Curtain Raiser

What Legacies Are Made of, Colltalers

Daylight Time Savings is on, a sight spring is not too far. Covid-19, though, is yet to receive the memo; global cases have beat the 120 million mark, and the U.S. has a quarter of them. Good and bad news about vaccines: many got their shots in the global north but billions worldwide remain uninoculated.
Brazil, second on that grim list of virus casualties, experienced an earthquake of sorts with the return of former President Lula da Silva to politics. And there’s also a string of sad anniversaries to mark: Breonna Taylor, Marielle Franco, the Syrian civil war, and the Fukushima nuke disaster and tsunami.
Let’s start with Bolivia, where far-right Jeanine Añez was arrested on terrorism and sedition charges. She instigated the 2019 military coup that ousted the country’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales, and led a brutal regime that persecuted and killed countless pro-democracy activists. Morales has since returned and in Oct. his ally Luis Arce won a closely-watched special election. Bolivia, population of 11 million, has 260,000 coronavirus cases.
In Poland, as around the world, massive marches marked Women’s Day on Sat but the focus this year was the draconian anti-abortion law that went into effect on Jan. With increasingly restrictive measures against sex minorities – the country has now what it calls ‘LGBTQ-Free Zones!‘ –  religious zealotry seems to have been inscribed into law. Poland may be ready for a gifted leader to take it out of a past of coal, war, and prejudice and back to the future.
And Scotland, whose efforts to become independent from the United Kingdom have increased since Brexit, was told by the U.K. Prime Minister that he’s against another referendum. The first one, in 2014, failed to grant autonomy to Scots, but F.M. Nicola Sturgeon has since pushed for a new vote.
A few other issues of note include Myanmar, where the now indiscriminate killings of civilians by the military that staged the Feb.1 coup continues to sow terror in the country. And Mexico and Marocco which are fine-tuning legislation to make marijuana legal, or at least for medical condition therapies.
A report by the World Health Organization found that nearly one-third of women and girls will experience some form of sexual or physical violence in their lifetime. Even as lockdowns have exacerbated violence toward women, numbers don’t yet reflect what the U.N. calls ‘a shadow pandemic.’
And the scary climate emergency-related reports keep rolling on. One, from Rainforest Foundation Norway, found that human activities have destroyed 34% of old-growth tropical rainforests worldwide. And another, by over 30 scientists sponsored by the National Geographic Society, determined that the Amazon Rainforest is now a net contributor to the warming of the planet. What used to be called ‘the lungs of the world‘ is now grasping for air.
When President Lula was sentenced to 12 years in jail, on what’s now been proven to be trumped-up charges, it was the official end to a sort of spring to Brazil. After all, after two landslide elections, Lula and his successor Dilma Rousseff led the country to the greatest economic growth and social mobility period of its history. But by 2016, Rousseff had been ousted, again on unproven allegations, and Brazil had started a long, painful plunge from grace.
From 6th- to 12th-economy in the world in three years, from a leader of emergent markets to a fire sale of its most valuable assets, from rescuing an estimated 30 million people out of extreme poverty to rejoining the list of nations where hunger is rampant, it was a fall from what never quite looked like a paradise to a much worst place. The tragedy of Covid and its unrestrained path of death may be another fallout of the legislative coup against Rousseff.
Lula and his Workers’ Party, still Brazil’s largest representation in congress, touched every segment of the economy and society, even when banks’ record profits at times seemed at odds with the party’s leftist governance manifesto. The coordinated attack, by a far-right alliance of big landowners, rich Evangelical leaders, and conservative media that ultimately cost Lula power and freedom, will surely be dissected by historians of the future.
Not by coincidence, President Bolsonaro launched the first mass vaccination program – with a vaccine produced by the country’s own Butantã Institute. Despite rising deaths and entire states still locked out of it, some may be breathing a bit easier. Others are simply elated as Lula could potentially beat Bolsonaro next year. If he runs. But the country remains split and there’ll be always many who hate him and will vote for the other guy no matter what.
Ten years ago, a nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Ōkuma, Japan, triggered by an earthquake, created a giant tsunami that killed nearly 16,000 people. Beyond the reminder that natural disasters can throw any society back to its Stone Age, the ultimate cost of the horrific event is yet to be precisely drawn. But to be sure, the entire planet was actually spared from an even worst fate as reactors melted but cooled off in time.
Around the same time, what started as peaceful rallies against President Bashar al-Assad has escalated to an international conflict on Syrian soil. In this past decade, it has destroyed much of the countryside but the forces still fighting there are but proxies, making the bid for Russia, Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, Shia Muslim militias, Israel, Saudi Arabia, a U.S.-led coalition of Western countries, and an assortment of violently distraught Islamic groups.
What al-Assad started as a push to crush internal dissent has completely spiraled out of his control, but he’s still in power. While big powers refuse to take the lead to broker peace among warring forces, behind the scenes, they continue to fund it and bomb it. As a result, over half a million have died.
There are similarities between Marielle Franco, a Brazilian councilwoman and LGBTQ activist assassinated by militiamen linked to Rio police three years ago yesterday, and Breonna Taylor, an emergency room technician, shot by the Louisville, KY, police inside her own home, a year ago. Both were poor, working-class Black women with a will to make a difference, and that’s what typical garden-variety macho tugs working for corrupt systems hate.
Marielle was killed for her ideas and accomplishments, daring ascent, and her true-telling political trajectory. Breonna was shot by a police force known for racial profiling. But ultimately they were killed by rising femicide, whose numbers especially during the pandemic rose to inconceivable heights. There’s also something else, though their brutal demise brought forth to the world: at their moment, they’d already given their 110% many times over.
None of their assassins has been brought to justice – banners with ‘Who Ordered the Murder of Marielle?’ are all over her city – even though in her case, two of the shooters are in jail. The mark they’ve left however is indelible. After all, poor ‘Cariocas,’ and BLM activists continue to fight for justice.
Our time here is brief. We get busy with our lives, dreams, and aching backs but often forget that it’s what we leave, not what we can’t take with us anyway, that counts. Be on the lookout, dear reader, to jump at the opportunity to make peace, plant a tree, kiss your mom. It’s great too if we can match at least a tiny part of what Marielle and Breonna’s legacies are all about. But if it’s love that it’s important to you, then you’ll be remembered. See ya. WC


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