Curtain Raiser

Our Desire For Retribution, Colltalers

Presidential and mid-term elections in Peru and Mexico – one a final round with a leftist frontrunner and the other marked by staggering violence – may finally force the Biden administration to come up with new ideas about Latin America. Or it could just tell us everything it knows about UFOs instead.
Gun ownership has grown in the U.S. but a California judge thinks there’re not enough assault rifles out there. Also senseless are China’s efforts to curb Hong Kong again by suppressing its vigils for the Tiananmen Massacre’s anniversary. And a high-school valedictorian schooled Texas’ abortion limits.
Let’s start in Cali, Colombia, where the police killed five people in ongoing protests against President Iván Duque’s neoliberal policies. After over a month of turmoil and violent repression, he’s proposed his “solution” to the crisis on national TV: more police. With more than 90,000 Covid deaths, Colombia saw its oil production volumes sink and inflation rise under Duque. He should be wary: he may be fired in the May 29 presidential elections.
From Minnesota comes a disturbing report on harassment and sexual abuse of women by contractors brought over by the $2.9 billion Line 3 Pipeline project. According to the Violence Intervention Project, there have been charges of sex trafficking and over 40 reports of assaults on mostly indigenous women and girls. If completed, Line 3 will carry 760,000 oil barrels from Alberta, Canada, to Lake Superior, Earth’s largest freshwater lake by surface area.
Better fortune had the Passamaquoddy, a tribe that has lived in what is today Maine, U.S., for 10,000 years: it’s just bought back an island colonialists have stolen from them in 1820. Charities have helped raise the $355,000 for Kuwesuwi Monihq, or Pine Island, where no Passamaquoddy has set foot in 160 years. It’s the latest successful “land back” purchase by indigenous groups to recover some of the estimated 1.5 billion acres lost since 1776.
Ever since the Navy declassified videos of flying objects playing “catch me if you can” with jet pilots, there’s been talk that the Pentagon and/or the White House know more about so-called UFOs than they’re letting it in. The tradition of denials will be probably upheld as no reasonable explanation can be given about the phenomenon, except that it’s real and there’s no technology to support their peripatetic moves. Thus, for now, enjoy the sights.
There was no enjoyment watching retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter’s Memorial Day speech in Ohio being cut off out of undisclosed racism, as it turned out. Just when he spoke of free Black slaves honoring fallen Civil War soldiers, his audio dropped and apparently could not be fixed. It wasn’t a mishap, though: ceremony organizers Cindy Suchan and Jim Garrison, who’s resigned, admitted to having censored the decorated official. Shameful.
Amid increased polarization, and having the world’s highest Covid death toll per capita, Peruvians are locked in a dilemma: vote for a union leader but political neophyte Pedro Castillo, or for Keiko Fujimori, daughter of a jailed right-wing former president. Years of institutional chaos, partly attributed to the convicted leader, seemed to have given the edge to Castillo in the first round and now but Fujimori is within reach. Results will be out Monday.
Beheadings, assassinations, and human remains found in two voting polls. That’s the reality Mexicans face to switch gears of their country. It’ll also be a confidence vote on President Andrés Obrador who despite initial overtures to progressive segments of society, has presided over a spike of political assassinations, femicides, and continuous grip by drug cartels, along with the 229,000 killed by Covid. Amlo needs support but cannot be reelected.
As of May 31, there have been 247 mass shootings in the U.S., with 283 killed by bullets. But to George W. Bush-nominated Judge Roger T. Benitez of the District Court for the Southern District of California, a 32-year-old ban on some assault weapons is but a “failed experiment” to be overturned.
Remember when the Supreme Court ruled that “racism was over,” or something to that effect, therefore states could gut the Voting Rights Act at will? Or when it declared corporations equal to people? If such rulings or the judge’s words make no sense to you, consider that neither he nor you are alone.
Those who invoke the second amendment to justify the armament of civilian Americans often forget about its link to slavery, according to writer and Emory University professor Carol Anderson. Atrocities committed by slave owners had bred the fear among whites of the enslaved’s capacity and desire for retribution, she writes. “Concerns about keeping enslaved Black people in check are the context and background to the second amendment.”
For several years, the anniversary of China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre was Hong Kong’s most visible challenge to Beijing’s power. Rallies and calls for democracy marked the date when hundreds if not thousands were killed by the military, and when the courage of the mysterious Tank Man emerged as a symbol of resistance. Not this time, however. This year, even a candlelight vigil was prohibited only to be promptly disregarded.
Texas, where 12-year-olds can marry and one out of seven residents don’t know if they’ll eat tonight, is at the forefront of the battle to outlaw abortions. It now bans the procedure if cardiac activity is detected in the embryo, typically at six weeks, when most women are not yet aware they’re pregnant.
“I cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace when there is a war on my body and a war on my rights.” Paxton Smith, high-school valedictorian at Lake Highlands HS, wouldn’t have any of that. In a seemingly improvised speech that went viral, she spoke on behalf of thousands of young women who are being threatened to be sent back to the dark days of the yore, when reproductive rights were treated as the state’s prerogative.
At 15, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the face by a Taliban insurgent for her advocacy of girls’ education. At 17, she was the youngest Peace Nobel Prize winner. At 22, she graduated from Oxford. She now runs a global charity for education and is a beloved icon to billions of young women throughout the world. Except in her native, and mostly patriarchal, Pakistan, where she’s reportedly hated by the country’s top male geriatric leadership.
Yes, to the nation where the “bacha bazi,” the sexual exploitation of young boys by elderly men is still widespread, it’s unacceptable that a woman would have such influence and prestige for, gasp, being a woman. And for expressing opinions like, “I still don’t understand why people have to get married. If you want to have a person in your life, why do you have to sign marriage papers, why can’t it just be a partnership?” Why indeed. Cheerio WC


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