Curtain Raiser

The Lead of the Irish, Colltalers

In two months, Ireland has taken a leadership position on two crucial, global issues: women’s reproductive rights and climate change. Both decisions were reached by its democracy doing what’s supposed to: to represent the will of the majority. Startling, that’s relative these days.
Both themes acquired urgency lately, as the Trump administration seems bent on fulfilling an extreme right wing agenda. Short of popular opposition, Americans may soon lose the right to decide what’s best for their own bodies, or even protest against our reliance on fossil fuels.
The president, by the way, was in full evil clown mode on his latest mini European tour, and few were laughing. In a chaotic series of visits, he chastised our NATO allies for not spending more killing people, that is, buying American weaponry, and humiliated U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, while finding kind words for her political enemy, Boris Johnson, and of course, Vladimir Putin, who he’ll meet next. Prepare.
But despite massive protests and becoming once again a joke on the European media, Trump accomplished what many are still to realize: it’s all part of a plan. With his goofs, he turned the coverage onto himself, while pushing forward his own interests, and that of the defense firms.
Through apparently incoherent public statements, he managed to throw mud on the issue of immigration in Europe, avoiding questions about his own approach to the matter – children in cages, anyone? His staged nonsense also serves him well for manipulating media coverage, just like any certified reality star, and snake oil salesman, would know how to do it: every one of his asides and diatribes was faithfully broadcast.
What the Irish showed the world, though, is that we must keep our eye on the prize, and not get so distracted by what now should be all too familiar to anyone. The president will lie and deceive and do what he can to retain the narrative; it’s up to the people to impose their own.
In May, a referendum showed that the majority in Ireland favors the removal of a constitutional anti-abortion clause. That may open the way to legislation granting women what’s theirs by nature: control over reproductive issues, and rights to a full and religious-free health care. For such a strongly Catholic-influenced country, Continue reading

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Curtain Raiser

Choose to Remember, Colltalers

How crucial it is for a nation to confront its painful past? Here are two contrasting approaches: Chile sent nine soldiers to jail for murdering a singer, in a 1973 military coup; Brazil was censured by a human rights group for not protecting a journalist killed in 1975 by the dictatorship.
The issue is relevant to the U.S. too, as an upsurge of racial intolerance and religious prejudice threatens to turn back the clock on civil rights. As the Trump administration goes after made-up enemies, it’s also encouraging the biggest terrorist threat to the U.S. today: angry white men.
The same demographics concocted a horrific past in America, when hanging people of color was considered public entertainment. The hurt and open wounds of that time still resonate now, and before Trump, we were but in the early stages of a process of healing and redressing it.
No other president has been so lenient to displays of blatant racial violence by neo Nazis, or named at least one assumed white supremacist, Steve Bannon, to his cabinet. And his rallies have become festering, malodorous focal points for hordes of unhinged racists to congregate.
Trump and his enablers may come to regret the support of these groups, as they’re bound to become an out of control danger to the security of everyone. But that we’re allowing a comeback of an ideology with a proven track of cruelty and destruction, is beyond baffling, it’s egregious.
History provides centuries of examples of what happens when a leader creates villains to be demonized out of the demographics they don’t like, while giving a pass to ideologies Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

A Word Brings Us Together, Colltalers

Red flags are being raised about the future of American democracy, and a word with powerful resonance in society has retaken the center of the national conversation: moral. The resistance to the Trump regime’s cavalcade to absolute power has found a unifying core to fight for.
Alarms sounded with the Supreme Court’s latest of its many June decisions, rendering useless any notions of non-partisanship of justices. And to refocus on morality, rather than simply arguing, forges a new alliance to fight the administration’s push towards an authoritarian rule.
The U.S. is in turmoil, and over the weekend thousands protested the draconian, and heartbreaking, conditions imposed to immigrants and to those who come seeking shelter from oppression and injustice. Much of it, triggered by America’s own undue interference in their nations.
‘Families belong together’ is the overall theme against an artificially created, demagogically motivated, and now deeply disrupting, ‘crisis of immigration.’ So it happens that inflow of immigrants, with the Mexican border serving as an entry point, was at historical low numbers.
In fact, net immigration from Mexico had become negative, right before the 2016 election, after years of decline, and arrests by Border Patrol were at a 46-year low, according to the Pew Research Center and the independent National Immigration Forum. The data also showed that what was happening was actually the opposite, with a net outflow of illegal, undocumented workers from America moving back to Mexico.
But that many Trump supporters were sold a bag of rotten goods, and bought into a lie, hasn’t been breaking news for a while; it’s become the unfortunate normal. What’s astonishing is that such falsehood triggered enforcement of failed laws and xenophobic attitudes, that culminated in the utter cruelty of yanking children from their parents, and treating them as criminal prisoners, with little hope of one day reunite them all.
So that the American people seem to be awakening in these past two years to the power of taking the streets and protest should be welcomed and supported. Marching, however, Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Cruel Humans & a Kind Gorilla, Colltalers

