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Why is the US is having so much trouble dealing with the triple crisis: pandemic coronavirus, economic collapse, and systemic racism– and why is this man smiling?

2020-06-14

William Barr (stolen off internet, probably copyrighted)

I included this picture, not because Billy Barr is the cause of all these problems, or even because he is making our response more difficult.  No, I included it because that shit-eating grin is a symptom of what is wrong with our government.

The reason we are having so many problems responding to the triple crisis is that our federal government is not taking decisive action to deal with it.  For example, there is no federal government database or tally of how many people are testing positive for novel coronavirus each day, how many are dying, nor how many in each state are being tested.  At the same time, there is no use of the Defense Procurement Act to obtain tests or testing supplies, nor for personal protective equipment, for ventilators, or for anything at all.  The only use of the Defense Procurement Act so far is to (supposedly) force meat-packing plants to stay open.  Even then, the plants can’t stay open if too many workers are sick.  The president threatened to use the Act to force car companies to produce ventilators, but it backed down when the companies made concessions.  There is no daily coronavirus briefing– not since the president’s staff warned him that it was making him look stupid, and not since he is trying to hide the fact that the pandemic is still raging.

The whole country has been convulsed by demonstrations against police brutality– which have been met with more police brutality.  In the face of the pandemic, protestors are being assaulted by tear gas, pepper balls (containing the active ingredient found in hot peppers, only at much higher concentrations), and rubber bullets.  The tear gas makes people cough and vomit, not the sort of thing you want when some of them inevitably have active cases of novel coronavirus, even if they are not symptomatic at the moment.  Then the demonstrators, most of whom were wearing masks, are being arrested, having their masks torn off while their hands are cuffed behind their backs, and thrown into crowded, unventilated jail cells.  A more dangerous place to be in the face of this pandemic could hardly be imagined.

There was even a video-documented case where a policeman tore off the mask of a protestor (who wasn’t being obstreperous) and sprayed her in the face with pepper spray.  This may not be as shocking as a policeman suffocating a man who allegedly passed a counterfeit $20 bill to death with his knee on the arrestee’s neck (for eight minutes and forty-six seconds) or another policeman shooting a fleeing drunk driver in the back and calmly picking up his spent shell casings while the suspect lay dying on the street.  That may be more shocking than the policeman who shoved a 75-year-old man backwards and watched him stumble and fall, hitting his head on the sidewalk– which followed with the man bleeding from his ear (a sure sign of a basilar skull fracture, for which he was placed in intensive care.)  That may not be as shocking as the presidential tweet “questioning” whether the old man was trying to block police communications with his cell phone (which is technically impossible) and “questioning” whether the old man was an “antifa” agitator (when in fact, the old man was a long-time Catholic pacifist who literally wouldn’t hurt a fly.)

None of that is shocking enough.  What is shocking enough is the only real policy response of the president: he refuses to “even consider” taking the names of Confederate generals (who after all, were racist, traitorous losers who were responsible for killing many loyal Union soldiers) off of Army, Navy, and Air Force installations.  The only excuse for refusing to “even consider” this long-overdue action is to pander to the 39% of the country who are racist, traitorous losers and who plan to vote for him come November.

Where is the organized policy?  No-where to be seen.  Where is the “leading by example” in response to the advice of all the experts on infectious disease?  Missing in action.  Where is the “unifying force” that brings our country together?  Absent altogether.

Instead, the president is using the pandemic as an excuse to continue and intensify his anti-immigrant policy to the detriment of our economy, even seeking to actively exclude people we need to harvest our crops– people who already have legal worker visas.  He is using the pandemic as an excuse to eliminate regulations protecting fisheries from total collapse.  He is using the pandemic as an excuse to suspend all inspections of meat-packing plants and eliminate all regulations limiting methane emissions from pipelines.  All this and more is being done because people’s attentions are  distracted by economic collapse, pandemic spreading, and widespread demonstrations and rioting.

It is  no wonder that people are burning down the Wendy’s drive-through where a drunken driver was shot in the back for resisting arrest.  It is no wonder that people are smashing windows and looting cellphones from Apple stores (where they immediately turn into bricks as soon as they lose the wifi signals that keep them operating.)  The police are too busy trying to intimidate demonstrators to protect vulnerable stores.

It is easy to see why people are angry and fed up with what is going on right now.  Unemployed people are not getting their unemployment benefits because the systems are overloaded, and now they are threatened with being kicked off the rolls if they refuse to return to dangerous work.

Black and brown people are suffering from lack of health insurance and at the same time being killed by the virus because of their fragile health status.   Black and brown people are being felled disproportionately by the virus at the same time they have either lost their jobs or been forced to work exposed to the virus in “essential” positions– they have good reason to be angry that they are being harassed and shot disproportionately by police.

There is no justice, and as long as there is no justice, there will be no peace.

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