Curtain Raiser

We’ve Got to Make it Better, Colltalers

Over a week since Hurricane Ida wreaked havoc, New Orleans remains in the dark. Help to those stranded by torrential rain and flood may arrive but only after every refinery is back online. It’s the usual special treat granted to a local fossil-fuel industry that is making hurricanes worse, to begin with.
But the week’s biggest storm is over Texas’ decision to ban most abortions, its likely opening salvo to cancel womens’ reproductive rights in America. Women groups and their allies will be marching to prevent it. And two decades since the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, the world’s become a scarier place.
Let’s begin in the U.S. where Covid cases are climbing again after near 700,000 Americans have already died from it, the most in the world. As vaccine rollouts continue to be dictated by the big labs that make them, health justice advocates say that there’s a shortage of two billion doses worldwide, with some nations having none to immunize their people. Wealthy countries are stockpiling doses and plan booster shots while emerging ones are left short.
The U.N.-led efforts to have Western powers engage in the battle to lift pattern restrictions the labs control have been all but ineffective. And then, of course, there are the anti-vaxxers which, despite being driven by conspiracy and paranoia, have now global platforms to spread misinformation. Such combo has been lethal to a staggering 4.5+ million people. Will we ever address the depth of responsibilities involved and exact proper punishments?
In Brazil President Bolsonaro’s throwing all his cards into a big rally of support during the celebrations of the country’s Independence Day on Sept. 7. He’s hoping to reverse sagging re-election prospects for next year, but his appeals to armed forces to join him and calls for a massive attendance have alarmed many. That’s because there are parallels with the ex-U.S. President’s calls for supporters to launch an armed invasion of Capitol Hill on Jan. 6.
It was five years ago, on Aug. 31, that a parliamentary coup ousted twice democratically-elected President Dilma Rousseff on trumped-up charges, and began the dismantling of Brazil. The Operation Car Wash, a government probe into possible corruption in the Rousseff and prior two Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva administrations served as the legal framework to persecute and jail presidential front-runner Lula, a fact that all but put Bolsonaro in Brasília.
All charges against the ex-presidents were revoked as the inquiry was exposed as politically biased. The powerful elite that runs Brazil, whose backing is crucial to the former Army Captain, may be reaching its breaking point. But the damage is done and it’ll be years for a new dawn to rise again at the beating heart of the Global South. That’s what happens often all over: long after tyrants are tried and forgotten if ever, those they harmed remain hurt.
The consequences of two astonishingly unfair decisions made this week are hard to overstate. On Wed., a bankruptcy court approved the dissolution of Purdue Pharma, the opioid manufacturer accused of causing a record number of overdose deaths by pushing its highly addictive painkiller OxyContin. And on Mon., a Minnesota Court of Appeals issued a water quality certification for the accident-prone Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 crude oil pipeline.
The Sackler family, Perdue’s owners, had personal involvement in its commercialization and reportedly made over $10 billion from the drug that killed an estimated 600,000. But the $4.5 billion settlement grants them immunity from lawsuits and exempts them from even having to say, “I am sorry.”
Halfway through the hurricane season and some regions are already bent out of shape in the U.S. Worst, the heavy pouring and flooding around fossil-fuel producers in the Gulf of Mexico have created near a dozen large oil spills. For a sobering exercise, Google how many oil spills happened since a BP-owned oil rig exploded and caught fire in the gulf in April 2010. A disturbing sign that little has changed, as far as oil and gas firms are concerned.
Thousands of indigenous water protectors and their volunteer partners have waged a multi-year battle against Enbridge and other pipelines that, if President  Biden’s not aware, someone should tell him, are exactly what made the globe warm up to the point of this climate emergency. Tribal communities and environmental groups will continue to appeal and resist. But now only an executive order of sorts to stop Line 3 from starting its operations in a month.
The 1973 Roe v. Wade law that legalized abortion in the U.S. was a watershed moment for the reproductive rights of all women. Teen pregnancy rates and the criminality associated with illegal abortion were reduced. Troubled pregnancies, either for medical reasons, sexual assault, or incest, as well as other situations where having one child will disrupt and jeopardize the women’s chance to succeed, stopped being a problem for an entire generation.
What’s also at stake is the Founding Fathers-beloved constitutional separation of church and state, the foundation for our 300 years of political stability, even when ideals were betrayed by genocide and wealthy elites were enriching themselves with the blood and labor of indigenous and Black slaves. The religious right may try to seize  loopholes to impose its minority rule on the country, but on Oct. 2, women all over will march to say no.
“I was on the subway on my way to work and when I came out of the station, the world had changed.” “When the second tower collapsed I’ve run like everyone else but the cloud of dust caught up with us and we couldn’t see anything. That’s when I realized that I had almost been hit by a fallen body.” “We headed downtown hoping to find him coming out of the building in flames or something. We walked around and wait but he never came back.”
That sunny and chilly Sept 11, 2001, is seared on the minds and hearts of every New Yorker and their dearest, along with the deep pain and grief of having watched hopelessly their home being bombed. The city that emerged from the attack became engraved with the resentment of victims and fallen heroes, of being punished by what it wasn’t, rebuilt by fear and desire of retribution, plus the now omnipresent, surveillance eye of a million cameras.
“We were not allowed to take a courageous step towards peace; war was simply assigned to us.” “I felt that I was angrier at my government than with the dead perpetrators because we bombarded their land first.” “I hate that 911 became synonymous with wars that have nothing to do with America.” We grieve with those who lived through their own Sept. 11, and we regret the bad decisions taken on behalf of our grief. Happy (U.S.) Labor Day. WC


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