Curtain Raiser

We All Come From Elsewhere, Colltalers

The Atlanta massage parlor massacre has a clear provenance. It began by the ex-president calling Covid-19 the ‘China virus.’ It escalated unimpeded through attacks on Asian-Americans as police looked into the debunked ‘lone wolf’ theory. Thus who’s ever doubted it all would end up with bullets?
As the U.S. hits the 100-million-dose mark, there’s growing pressure for President Biden and other Western leaders to force a suspension of patterns owned by big labs, so everyone can get a shot. AstraZeneca has some explaining to do. Plus floods and rats in Australia, and the unwavering Burmese.
We start in Russia where President Putin congratulated himself on the anniversary of his unilateral annexation of Crimea in 2014. He’s got away with it so far, except for his complicated relationship with Ukraine and its president, former actor Volodymyr Zelensky – yes, that Zelensky of the first Trump impeachment. See, he may be against it, but millions of Russians, Ukrainians, and even Crimeans may be just fine with it. Thus Putin wins again.
In Brazil, 1,290 people lost their lives to what President Bolsonaro once called it ‘a little flu‘ in just 24 hours last week while adding near 48,000 new cases. Brazil seconds only the U.S. with near 300 thousand Covid deaths, but they’re almost twice those in India, which has 6,5 times its population.
As for Myanmar, the Burmese people are offering the world a tremendous lesson on resilience and dignity, fighting the truculent army that took power on Feb. 1. The military has conducted night raids resulting in thousands of civilians ‘disappeared’ besides enforcing a policy of summary extermination, shooting street protesters at will. As refugees reportedly seek asylum in India, the country’s ambassador calls for U.N. sanctions against the spoilers.
Residents of Mandalay have helped railroad workers relocate over the weekend after the junta determined that they must pay their support to a growing pro-democracy movement by leaving their subsidized housing. The world has been way too slow to act, and when it finally does, it may be too late.
For those wondering why the U.S. has a defense budget larger than the next 10 nations combined, a Stockholm International Peace Research Institute report found that in five years, over a third of all arms exports came from the U.S. No war or repression will be undersupplied, be it Yemen, Syria, in a Rio shantytown or at the corner of Park and 125th. None of these expensive weapons however were used to defend the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill.
After two years when apocalyptical wildfires destroyed some 50 million acres of bushland, it’s time it seems for Australia to face yet another round of biblical curses. This time is rats and floods. Don’t mean to be flippant about the heavy downpours that are threatening and evicting people from their homes. But like in most rich nations, the emergency of climate change is still not driving policy decisions hard enough to begin reversing it just yet.
And then there are the rats, multiplying like there’s no tomorrow because in fact there may not be one, coming to think of it. Those who reminded the Aussies that not long ago, they’d a plan to kill millions of cats have received the usual contempt from animal lovers – or cat haters. Surely they were talking about feral cat killers, not your lovely pussy. Ahem. In any event, now may be too risky to outlaw felines; the alternative may kill humans too.
Grief and sorrow in the Asian community were embraced by millions of Americans of all races who took the streets over the weekend to demand justice. Naturally, for this day and age, the police had to say something completely inappropriate in what looked like an attempt to protect the murderer and turn anonymous those he assassinated. It won’t work this time. We all already know that more police won’t prevent violence, only aggravate it.
As with Black Lives Matter, law enforcement institutions in this country are having a moment of reckoning even if it’s hardly being acknowledged by them. Society weights the rationality of sending armed guards to resolve every dispute, from traffic violations to mental-illness breakdowns. Above all, police departments have shown a clear racial bias with catastrophic consequences to the communities they’re supposed to serve. Asians deserve better.
Reported deaths and complications from the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine are concerning and may have been the by-product of secrecy and monopoly exercised by big lab corporations. But they don’t validate any of the anti-vax arguments, except for the unavoidable fact that there isn’t much time to test them to absolute safety. Too many are dying too fast, and many more have actually survived due to it. But we’re far from being out of the woods.
Almost everything about Amazon.com has an extra-large dimension to it, from the billions it’s been making to the pitiful benefits and taxes it pays – when it pays; it paid ‘$0′ in 2017 and 2018, just when some two thousand Americans were being audited and fined by the Internal Revenue Service.
The delivery-on-roids company is, of course, owned by the infamous Jeff Bezos, who became a ‘trillionaire’ during the worst pandemic in 100 years. Now, though, his company may unwittingly make history, due to its courageous Alabama workforce who are voting until next Monday to unionize. It may be the trigger millions of American workers are hoping for, one that will create a chain reaction, and the revival of collective bargaining in labor relations. Unions, villainized and fought by corporations for most of the past century, were key to turn the U.S. economy into the biggest in the world.
Paul Rusesabagina. The name may not ring any bells, unless you’re familiar with Rwanda, Africa, or a fan of the actor Don Cheadle who portrayed him in a hit movie. Yes, he’s the hotel manager credited with saving over a thousand people in the 1994 genocide conducted by the Hutu majority against the Tutsi minority. Now he’s on trial accused of being a terrorist. On the surface, it’s a stunning turn of events for someone many consider their hero.
As it turns out, the story is slightly more complicated as his former ally and now President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, has become his biggest enemy. Whether he is or not conspiring against his old friend is uncertain, but what no one has disputed is that his country has become a brutal dictatorship.
Rusesabagina is a U.S. resident but it was his country of adopted citizenship, Belgium, that opened an investigation into his involvement in a 2018 militia attack by the leading Rwandan opposition group, the FNL. That gave Kagame all he needed to kidnap Rusesabagina and put him on trial.
It was also in 2018 that a video of 12-year-old Sementinha singing and armed with a machine gun in Angra dos Reis, Brazil, went viral. At that tender age, he was already a drug war veteran. But his malnourished body and weary smile betrayed the fate of millions of Brazilian children, left to fend for themselves in an unforgiven world. Last Thursday, a life started too early and ended too fast couldn’t dodge one last, final bullet. R.I.P., Lil’ Seed.
Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian Formula 1 driver would’ve been 61 yesterday. Considered one of the finest of his profession, he died in 1994, leading a race in Italy. Some saw his skill at winning as a contradicting mix of his workmanship and dedication to the sport, and privileged access his wealthy upbringing allowed. He was also an empathetic human, who funded charities and brought joy to his still mournful Brazilians. He’ll be forever missed.
It’s generally blamed on the dimension of this planet, on the vast distances between cultures and times, on widening gaps of development and progress throughout the centuries. Or on religion. Ethnic strife, racial hatred, xenophobia belong to ancient eras when people lived far apart, and the ‘other‘ was most likely bound to cause harm. Humans still need this tribal sense of identification, of being blessed by their ancestors’ knowledge and memory.
Assuming that most people know who else is out there today, though, hate is no longer a primal self-preservation instinct. It is, instead, an anachronism manipulated by the powers that be to instill loyalty and obedience. In other words, it’s an abomination now. Keep your songs, your rituals, and your spirit alive. But hate has to go. Foreigners are you at some point of your journey, we’re all displaced refugees. Protectors wanted. Care to apply? Cheers WC

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