Curtain Raiser

Sixteen Days to Reality, Colltalers

2020 could end now and still be one of the deadliest. Over a million Covid-19 deaths worldwide, a savage rise of hunger and dispossession, wildfires, climate change-driven superstorms, Democracy at risk, we thought we were done. But no, not until a religious zealotry murder had been committed.
Thousands of women marching over the weekend though offered a powerful counternarrative to the criminal negligence, hate incitement, and sheer malfeasance coming out of the White House lately. Paraphrasing Lincoln, another past, way more dignified occupant, they can’t fool us all, all the time.
It’s great to see a mass mobilization of women at such a crucial juncture. Given that the issue of reproductive rights has just landed at the core of the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election, any progressive change in the status quo has to necessarily go through how mankind treats half of the population.
But to be fair, women are already protesting in Belarus, France, Mexico, Brazil, and elsewhere, and their fight against corruption, domestic violence, for equal pay, racial justice, and yes, the right to safe, legal abortion, is one with the rest of society. For patriarchy can no longer deliver us our future.
Thus the significance of the re-election by a landslide of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Domestically, it was her outstanding leadership that neutralized the pandemic and kept Kiwi casualties to only five. But even before she’d already become the embodiment of a morally-sound leader, concerned about all her constituency, with her handling of a racially-motivated murderer who shot and killed 51 Christchurch people over a year ago.
Women have also been a driving force behind political protests in Lebanon, Iraq, and Nigeria, which has been rocked this month with massive Black Lives Matter-inspired rallies in several cities, against police violence. Despite President Muhammadu Buhari and state governments trying to crack down on the protests, which has at the forefront organizations such as The Feminist Coalition, they have only grown in size and impact. #EndSARS.
Back in the U.S., #1 in coronavirus deaths, 225,000, despite its less than 5% of the world’s population, vaccine development has suffered setbacks that further hinder Trump’s prospects. Eli Lilly halted its antiviral trials, and Johnson & Johnson its own therapy, both out of potentially harmful effects.
In a separate, much larger study, the World Health Organization said that Interferon and Remdesivir, this one long pushed by the Trump administration as a ‘cure’ for Covid-19 without any evidence, has failed to increase survival. Once infected, Trump was given a cocktail of Remdesivir and other drugs and declared himself cured, all while lying it’d be available to everyone besides his family and close friends. Well, it’s actually better that it wasn’t.
Two billion people go hungry every day, with no access to essential foods, according to the U.N. Food Program. On World Food Day, Saturday, it also reported that the pandemic may kill more people from its economic impact than from the virus itself. So much for being upset about the new iPhone.
It’s been a trying week in America, what with a sham confirmation hearing rushed to place radical right-wing judge Amy Coney Barrett in the Supreme Court in time to assure a Trump victory. She knew it and so did the entire Senate. The same court that’s about to help Trump exclude the undocumented from the census numbers used to reallocate Congress seats, which will also result in less funding to support the growing diversity of American cities.
Almost six years ago, Islamic terrorists broke into the French satirical zine Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, and massacred 12 people. Among them, Georges Wolinsky and other well-known cartoonists. The ‘reason’ for the attack was depictions of Prophet Muhammad, considered sacrilegious by Muslims.
Friday, Samuel Paty was stabbed and beheaded within sight of the school he taught and had just left, and suddenly we’re back into the Dark Ages when people got killed for picking the wrong god. Or none. The excuse: he had discussed freedom of speech and showed Charlie Hebdo cartoons in class.
It’s not a stretch or ‘unfair’ to relate these extreme cases of religious obscurantism with the push to prevent women from owning their own bodies. Many of the armed militias who seem ready to kill those who disagree with their psychopathic beliefs are devout Christians who pray to go to heaven.
Trump, who has unequivocally invited them to patrol the polls, uses religion as political expediency, but VP Mike Pence, the Attorney General William Barr, and many in this administration and in Capitol Hill do have the ill-intended, and unconstitutional, aim at eliminating church and state separation.
That’s not going to happen because, unlike what they preach, the great majority of Americans, religious or not, has no problem living according to the laws of the land and worship the deity of their choices without proselytizing. ‘Nones,’ as in the non-religious, are now up to 26% of Americans. The Founding Fathers, some of them themselves Christians, wanted no one using allegiance to a king or god as an excuse to break the law. They were right.
The Women’s March should be the opening salvo for the most important 15 days for the future of humanity most of the living have ever experienced. There’s no exaggeration and if a reminder is needed, here it goes: Trump has broken the law in office so many times to disrupt almost three centuries of peaceful political transition. If he doesn’t win the vote, he’s textually promised to do anything to yank that victory out of voters. If he succeeds, there won’t be respect for the rule of law left, and these violent gangs will come after us. He needs to be defeated so to show that the U.S. is bigger than him.
Call back the Black Lives Matter, the LGBTQ activists, those amazing kids who promoted large gun-control rallies, immigrant advocates, labor unions or what’s left of them, your friends and family, the support of the world which is surely on our side. Let them peacefully stake out streets and media, the polls and public squares of America to send a clear message: we’re all equal under the law, votes must be counted, democracy is not up for sale.
This is what many of us will be thankful for just a few years down the road, or forever regretful for not having acted when there was still time. Either most of us or another eight billion will be cognizant of this reality, and some of them will be ‘blood of our own blood.’ But even if you care not about what your relatives can do for you, or how they’ll choose to curse our memory, there’s a once upon a time world that took 13 billion years to evolve and become the only survivable place for humans to live out of this vast, wholly indifferent but splendid universe. A world that made us what we are.
Don’t be afraid if your contribution is only making a few calls, or taking just but a few steps, to dispose of a matter of only a few minutes daily till the election and possibly beyond. For if on that Tuesday the evidence of this landslide that some are talking about with such unearned confidence does turn into reality, a number big enough to overcome the electoral college, no amount of litigation, threats, or high-heeled lawyererese spoke will snatch our future out of our hands. It’ll be over just like it will if Trump is still standing and willing to destroy our democracy to remain in power. Do not let him. WC

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