Point of View Columns

Reflections During August 2021

August 4, 2021

It remains to be seen whether the Democratic Party can serve as the last institutional obstacle to the clear intent of the Republican Party to collapse the voting process into a ritual installation of that party as the permanent government of the United States. And the only reason that this sentence sounds a bit alarmist is that, as true as it is, it is also hard to believe that after 232 years the government of the United States could become a model of 21st century authoritarian minority rule.

August 10, 2021

Speaking of recent events over the past several days –

  1. The Vaccine Mask War – Where Does It End?

We probably don’t know where all this vaccine-mask battle can end. We know that over 600.000 American men, women and children have died from the dreaded COVID-19 and its growing gang of variants. We also know that infection and death rates are rising inexorably.

Given these undeniable facts, why would anyone be against mask wearing if it would save even one life? And why would anyone who can be vaccinated refuse to be vaccinated knowing that not only will they putting their own lives in danger, they also run the very real risk of infecting a killing other people?

Yet, this is the America in which we live. In Alabama they are celebrating the fact that this state has the lowest vaccination rate in the country. The governors of Texas and Florida are threatening to withhold state funds to school districts that mandate mask wearing by students in school.

It would be correct to say that this is madness. It would also be correct to say that this is America.

  • The Olympics – What They Weren’t – What They Were

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were delayed by a year. At the time of the opening ceremonies less 20% of the population of Tokyo had been vaccinated. Athletes were testing positive in the weeks prior to lighting of the Olympic torch.

Clearly these Olympics were going to be a disaster. But they weren’t. Indeed, more than a few people thought that these may have been one of the best Olympics ever because a lot of the showbiz special effects were not present. There were no teeming, cheering crowds but there was the personal interaction between the athletes which was very special.

The competition was somehow purer and more personal. The athletes represented their countries, but they competed as athletes who respected the sport – regardless of the event. And in those moments we grew to appreciate the dedication and true love for sport and competition that motivates these very special men and women – before the endorsements and social media accounts and, of course, the money, it was that love that was evident in almost every event.

And that is what these Olympics were.

  • Voting Rights – The Canary in the Mine

During the early days of the Industrial Revolution the demand for coal expanded exponentially. So the coal mining industry expanded exponentially. And as the mines become larger and deeper the dangers of odorless but lethal gas was a real problem.

The answer was —- the miners brought a canary in a cage into the mines. The idea being that if the canary keeled over and died, the air was dangerous and it was time to evacuate or die.

When it comes to the full formal assault on voting rights – especially the voting rights of anyone who is not white – there is no canary in the mine available. Indeed, we will not know the true damage to the franchise until November 2022, and by that time it will be too late.

Of course we know that in over thirty states the plan is to not only restrict access to voting, but also to empower partisan legislators with the power to decided which votes count – at all. The damage will be awesome.

But that damage is so incomprehensible and so far off – and there is no equivalent of a canary in the mine to warn the intended victims of this crime on democracy itself, that it may be too late before democracy asphyxiates.

  • Words Matter – Why “Defunding the Police” Has Become a Toxic Term

In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in 2020, “Defund the Police” became the battle cry of all those who saw the need for profound and systemic reform of the criminal justice system. In parsing that phrase, it was clear that most supporters of this movement wanted to see mental health and social services become critical components of the criminal justice system, not just adjuncts to arrest and incarceration.

Very few people truly have advocated for the abolition of the police. Certainly, the men, women and children in Black communities would not look forward to life without polices. The aspiration has been for life with police who are fair, unbiased and who do not see arrest and violence as default behaviors in virtually every situation.

Unfortunately, the term Defund the Police, has taken a life of its own. And the right wing of the right wing has seized upon this term to debunk and attack the movement demanding criminal justice reform. Which is exactly why progressives who support criminal justice reform need to stop using the term because words matter.

August 11, 2021

There is a line in the movie “White Heat” when Cody, the character played by James Cagney, shouts “Top of the world Ma!” just before he immolates and is no more.

Andrew Cuomo had his “top of the world” moment last year when he was seen as delivering a daily master class on governmental leadership, enhanced by the comparison to the bumbling, nonsensical idiocy of Trump and his team of enablers. He was on national television every day of the week. He had a book deal. He was seriously considered to be the Democratic presidential candidate most likely to beat Trump if the septuagenarian Joe Biden somehow stumbled or literally fell. He had a multimillion dollar book deal. His reelection in 2022 was as certain as sunrise.

And we all know how that worked out. Joe Biden did not stumble or fall. The year 2021 turned out to be the worst year of Cuomo’s life as a veritable a tsunami of sexual harassment and sexual assault accusations, along with serious questions regarding his handling of nursing home deaths during the height of the pandemic along with serious questions regarding his use of state resources in the writing of his book manuscript.

And then the Attorney General issued a scalding report that detailed Cuomo’s transgressions regarding sexual matters.

Finally, on 8.10.21 Andrew Cuomo announced that he would resign and leave office on 8.24.21.

How the mighty have fallen.

Never to rise again.

Who knows?

But for now the mighty have definitely fallen.

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