Point of View Columns

When Too Many Deaths is Enough

While it would seem to be true that nobody ever lost money underestimating the attention span of the American public, it would seem that in this age of media overload and digital vertigo, the news in the morning can be forgotten by the time that dinner is served.

We certainly see that with respect to The Travesty Called Trump where even as his most outrageous – and undoubtedly unlawful – behavior is being chronicled by the January 6th Committee (while the somnolent U.S. Department of Justice continues to hibernate) more and more Americans seem to have forgotten the pure and absolute horror of an insurrection that came thisclose to succeeding.

And it is this combination of willful ignorance, intentional amnesia and digitally dulled sensitivity that helps to explain the behavior of the American public as we go into the third year of the COVID pandemic. We see masks being discarding, vaccinations being less compulsory and a general feeling that America is “tired of COVID”.

But of course, COVID is not “tired of America” just yet. The latest data show that during the first two years of COVID over 998,727 Americans have died from this disease. During this past week there has been a daily average of over 300 Americans dying. And yet these gruesome statistics have brought about a sense of caution fatigue and a willful embrace of inescapable inevitability when it comes to COVID.

Consider that over the past two years approximately 92,000 Americans died in automobile accidents. A sad statistic to be sure. But if one million Americans had died in car accidents it would be considered a national emergency – an outrage and rightfully so – because measures can be taken to save lives – seat belts, airbags, speed limits, etc.

Yet somehow, someway, the American public is okay with one million COVID deaths, with the promise of more deaths to come in the case of best results. Consider the level of denial that must be spreading across this land for over 300 COVID deaths a day to be acceptable. Again, using the automobile analogy – currently an average of 102 Americans die in automobile accidents every day. If that number somehow tripled to 300 Americans a day, there would a national emergency given all of the safety measures that are already in place and observed by Americans voluntarily – seatbelts, for example – and involuntarily – airbags for example.

There are safety measures that Americans can take regarding COVID voluntarily – vaccinations, masks, for example – and involuntarily – lockdowns, for example. Yet the resistance to low impact, low effort safety measures like vaccinations and masks are still resisted by so many Americans, and prematurely discarded that the risk of another wave seems almost inevitable.

Nevertheless, it comes down to the fact that Americans have become so numb to death during this pandemic that COVID no longer inspires sufficient fear or caution.

We can hope that COVID is fading away, but it is sad that we can do so much more than hope – but as a collective nation we do not.

Point of View Columns

Here is Why Elections Matter

While it seems like a story from another era, it was only a little over five years ago that an egomaniacal self-promoting misogynist by the name of Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. Not even Trump could believe that he won the election when the race was called in his favor early in the morning after election day. After all, Trump’s big plan was to launch an eponymous news network built on the foundation of the popularity and notoriety gained during the campaign.

There was no rational reason to explain how a man who lies, sometimes just to keep in practice, with no real knowledge of governance or international dynamics could be elected. He was a man who was racist, sexist, homophobic and a denier of the environmental catastrophe that threatens every living creature on the planet.

Yet he was elected president instead of Hillary Clinton who was arguably one of the most well-equipped presidential candidate in modern American history. He was elected by a difference of 50,000 votes cast in four states – Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin – and so he brought his promise to reconfigure the federal judiciary with him even though he know as much about the federal judiciary as he knew about how to run a successful casino.

But there were men and women, particularly the evangelical community and the Federalist Society knew everything about how to reconfigure the federal judiciary. They envisioned a judiciary that absolutely did not reflect the common view of the American people on issues like the importance of a strong federal government, abortion rights, gender equity, racial equity and the very real need to address environmental concerns.

In 2016 too many people who supported Bernie Sanders did not support Hillary Clinton because they felt (1) that Clinton had simply outmaneuvered Sanders by using the levers of the political process to her advantage (true, but that is not a breaking news story) and (2) that if Trump won it would not make a difference in the short term and his obvious incompetence would make it possible for Sanders to be the obvious candidate in 2020 – and too many, actually just enough Sandinistas stayed home and paved the way for the disastrous Trump presidency.

And we see how that worked out.

Trump may do a lot of dumb things. Trump may say a lot of dumb things. But it would be a mistake to believe that he is stupid.

He knew that he was elected in large part because neoconservatives in the Federalist Society and in the evangelical community believed that this liar would keep his promise to reconfigure the federal judiciary. And for once, and largely he could care less about the federal judiciary, he kept his promise.

In four years Trump appointed 226 conservative federal judges that will serve life terms. Trump appointed 54 federal appellate judges (Barack Obama appointed 55 in eight years). Trump also appointed three Supreme Court justices assuring a neoconservative majority on that court for at least a decade.

