use to fight victim lawsuits.
On the far end of the Trail of Tears was a promise.‘ That how starts the winning argument, written by Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch, no less, for the Supreme Court ruling that much of eastern Oklahoma falls within an Indian reservation. Despite a dissenting opinion by chief Roberts, the decision has positive implications to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and all Native Americans, even as it does not mean that land will change hands.
It was a good week for descendants of the ‘first Americans,’ those already here when the Europeans arrived. But like the land, it won’t change much. Indigenous communities continue to be ravaged by COVID-19 all over the Americas. So are Black and Brown people. Thus, they’ll all be present at the July 20 Strike for Black Lives. As will all ‘thoughtful, committed citizens,’ to quote Margaret Mead. And so will we (wearings masks). Get it on. WC


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