Point of View Columns

When Suicide Becomes Homicide

As you are reading this approximately 2,000 American men, women and children are dying from COVID-19 every single day. Well over 85% of these men, women and children who are dying are also unvaccinated. Incredibly, even though the vaccines to protect Americans from the virus have been available for close to ten months, only 52 percent of all Americans are actually vaccinated.

There appears to be no appeal to logic, community responsibility or common sense is having the desired effect of increased rates of vaccinations. While there will be more vaccinations of children under 12 very soon, it would seem that the vaccination rate of Americans 12 years and older is probably not going to rise appreciably. And, to provide some perspective, the United States ranks number 55 among all of the countries in the world when it comes to vaccination rates of its population – behind Andorra and Albania (seriously).

It should be enough to point out that 2,000 largely unvaccinated Americans are dying every day to move people to get vaccinated. Instead, the intransigence and stubbornness of too many people seems to be encased in concrete. The science, the data, the procession of funerals – none of that seems to be able to motivate people to protect themselves and their communities.

What we have seen is too many people speaking about “personal freedom”, as if freedom is something that is absolute and without boundaries and limitations. There is freedom of speech in this country, but a speech threatening the life of the president can result in a prison sentence. There is freedom of religion in this country but practicing human sacrifice will almost certainly result in imprisonment for life.

When it comes to public health, there have been vaccination mandates for smallpox, rubella, whooping cough and polio for decades. And it is not a coincidence that in the United States child mortality rates have declined precipitously for decades.

Yet somehow and some way millions of Americans believe that it is alright to refuse a vaccine that will save their lives and the lives of their neighbors and friends and those that they love. Somehow and some way millions of Americans do not believe in vaccination mandates although mandates to use seatbelts in automobiles and avoid drunk driving are accepted without protest.

Historians will ponder the bizarre insanity exhibited by the opponents of the COVID vaccine – even though many of these opponents recant just before they are put on a ventilator in an ICU. And it is really important to focus on ICU’s in this entire matter.

ICU and hospital beds are filling up all over the country with unvaccinated people who are sick and dying from COVID. It is important to understand that the hospital facilities of the United States are not infinite in their capacity. There is also not an infinite number of doctors, nurses and healthcare workers.

In too many places in this country victims of car accidents, construction accidents or cancer are being denied care, or provided less than full care since there are simply not enough healthcare workers or healthcare facilities to cope with the COVID tsunami and the normal demands for healthcare that are always present.

An awful scenario has already played out in this country – men, women and children who have been the victims of accidents or profound disease have been unable to receive appropriate care in a local ICU because all of the facilities are being employed to address the very real illness of unvaccinated COVID-19 patients. In effect, vaccination denial is causing a chain reaction of deaths, not only for the unvaccinated sick individuals but also for individuals who are being denied care only because there are no adequate facilities available.

It has actually been suggested that unvaccinated COVID-19 patients be put in a special category – they will be given care in an ICU only if that does not mean denying care to a vaccinated individual – whether that person is a victim of gunshots, car accident or COVID-19. It is an awful life and death choice for any doctor to make, to be sure.

But it is also time to ensure that the intentionally unvaccinated do not commit homicide while they commit suicide.

Such is the desperate state of affairs in these United States of America.

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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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Point of View Columns

Another Week in the Life of America in 2021

April 1, 2021

30,461,748-552,076 (Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

It is still early in the Biden-Harris administration but it is not too early to inquire as to whether the urgency of the nationwide suppression of the Black vote in America is being sufficiently prioritized within the public policy universe of competing demands including infrastructure, COVID-19, the economy and climate change.

April 2, 2021

30,548,745-553,241 (Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

As the sad and tragic testimony at the Derek Chauvin trial for the murder of George Floyd ebbs and flows forward there is an overwhelming sense of maddening sadness. Sadness because the testimony to date makes it clear that Mr. Floyd did not have to die and in a normal universe he would probably still be alive to this day.

Maddening because this police-Black man scenario has played out so many times that it seems like well-rehearsed satanic performance art. A Black man has an encounter with the police and for no apparent reason the Black man ends up dead in a situation which would see a white man walk away or be peacefully arrested – and in any event alive.

It is maddeningly sad because we know, we all know, that this will not be the last time that we are witness to this tragic scenario.

And, as a reminder of the madness that is flowing the streets and cities and supermarkets of America, a young Black man tried to crash his car through the barriers that surround the Capitol. After crashing he left his car and attacked two Capitol Hill police officers, killing one and wounding the other before being shot to death.