The Supreme Court has already proved with decisions – “shadow docket” and otherwise – that it is moving to the far, far right on issues like abortion, voting, rights and the environment. And they are just getting warmed up.

And earlier this week Judge Kathryn Mizelle, yet another Trump appointee, struck down the federal mask mandate on interstate travel putting not only the entire nation, but the entire world at risk. Judge Mizelle, a former clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas, is a member of the Federalist Society and appointed by Trump when she was 33 (she is now 35) and whose husband was acting general counsel of the Department of Homeland Security during the Trump presidency.

The American Bar Association stated that she was unqualified for the position due to her lack of experience as a lawyer but that did not matter to Trump or his Republican lackeys in the Senate.

And now not only is the mask mandate in question – even as 500 Americans die from COVID every day – the authority of the Centers for Disease Control is now in question and could have a devastating impact on the public health apparatus for years to come.

And that is why elections matter.

Point of View Columns

Will Smith v. Chris Rock – The Last Words

We live in a time when we actually see the leadership and rank and file of a major American political party openly espousing the demolition of the democratic processes that are the foundation of this already far from perfect country.

We live in a time when seemingly one man, in this case a man named Vladimir Putin, could come damn close to precipitating the carnage of war and destruction beyond anything seen since World War II, with the added possibility that nuclear weapons might be part of a holocaust which will have few, if any, human survivors.

And we live in a world where billionaires will spend $55 million to joy ride around in a space station while humans are literally starving to death on this planet.

Sadly, this list could go on. Therefore, this is as good a time as any to write The Last Words regarding The Slap Heard Around the World – a.k.a. the Will Smith v. Chris Rock contretemps.

Staying in the world of reality here are some real facts:

  1. Will Smith never should have slapped, punched, kicked or otherwise assaulted Chris Rock.
  2. Will Smith is fortunate that (a) Chris Rock is not The Rock and (b) Chris Rock did not suffer some serious injury resulting in Smith’s arrest and conviction along with being the losing defendant in a massive lawsuit.
  3. There is no way that Will Smith should be seen as “defending his woman’s honor”. There are enough corpses resulting from that kind of behavior.
  4. Will Smith absolutely ruined what should have been a glorious night for Venus and Serena Williams and for the entire Williams family and Questlove. They will never get that moment back – and that’s a fact.
  5. There are thousands of people who were present for what was supposed to be a memorable event, and then Will Smith turned himself into some kind of pathetic circus act.
  6. Will Smith’s apology does not remove the stench of the memory of his behavior.

Here are some other facts:

  1. Will Smith did not bring shame upon Black America.
  2. Will Smith did not become a bad role model for young Black men. Anyone who emulates his behavior has only themselves to blame. We all make choices.
  3. Chris Rock did not exceed the bounds of comedy. The point of comedy is that it really doesn’t have any bounds – if you don’t like it don’t laugh. If you really don’t like it walk out.
  4. Chris Rock will be an even richer man than he already is due to the increased attention (and attendance) for his current comedy concert tour which (quite coincidentally) began just a few days after The Slap.
  5. Will Smith shall return to some form of stardom – perhaps diminished for a while, but he shall return.

There are so many historic and existential crises and dangers that jeopardize our lives and this planet that deserve our full and complete attention.

As for this writer – these are the Last Words on The Slap.

Point of View Columns

April 4, 2022

It was 54 years ago today that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Dr. King’s murder came only three years after the assassination of Malcolm X. Within a year, Fred Hampton would be dead in Chicago, dying in a hail of police bullets while he slept.

Anyone who lived through those times will remember that the idea of Black leadership being under attack was not just a barbershop conversation item, it was real. The documentation from the FBI and COINTELPRO have revealed that J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon and many others were complicit in creating an atmosphere where Black leadership could be decimated in such a public fashion, and we many never know how many guilty hands were busy doing Satan’s work.

Looking back, we now know that the trajectory of a Black liberation movement went through fundamental changes. Activism was channeled into Black capitalism and Black political power in more traditional venues. The results have been mixed. Black capitalism has benefited a significant number of Black Americans, but an even more significant number of Black Americans live in the shadows of inequity and institutional racism.

Black political power has transformed the history of this country with Black mayors, Black governors and even a Black president. But a Constitution that rigged the electoral system has seen no more than four Black United States senators in those 54 years – and we have painfully learned that without power in the Senate, all other power is ephemeral at best, a faint hope being a bad to worse outcome.

We have seen the Black Lives Matter embraced in parts of America where no Black people live. We have also seen the outright banning of the historical truth about Black America banned in parts of America where no Black people – as well as in states and cities where there are many Black people.

Hope is never a failure. But hope does require revival, and sometimes resuscitation.

So, people of good will across this land can hope that somehow, some way, the next 54 years will bear the promise of a better day for all.