Curtain Raiser

Dreamers Have the Power, Colltalers

The repulsive spectacle of our non-conceding president seeking to pre-pardon himself, his family, and friends, is not just an admission of guilt. It’s also why those related to 15 million dead and alive Americans with Covid-19 deserve full accountability for the Trump administration’s criminal ineptitude.
When 65 years ago last week Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery, AL, hers was neither a first for such a rebellious act nor the most dramatic but a turning point. Her courage still dwarfs our current resolve to set racial equality in the U.S.
More about that later but let’s start with ‘Make Amazon Pay,’ the movement to force the world’s largest online retailer to fulfill its social obligations. Launched on Black Friday by over 50 organizations, it demands better working conditions and full tax transparency (Amazon paid 0 taxes in 2018).
A letter by over 400 lawmakers from 34 countries to founder Jeff Bezos, who became a trillionaire exactly during the pandemic, says the company has ‘dodged and dismissed … debts to workers, societies, and the planet‘ on its way to market domination and to top the $11 billion profit it made last year.
Good news to those who were born in the U.S. but remain in the limbo of draconian immigration laws: a federal judge ordered the ‘Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,’ or DACA, to be restored to protect the so-called ‘Dreamers‘ from deportation while providing a path to their citizenship. Being but a fraction of undocumented immigrants living in the country, the ruling still benefits over a million and their families, currently terrorized by ICE raids.
An outpour of sadness has been expressed by scientists the world over about the destruction of Puerto Rico’s Arecibo observatory. A spate of accidents, with causes still unknown, culminated with the total collapse last Tuesday of the once largest radio telescope on Earth, the source of many scientific breakthroughs. There’s a campaign to rebuild it but this was yet another hit to the Commonwealth, besides hurricanes, earthquakes, and, well, Trump.
Let’s take a moment to report on three women activists, Loujain al-Hathloul, Agnes Chow, and Nemonte Nenquimo. Saudi Arabia has jailed al-Hathloul for defending women’s rights; China sentenced Chow for co-leading the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong; and Native Ecuadorian Nenquimo was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for fighting to protect the Amazon Rainforest. Their predicament mirrors their struggle.
Saudi and Chinese authorities share similar despotic urges to control everyone, especially women, and are unlikely to refrain from muzzling their most vocal opponents. As for the sole positive development in this list, the prestigious award will help long-time forest protector Nenquimo and members of the Waorani people to continue on their mission. Last year, they took the Ecuadorian government to court and won, saving 500,000 acres of rainforest.
A special note about student scientist and inventor Gitanjali Rao, chosen as Time Magazine’s first ‘Kid of the Year.’ The 15-year-old from Colorado, who used artificial intelligence and applications to tackle contaminated drinking water, cyberbullying, opioid addiction, and other social problems, patented her first invention at 12: a portable device to detect lead in water. Picked among 5,000 others, she surely gives us all confidence in the future.
Speaking of Indigenous activism, today Hoksila White Mountain will push for his native-supported indication to the city council of McLaughlin, SD. Over the summer, he’d been prevented from running for mayor despite gathering all appropriate documentation. A seat for him at the mostly-white council will represent a first in the city and a guarantee that his community will be heard at important decisions. Here’s our support for his candidacy.
It’s an abject scandal that, as America’s coronavirus death toll approaches a record 300,000, the president’s only concern is to avoid persecution once he leaves office. But it’s all been made worse by daily media speculation about his future or deranged dreams of running again in four years. Meanwhile, questions about vaccine distribution, priority candidates, safety, and above all, costs, will surely keep optimism about it a few degrees below bubbling.
Parks’ gesture was planned but few expected it’d provoke a 381-day boycott of Montgomery city buses, or that it’d ignite what became the civil rights movement. Given the kind of year we’ve just about to wrap up, with numerous, peaceful Black Lives Matter marches violently repressed by police and white supremacist goons, the seamstress fully deserves her place in history. We honor her heart and vision, but we still live in a segregated America.
Say you want a revolution/we better get on right away/Well you get on your feet/and into the street/singing power to the people/power to the people.‘ No one was prepared to lose John Lennon on Dec. 8, 1980, and 40 years later, few made peace with his loss. Even now that he’s gone for as long as he’s lived, we can’t make sense of the brutality of his death. Except that his music endures and shows he was mostly right on while alive and kicking.
Some of his songs sound as fresh as when he sang them, with and after The Beatles, and their simplicity can have the power of bullets. Yes, we’re still fighting to be counted, still being arrested for demanding dignity and humanity. Even his beloved NYC is back to a more violent, gun-infested time. But we still share his positive outlook; death can’t kill a well-lived life. So here’s to John, Rosa, Agnes, Loujain, Nemonte, and Gitanjali. C-Ya. WC

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