Curtain Raiser

Lives Making Ours Better, Colltalers

Record COVID-19 cases and no federal action to reverse them show that President Trump’s mind is elsewhere: reelection. But with falling polls, many say he may not leave the White House if he loses. Law enforcement and the military won’t go along with that, but his new, unmarked police force may.
As Black Lives Matter strikes nationally today, after months of protests against racism and police brutality, it’s fitting that two giants of the 1960s’ civil rights struggle, Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian, passed away on the same Friday. Both have made this world better than when they came to it.
Let’s start the news roundup with the imminent danger of annihilation faced by Brazil’s indigenous peoples due to rampant coronavirus infection rates. President Bolsonaro’s just vetoed legislation that would support heavily affected native communities in the Amazon. Under pressure from corporations and investors, the administration had enacted a bill temporarily banning forest fires but it still refuses to address the seriousness of the pandemic.
A ‘stillborn decree,’ calls it Dinaman Tuxá, coordinator of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples Articulation, about an act seen as largely ineffective for lacking funding to be enforced. Over 500 natives have died from the virus out of an estimated 15 thousand cases, Tuxá told Mesa Para Seis, a virtual panel with journalists. Over two million Brazilians – and Bolsonaro – have COVID-19, the second-highest number after the U.S.’ near four million cases.
Something else became apparent in the tragically incompetent response to the pandemic by the most powerful country in the world, closely echoed by Brazil, India, and Russia: apart from the fact that most of their misery is of their own making, they’re all regimes ruled by autocrats solely focused on self-preservation. While these nations still call themselves democracies, they’re heading to institutional authoritarianism. So many more will perish.
But don’t count on nature to offer us a reprieve from the climate emergency, while we sort out petty issues related to intellectual property of medicines. A Global Carbon Project

study showed that atmospheric levels of methane, a greenhouse gas more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat and increasing Earth’s temperature, beat the record in 2017, the latest estimates available. Raising cattle and coal mining are the main culprits for the spike.
As is, such rise undermines goals set by 195 nations at the 2015 Paris Summit, to keep global warming under 1.5° C, and further reducing that later. In what may be a first, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden took the cue and presented his comprehensive, $2 trillion plan to fight the climate emergency. Even without embracing the Green New Deal, the current standard blueprint for changing the economy from the ground up, and pressured by progressives to deliver a platform that would rile up first-time voters, Biden proved that he can be coachable and geared into the right direction.
The four-year plan addresses key issues such as adopting clean energy in the transportation, electricity, and building industries, to revive the economy onto an entirely different set of fundamentals. Leading in the polls and relatively protected from too intense media exposure, the former vice president still has a major hurdle to clear on his way back to the White House, apart from curbing his occasional mental slips: his VP choice. It has to be great.
On the other side of the pond, the European Union has struggled to fulfill the vacuum in global leadership since the U.S. has left the building of that capacity. In a virtual meeting last week, the 27-member bloc has pledged to cut down greenhouse gas emissions by 40% against 1990 levels by 2030, but failed to define how exactly it plans to do that. Not to mention that some nations are still resisting phasing out all fossil fuels from their economies.
No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either.’ That was Trump’s answer to Fox News on whether he’d abide by the results of the presidential election in case he loses. In a nutshell, that’s the stuff democratic nightmares are made of: a president clearly stating that he won’t obey a law that he doesn’t like, which has also been his M.O. throughout these ghastly times. How can he possibly do that, you wonder.
By the omission of the other powers of the republic; by the complicity of members of his party; by dismayed citizens; and by creating a paramilitary force to enforce his decisions. The scenes broadcast from Portland, OR, last week, of heavily-armed squads of unidentified soldiers kidnapping people in the streets and shoving them into unmarked cars to usher them away to parts unknown, were not just disturbing but also unheard of in the U.S.
Later in the week, Homeland Security Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli acknowledged that they were federal agents, deployed for who knows what other than to add yet another military squad to oppress peaceful protesters. It was also an attempt to arrest the public perception that these forces have been created ultimately to serve the president’s needs, not the public’s. The scenes, though, of what looks like a banana republic, are utterly scary.
The American Civil Liberties of Oregon dutifully sued the administration for deploying the unnamed forces made up of agents from the DHS and the U.S. Marshals Service. According to the ACLU, rather than helping out, they were there ‘to crush demonstrations’ against racism and police brutality.
Rep. John Lewis, 80, a Democrat from Georgia, and Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian, 95, a longtime civil rights activist, were both friends and collaborators of the Rev. Dr, Martin Luther King Jr., and together put in motion the conditions needed for the great mass movements of the 1960s. That they passed away during the peak of the Black Lives Matter protests just shows how interconnected people and historical events really are. Rest in Power, Two of a Kind.
July is the monthlong StopHateforProfit boycott against Facebook which still insists it can’t curb hate speech and/or the president’s lies. Owner Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly said it’s all just a big coincidence that since 2016 it’s been hosting and sheltering thousands of shady conspiracy groups that support Trump. With 2.6 billion monthly users, to quote a Biden’s favorite intro, ‘the fact to the matter is’ that FB is too big and should be broken up.
Speaking of the BLM, today’s strike is a call for ‘Black workers and allies to walk off the job,’ demand anti-racism changes for society, and push back against worker exploitation. It’s yet another step forward for accountability and to heal and rid the nation of its murderous beginnings. All Americans are being asked to do something symbolic if they can’t strike, to show they know which side the toast is buttered on and which will land on the floor.
Revolution is always an act of self-defense,’ said the Rev. Vivian. Voting ‘is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have’, said Rep. Lewis. These twin towers of the civil rights movement never deviated from their principles, which still power the Black Liberation movement and all changes their lives brought about to the American society. One raised by a single parent and the other, a son of sharecroppers. And yet their spirit represented multitudes.
No one is a hero at birth and the accolade rarely defines a person even at the end. We grow through our flaws and warts, not by virtue of being special. While some rise above the heap for inherited circumstances, or for their extreme physical ou artistic ability, and yet others simply land there without any purpose, a few get to the mountaintop on the sheer power of their empathy to strangers. Vivian and Lewis were it. So can we. Keep on breathing. WC

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