Curtain Raiser

Bleak Outlook & Yet We Rise, Colltalers

Israel’s long-sitting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may lose his seat to a political coalition. Palestinians, however, are not counting on support from his challengers. Life in Gaza and occupied territories remains miserable. But there’s an opening and the U.S. and the UN should seize it at once.
Rallies against Brazil’s president, a decision against Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron woes, and the horrifying discovery of bodies of native kids mass buried in Canada rocked the week. But today’s 100 years of the Tulsa Massacre, an entire Black neighborhood razed but to be never forgotten again.
In Germany, speaking of unforgettable 20th-century massacres, the government has formally recognized atrocities against Namibia’s Herero and Nama people and pledged to “recognize the immense suffering inflicted.” Regardless of how much such gestures resonate within both nations, it’s fair to expect that they should be coming in cascades from others by now. They haven’t but there’s growing awareness about Europe’s cruel colonial past.
In Italy and the U.S., a Vice News investigation uncovered a disturbing trend: the Catholic Church has reinstated to active positions priests accused of child sexual abuse. A dozen of them have been internally “cleared of charges” and returned to their parishes during the pandemic, no less. In that, the church acts like any other immoral organization: self-preservation trumps the wellbeing of their customers, never mind they’re hurting. Outrageous.
In Canada, the remains of 215 children were found buried around the country’s largest residential school, said Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation. 150,000 indigenous kids were taken from their families from the late 1800s until the 1970s, to assimilate into society. That included conversion to Christianity, a ban on their native languages, and physical punishment. Some 6,000 may have died so more may be discovered.
In Brazil, tens of thousands of people took to the streets against President Bolsonaro’s catastrophic management of Covid-19. Over 460,000 Brazilians have died of the virus, second only to the U.S. whose numbers may shrink in months ahead. Unlikely in Brazil, where less than 16% of the population has been twice-vaccinated. But popular dissatisfaction may be traced back to five years ago when a legislative coup ousted President Dilma Rousseff.
Not to exempt Bolsonaro of responsibility, Brazil’s dive into disrepair so to speak predates him for at least a few months. He now may be heading to a perfect storm, what with Lula once again aa the front-runner for next year’s election, a Congressional probe, and calls for his impeachment. To jaded analysts though, change is not due till next year when we may all witness the president immolate himself at the polls. But can Brazilians wait that long?
Here’s the week’s rare good news about the climate emergency, from separate decisions. Time reports that shareholders asked ExxonMobil why it’s not “jumping into renewable energy?” just when Chevron investors voted to slash emissions, what Royal Dutch Shell was also ordered to do so but by a court, to align with the Paris Agreement. In 2020, these mammoths posted a combined $450 billion profit, but they’re still accountable to their backers.
Back in the U.S., Democrats and the majority of Americans were once again foiled and humiliated by Senate Republicans. The filibuster script was followed to its flawed letter and a 911-type investigation into the Jan. 6 Trump-supported deadly rampage and invasion of Capitol Hill has bitten the dust.
While some wonder what happened to the power of the majority, routinely obliterated by this anti-democratic maneuvering, others ask why ending it is not the first priority? With filibuster, no meaningful proposal will pass in Congress. Ever. Let’s face it, bipartisanship is dead, long live simple majority.
That’s the reason why there have been 232 mass shootings so far this year in the U.S. but no legislation to address them. Instead, since the pandemic, there’s been a spike in gun ownership. And Texas will allow people to carry handguns without a license, background check, or training. Hip hooray.
There’s now rising “digital vigilantism” too. The Popular Citizen app for instance was recently caught offering to pay users to capture what turned out to be an innocent man. To some, the app, which is fed by concerned people and also busybodies, has crossed the line and should be reprimanded.
As Gaza survivors try to make sense of the world’s response to their plight – by ignoring when they’re being killed and then offering money to rebuild afterward – Israel is in turmoil as there’s a real risk that Netanyahu loses his job of 12 years, and also immunity from suits stacked against him. That hardly concerns Palestinians, though, forever on the sidelines of Israeli politics. But it should; far-right Naftali Bennett may become the new PM.
He’s expected to head the cabinet first in a power-sharing agreement by enforcing an agenda of even more settlement building in the occupied West Bank and its partial annexation. He’d then be replaced in a rotation at a later date by Yair Lapid, himself not a stalwart of Palestinian liberation either.
“I still see Black men being shot, black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke and see fire. I still see Black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams,” Viola Fletcher, 107, Tulsa Massacre survivor testify. “I have lived through the massacre every day.”
On May 31, 1921, the Greenwood district in Tulsa, OK, was a vibrant business and residential community catering mainly to Black people. Known as Black Wall Street, it had a well-heeled financial structure that allowed people of color to prosper and thrive. But it all changed when a heavily-armed white mob supported by private aircraft started an attack that lasted days, destroyed 35 square blocks of the area, and may’ve killed up to 300 people.
Hundreds were injured or left homeless, while their material possessions and considerable combined wealth were stolen from them. A century later, there’s finally talk about reparation and that their history, such a despicably tragic chapter on the African-American saga, will no longer be forgotten.
Josep Almudéver Mateu, last survivor of the anti-fascist International Brigades of the 1936 Spanish Civil war, has left us after 101 years. A Frenchman, he fought next to volunteers from all over, including the famed American Lincoln Brigade and scores of artists, writers, and intellectuals. They may’ve lost to a Hitler and Mussolini-supported Generalissimo Franco but this veteran and his brothers’ humanity outlasted dictators. R.I.P., Comrade Josep.
“Every morning I wake with wonder and dive into the day. I rise even when the news of the day makes me want to stay in bed. Oh yes I mourn those we have lost and the cost of human lives. But still I rise on this new day out of bed like a miracle…” Excerpts of a crowdsourced poem compiled by NPR’s Kwame Alexander from audience reactions to Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise.” It’s our way to help you celebrate this Memorial Day. Cheers WC


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