Curtain Raiser

Riding Out the Storm, Colltalers

150,000 Covid-19 deaths; paramilitary forces kidnapping activists; steps curbing minority voting. What’s going on in the U.S. has been alarming. But to Trump believers and the Republicans, all is fine. For he’d promised, ‘We’ll determine the course of America and the world for many years to come.’
But despite a still-rising number of cases worldwide, the European Union for instance is managing to flatten the contagion curve while passing a new stimulus package to help workers and safely reopen their economies. That surely gives Trump’s inaugural speech a dark, contrasting shade, doesn’t it?
If anything, the virus has exposed the contrast between the pandemic response by actual or soon-to-be restrictive regimes, and countries more focused on preserving their democratic ways. It’s a difference that shows how nations led by repressive leaders, China, India, Brazil, Russia, are facing growing resistance and social turmoil, while others have experienced mostly a tragic disruption of their way of life but are still engaged in keeping people safe.
China, which had a strategy in place for the novel coronavirus and followed scientific procedures to control it, couldn’t help itself though, taking the opportunity to crush dissent in Hong Kong. Similar to India, which has been using the virus spread to raid minority communities and arrest dissidents.
For Brazil’s Bolsonaro, four times is apparently a charm: after three positives, he now says he’s tested negative for the virus. For the other 210 million Brazilians, however, it has been an awful escalade of deaths – the second highest in the world, with over 87,000 obits – and despair. As the president is not interested in supporting a stimulus package for a crisis that up to a few weeks ago he denied it even existed, the poor has no way to turn for help.
Except, well, to organized crime, which has been fulfilling the role of local governments and providing minimal aid for people. For a price, of course. Drug and weapon gangs operating in shantytowns are known to dispense exacting policies to those under their aegis and require a pathological, Trump-like style of loyalty. Amazon communities though have no such ‘luxury,’ and the virus has been reported navigating freely through the Amazon river.
There’s a surprisingly robust anti-Putin movement in Russia’s far east region with thousands protesting the arrest of governor

Sergei Furgal allegedly on trumped-up murder charges. For now, such unrest is far too remote even for other Russians to challenge the ex- KGB agent in power, or risk a contagion of another kind. But knowing how he treats foes, and now that he’s set to rule for 16 more years if he wishes too, the future still looks bleak.
Europe, which has banned U.S. visitors just in case, has been jockeying to step on the U.S.’ shoes for global leadership. But it hesitates while tyrants solidify their grip on power and use the crisis to go after opponents, as corporations and the rich, dictatorship enablers, grow, well, even richer.
In France, like in other nations, the Black Lives Matter movement has triggered an important conversation about how the French see their own past and present sins dealing with racial inequality and police brutality. Protests Saturday marked the fourth anniversary of Adama Traoré’s death, a Black man killed while in police custody. The murder of George Floyd is said to have been a crucial factor for the new push for accountability for Traoré’s killing.
And while nations sharing with ours a cruel past of colonialism and indigenous extermination have tried to come clean about their origins, America’s image as a safe harbor for the dispossessed, the wronged, and the persecuted, has suffered a blow when a Canadian court declared it ‘unsafe’ for asylum seekers. And another when the president ordered the Census to exclude the undocumented from population totals that determine congressional seats.
To add yet more clarity to the race issue, a new Duke University study found that a North Carolina’s Eugenics program – a debunked effort to prioritize ‘desirable’ racial characteristics –  prescribed mass sterilizations to ‘breed out’ Black folk between 1958 and 1968, way after the Nazi had conducted their harrowing Eugenic experiments during the war. The study calls the decision to sterilize over 2,100 people across the state an ‘act of genocide.’
The sight of ‘stormtroopers,’ which in the U.S. were revealed to be federal agents disguised as Swat-like platoons, arresting and shoving people out of the streets into unmarked vehicles is familiar to millions around the world, not lucky enough to have a constitution declaring that all people are born equal. But it’s also a symptom of something more profound: the resolve to intimidate law-abiding citizens into supporting state-sponsored terrorism.
Media airwaves in the U.S. should be flooded by now with documentaries and every sort of cultural expression depicting what happened in Germany in the 1940s and how regular, well-intentioned citizens were used and took an active part in the extermination of six million mostly Jews, penalized out of racial hatred.
How many were murdered themselves and how, in the end, excuses that they didn’t see it coming were considered just that, excuses. Late repentance was deemed irrelevant not just because by then, people had already been killed, but because we all have a moral obligation to do the right thing now, not in a future that may never come. Many believe that hordes backing Trump even though he’s personally responsible to more than 100,000 deaths are simply misinformed. But that’s simply not true and unfair to the many putting the skin of their own teeth in the game, so to speak.
It’s clear that the president has turned his back to the record and heartbreaking daily deaths many in his constituency are facing, and his fumbling of the Republican Convention location, now officially moved from Jacksonville, Florida to parts unknown, show that he’s s well aware of the danger around.
Just like he’s bullying public schools to reopen – potentially exposing millions of kids to the coronavirus – so to give the world a phony resemblance of normality, while the private college his own son goes to is allowed to remain closed. Worse: the president has one priority at this time: reelection and for that, he’s prepared to do anything, including sending people to their graves. And yes, he’ll keep on holding his scary rallies to ensure that it happens.
The resistance and turmoil in Portland and Seattle may have been stealing part of the BLM’s thunder but they’re necessary and should escalate to the entire nation. When moms and veteran combatants take to the streets to fight with and protect activists, many, yes, Black and people of color fighting for their dignity, it should inform all Americans that it’s time to spring into action. For there are people willing to take a bullet (again!) for justice.
The Americans With Disabilities Act completed 30 years, and here’s yet another minority struggling to gain respect and the opportunities they deserve. It’s been a fractured trajectory, no pun intended, but it’s a human cause worth defending by everyone for all the empathy and solidarity spirit it sows.
The BLM movement has been a lightning rod for America’s neglected issues. It’s been connecting and galvanizing people, not the opposite. We must sign on for its struggle for it represents everybody. It’s July’s last call but don’t hang out in front of its counter: take it to go to prevent the spread. Salut. WC


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