Curtain Raisers

The World as We Object it, Colltalers

Angela Merkel ends her 16-year term as German Chancellor just as Europe is left out of a U.S.-U.K.-Australia alliance to build nuclear submarines. But she did restore Germany to the top of the global heap, successfully navigated Brexit, and outclassed France as an interlocutor for western nations.
As the Taliban revives its barbaric repression of women and sexual minorities and hangs alleged wrongdoers in public, the world slowly forgets and U.S. drones prolong the agony of those who can’t escape their fate. And with 70 million refusing vaccines, dead Americans are still leading Covid. Yay.
Let’s start with Del Rio, Texas, where disturbing pictures of mounted U.S. border patrol agents whipping Haitian men, women, and children have shocked the entire world. But not the president, apparently. In fact, the Biden administration actually increased and expedited the deportation of over 2,000 asylum seekers back to their nightmare at home, in frontal contradiction to his campaign promises to lead a more “humane” immigration policy.
Watching Black people again being corralled by armed guards was a painful reminder of a brutal time in America. The area, including the under-the-bridge space that up to last week had “sheltered” thousands of starving asylum seekers, is now clear. Perhaps it attracted too much attention of the wrong kind. But the moral stain of treating survivors of two earthquakes and the murder of their president like they’re rabid animals will surely remain.
In Missouri, an 1,000-year-old cave with Native American art was auctioned off for $2.2 million. The prehistoric cave system and surrounding 43 acres of pristine land had been used by the Osage Nation for 1,300 years. They were outbid, however, by an undisclosed family that’s been using the area to mostly hunt. Indignant, “auctioning off a sacred American Indian site,” author Carol Diaz-Granados says, is “like auctioning off the Sistine Chapel.”
Still in the subject of heartbreak, the case of a missing young white woman who was quickly found murdered last week has highlighted how searches vary widely according to the color of the skin of the disappeared. Unlike Gabby Petito, a likely unfortunate victim of foul play, hundreds of cases of the missing within Indigenous communities or people of color remain unsolved, often with no indication of even a formal investigation into their fate.
In Utah, a study found that racial and ethnic minorities account for a third of the people shot at by the police in the past decade, even as these groups make up only a quarter of the population. The Salt Lake Tribune teamed up with PBS Frontline to “learn more about who has been shot at and who is doing the shooting.” As it turns out, “75.4% of Utahns are white, but they account for 63.5% of all police shootings.” Black Lives Matter was right.
In Syria, over 350,000 people were killed in 10 years of civil war, with President Bashar al-Assad still ensconced in power and no hint that the proxy war of Russia, the U.S., Turkey, Iran, rebels, defectors, the list continues, is any closer to let it up. To forget about Syria is the world’s ultimate betrayal.
China, battling regional and world alliances being formed as we speak, is also losing sleep over something else besides discriminating against its own minorities: the deeply indebted Evergrande Group, one of the world’s largest property developers with ties to the Chinese regime, is risking financial collapse. For now, it’s unclear whether Beijing will weather the storm or is on course to have a taste of the 2008 financial crisis that gripped the world.
The early assessment of Merkel’s leadership is generally favorable as she guided Germany through difficult times during the 2000s. While the union acquired new relevance with the adoption of the euro, Merkel presided over a nation that quit pursuing nuclear power, increased immigration numbers, became the most powerful economy of the bloc, and at times were the only world leader with clout to simply ignore the former American president.
As for the U.S.’s agreement with the U.K. to sell American-technology nuclear submarines to Australia, it may be a sign of times to come. The Biden administration has China as the clear focus of American foreign policy and is willing to risk starting a new Cold War to keep Chinese ambitions at bay. That may be good for Taiwan, South Korea, the two countries involved, and no one else, but the question is why are we starting something again?
As the Taliban fights to consolidate its power, it’s also back at using corpses to attract support; but to many, that may launch a backlash as there’s now speculation on whether it’ll succeed raining in on warlords, a newly reformed Isis, al-Qaeda, and assorted radicals challenging its grip on power. But Mullah Nooruddin Turabi doesn’t seem the least worried. He said rather matter-of-factly that “cutting off of hands is very necessary for security.”
Vaccine inequality is rampant, big laboratories that detain the patent for licensing the shots continue to make millions, we’d need 11 billion doses to end Covid, and yet 20% of Americans refuse to get vaccinated. The concept of human solidarity is as alien to them as the sounds of a second language. There’s no rational debate possible with those who fail to contemplate the tragedy that’s happening around them and their responsibility aggravating it.
It’s time to end this charade: anti-vaxxers are being manipulated by opportunists and charlatans while real villains make off with the lunch money. As two Americans have died every minute for nearly a month, according to the Washington Post, vaxers are busy battling windmills of their own making.
“Another day, another carriage horse crime scene,” said Edita Birnkrant, of New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets (NYCLASS) after yet another animal was hurt in one of the busiest traffic cities in the world. But the incident may not affect the touristic industry of hansom cab rides in Central Park, despite the accidents and safer alternatives. Not even Mayor Bill de Blasio was able to fulfill his campaign promise to ban the practice.
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” There’s no proof that Henry Ford ever uttered these words. But there’s no doubt that the industrialist and magnate who held anti-semitic beliefs, did make possible the Model T invention, the first one rolling out of its Michigan plant 113 years today. He also wasted a ton of money to build Fordlândia in the Amazon jungle with predictable results. But in the end, the car won.
“When you think of Ford, you think of baseball and apple pie,” said Mirian Kleinman, a researcher who investigated links between Ford, General Motors, and the Nazi before, during, and after WWII. But “you don’t think of Hitler having a portrait of Ford on his office wall in Munich.” Perhaps.
It’s still possible to see America like most Americans would, free and brave, but we can’t ignore how drunk with power we’ve become, how deluded we’ve got in our own role in the world. Climate change offers us the opportunity for redemption, not just moral rescue, but to actually divert the chaos and reestablish global humanitarian priorities. All we do affects everyone, so let’s take a cue from those we know we impact and make it better. Cheerio WC


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