There appears to be no motive other than the madness that is on display in his social media rants. And while there appears to be no philosophical or political motive, it is undeniable that the atmosphere of madness and violence that hangs over America like some kind of cloud cannot have a salutary effect on people with serious mental health issues.

April 3, 2021

30,610,745-553,241 (Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

There is a weekend pause in the Chauvin murder trial and it is definitely timely. The repetition of the recitation of the cause of the death of George Floyd is a necessary part of the trial process. However, the enormity of Chauvin’s crime goes beyond murder.

It is total dismissal of the humanity of Mr. Floyd – shared by his police colleagues on the scene – which is difficult to comprehend. Veterinarians and butchers demonstrate more empathy and care than Chauvin and that is what is so hard to understand.

One could actually understand a flash of cruelty – a gun shot or gun shots, for example. But killing someone so slowly and personally – sustained sadism actually –  for over nine minutes reveals a certain kind of pathology that endangers all of society.

Chauvin might be an outlier but he is not alone.

April 4, 2021

30,703,999-554,992 (Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

Today marks 53 years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. King was killed by some nonentity named James Earl Ray, although how a two-bit crook was able to elude an international manhunt with multiple passports and funds seemingly from out of the sky has never been explained. And at this point probably will never be explained.

Dr. King’s assassination marked a turning point in the struggle for the rights of Black Americans and a recognition that whatever good will might exist in this nation, it was not enough the stem the centuries-old tradition of naked violence in support of white supremacy. His death also sparked insurrections and protests throughout the country, but in the ensuing 53 years there has been grudging progress but systemic change has been resisted virtually everywhere and anywhere.

Still, it was interesting that, even though it was Easter Sunday, there was virtually no mention of the anniversary of the slaying of Dr. King.

And that cannot be a good thing.

April 5, 2021

30,706,129-555,001 (Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

The promoters of the Big Lie of Voter Fraud, which has served as the faux justification for the raced-based voter suppression assault across America. There seems to be a belief that if a lie is spoken enough times it will somehow be considered the truth.

It is a fact that the Black voters across the country, but particularly in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin are directly responsible for the electoral victory of Joe Biden, in the processing dashing the fevered dreams of conservatives and white sup remacists who desperately wished for a second term for 45. And so, in 43 states there are legislative commando raids going on which, while not being able to reverse the results of the 2020 election, will certainly make it incredibly more difficult for Black voters to exercise voting rights and impact an election in the same way.

It is clear that there is a virulent, cancerous segment of white America that is prepared to bring down the temple of democracy if it means holding on to white supremacist minority rights.

These are dangerous times indeed.

April 6, 2021

30,785,734-555,619 (Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

So now we are learning that Major League Baseball (moving the All Star Game from Atlanta to Denver), Delta and Coca Cola (issuing statements of concern to date) are announcing their displeasure with the voter suppression efforts in Georgia.

It is good to see elements of corporate America publicly recognize the seemingly eternal need for racial justice in this country but it remains what it is that corporate America is going to do? After all, there are 42 other states considering various types of voter regulation that could easily morph into voter suppression.

What is corporate America going to do?

Delta is not going to stop flying to Texas. Coca Cola is not going to suspend sales in Pennsylvania. And Amazon…well Amazon is going to keep being Amazon. So if there is no consequence beyond some rhetorical sniper fire, we can be sure that voter suppression will soon become the de facto law of the land in much of America.

April 7, 2021

30,847,926-556,529 (Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

Hopefully the Matt Gaetz Distraction of the Day will be just that. There is just too much grave and serious issues and tidal waves of perilous change to worry about finding out that one of 45’s most vocal and bellicose supporters is a sleaze bag.

How can that be a surprise when Gaetz idolizes 45, who has taken the concept of sleaze bag to Hall of Fame levels that will be difficult to surpass.

Meanwhile there are actual arguments over whether people should carry proof of vaccination as part of the effort to stem the lethal COVID-19 tide. Once again, we see the argument of personal liberty being juxtaposed against all of us dropping dead. It should not be a hard decision.

History does not reveal this kind of visceral opposition to the smallpox, polio or measles vaccines. So what has changed so that over a half century later, when ostensibly more people know more about science and how vaccines work, that there is this intransigent, indigestible segment of America that will refuse vaccines because (a) it threatens their personal liberty) or (b) there is no real “proof” that vaccines work. Insofar as (a) is concerned, the calculation that personal liberty is more important than the lives of others is stunningly cruel. With respect to (b), it may be that there is simply no arguing with intentional, obstinate and immovable stupid. But it will be hard for the (b) group to argue about anything when they are in an ICU somewhere

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