A puzzling issue about the Trump administration is its steady support by some 30% of Americans. Among them, yes, the uneducated, left out of the so called American Dream ring strong. But what’s with his approval by professional women? and what about organized religion?
The week was yet another sample of savage chaos disguised as policy, with reports of detained immigrant children who may never see their parents again matched by an executive order that doesn’t solve the problem but was sold as such. And then there was the passing of Koko.
The 46-year old female gorilla, who’d learned sign language and thousands of English words, became a symbol of the movement to recognize animal rights. In the process, she proved what was already empirically known: that they not only think but have a complex emotional life.
We’ll get back to that but first let’s wonder for a while what makes a large contingent of independent, highly educated and successful women support a bully who even before being elected was a known sexual predator, caught on tape saying terrible things, to get into office partially with their vote? Unlike the now proverbial typical Trump supporter, white, poor, underachiever, and angry, they did have a choice in 2016.
Even more startling, albeit arguably easier to contextualize, is the large church-going crowd of Christians, who should be raving mad about the un-Christian policies the president has enforced, the company he seeks, his mean-spirited public persona and, of course, personal history.
We’re not getting on the merit of religious denominations, leaving that moot debate to those who really believe that there differences, or even sense among the god fearing. But it’s disturbing to watch how religious leaders, whose flocks reach into the millions, are keeping quiet about the administration’s absolute lack of charitable spirit towards the poor, immigrants, and people of color – obviously not mentioning sex minorities.
Wouldn’t be that a basic, fundamental, non-negotiable condition to be considered a follower of Jesus Christ, to be kind with the dispossessed, equal with the oppressed, loving to one another? After all, isn’t that what the man himself preached, and got killed for, all those years ago?
We’re not talking about the monsters who call themselves preachers and ostensibly demand that their followers pitch in to fund the costs of their newest personal jets, or blockwide mansions – usually closed to shelter natural disaster victims as it happened – for those are beyond redemption. Their psychopathic reasoning Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

No Time to Stand Silent, Colltalers

Once again, the Trump administration is being universally shamed. But this time, its brutal policy of separating immigrant children from their parents, and worst, invoking the Bible to justify it, is enough to make even the most autocratic leader to look as compassionate as a nun.
That brings us to the World Cup in Russia and its awkward media coverage in this country. With Team USA out, it’s been hard to show Russians as fun, sports-loving people as they are, while casting President Putin as a long shadow over the U.S. president and politics.
The quadrennial soccer tournament that mobilizes over a billion people around the world, is in itself, a force to be reckoned with. For ages, tyrannic rulers and politicians of all stripes have taken advantage of its appeal. Futból, as every sports, often serves well political regimes.
Mussolini may have had a hand in Italy’s 1934 win, and possibly four years later, when it repeated the feat in next door France. Even the Brazilian squad that enchanted the world in 1970 was forcibly ‘adopted’ by generals of the military dictatorship that ruled the country. And corruption-ridden FIFA, the sport’s governing body, is still at it, as shown by how it granted the cup’s next edition to the cruel Qatar regime.
These are such dark times, though, that even the best example of sports as metaphor to the power of equality over prejudice is half forgotten today. When black American runner Jesse Owens won the 1936 Berlin Games, he indeed humiliated Hitler, the Nazis and their white supremacy credo.
To be fair, there’s been a backlash of sorts, not to the game itself, which is ever improving, both athletically and commercially. It does need both to compete with other giant U.S. sport franchises. But it’s exactly this intersection of power and money that’s cut down part of its popular appeal. Speaking of Italy, which has also not qualified, and soccer-crazy Brazil, this cooling effect is all but palpable. Cue in the media, then.
In Italy, a perennial candidate to win, political turmoil may be affecting, perhaps not coincidentally, ratings for the games which are reaching new lows. With that, as the host nation is not expected to go all the way, record five-times winners Brazilians are likely to watch as their tormentor Germany equals their record. No wonder media giant Globo, crucial government partner, is airing promos non stop, to little effect.
Brazil, shattered by a process of dismantling of its young democracy, is reflecting an unusual apathy towards the Seleção, the national team, once a source of pride that, much to Brazilian disappointment, suffered a historic, and most embarrassing, loss to Germany. It happened when the country was hosting its second ever cup, Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

Hope Is a Heavy Load, Colltalers

Tomorrow, two men whose word is worth less than their underwear, will meet to define our future. It won’t probably work due to many petty and major issues, but that’s not even what the world fears the most: worst is if these overgrown toddlers show their dislike for each other.
For if either U.S. President Trump or the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un storm out of the negotiation table, their fragile ego unforgivably wounded, there won’t be any adult left to disarm the nuclear threat. We’ll be back to the lethal phase of watching them exchanging insults.
What makes this such a delicate issue is Kim, who’s be been ahead of Trump at every turn, growing frustrated that his efforts towards détente are not being taken seriously. And the American growing bored, an integral part of his volatile temper. In both cases, we’d be toasted.
Even though peace prospects in the peninsula must be credited to South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, in fairness, his counterpart did his homework and took steps to back up his intentions. Trump, though, used public abuse as a way out of committing to the talks, and may have only come back to it due to one factor: his delusional desire of receiving the Nobel Prize, which would be dead in the water if there were no meeting.
For even as these two peas in a pod make up to an admirable cliche, Koreans have an immediate survival interest at stake in tomorrow’s event. Americans, however, don’t seem to have it at all clear what even a single nuclear strike means to a civilization-ending world war.
We’ve just had a sobering sample of Donald’s self-attributed ‘powers’ of negotiation, during the gathering of the G-7 group, the allies that are traditionally the sole reason U.S. leadership in the world has been so incontestable. Without them, we’re a deranged bully in need of a stop. A photo of the meeting went viral last week, encapsulating the current global perception of our president: a round of obviously concerned world leaders, headed by Germany’s Angela Merkel, seems to pressure a seated, arm-crossed Trump, whose expression of childish defiance is so familiar to every parent. It’s a cartoonish but no less dangerous depiction, that’s painfully embarrassing America before the world.
He’s not just arrived late to the annual meeting, but Continue reading

Curtain Raiser

After the Kids, They’ll Come for Us, Colltalers

1,475 children, held at the U.S. Southwest border last year, and forcibly split up from their families, are now unaccounted for. The admission, by a Human Health Services official, sums up the chaotic patchwork of immigration laws, and the Administration’s turn to draconian policies.
In other 2017-related news, at least 4,645 Puerto Ricans, not ‘only’ 64 as the president boasted, have died in consequence of Hurricane Maria. That’s 2.5 times the number of victims of 2005 Hurricane Katrina, George W. Bush’s second catastrophic blunder, after the invasion of Iraq.
For some time, many authorities in the American Caribbean state have been claiming that the official death toll from Maria had been grossly under counted. The Harvard University study released last week shows that they were not just right, but the grim figure may actually increase.
That’s a lot of people to die, or be ‘misplaced,’ due to extreme incompetence and lack of empathy. But as it was with Bush, don’t expect Trump to express remorse. Rather, just as Iraq still burns after all these years, the mostly at dark Puerto Rico will hurt for a long time, unfortunately.
As this administration continues to paint hard-working immigrants, undocumented or not, as mostly criminals and not part of what made this country so powerful, we all stand to lose character and perspective of what it means to be American. All we know, however, is that it’s not it.
While a comprehensive legislation Continue reading