We are the shithole nation

In the words of the Atlantic’s Annie Lowrey, “Ending the pandemic would have been the single best thing the federal government could have done to preserve the country’s wealth, health, and economic functioning. The Trump administration, in its hubris, obstinacy, and incompetence, failed to do it.” Donald Trump not only failed to end the pandemic, but he actively fought against public health experts, defying the CDC, encouraging conservative activists to “liberate” their states, slowing down testing, and even going so far as to politicize the wearing of masks.

And, as a result, the United States, with just 5% of the global population, currently has 25% of the COVID-19 deaths. And it would appear that we’re just getting started. Six states set record highs for new Coronavirus infections today alone, making this our worst single day for new infections since the disease first reached our shores. What’s more, it would appear as though it’s moving into younger populations.

As other nations are getting COVID-19 behind them, and moving beyond the pandemic, here in America we’re discussing the very real possibility that Arizona may not have enough hospital beds to care for the sick. And, in spite of this, we’re still not taking coordinated federal action to ramp up a comprehensive testing program and stop the spread of the disease. In fact, word just came out that the Trump administration will be cutting funding for drive-through testing facilities.

Here’s how we compare, as of today, with the nations we once considered to be our peers.

Back in May, I posted the following question on social media: “Serious question. If we continue down the ‘we’re not going to even try to contain this’ path, will Americans no longer be able to travel internationally without 14 day quarantines?” Well, it looks as though we now have the answer. According to new reporting out of Brussels, the European Union is considering the barring of visitors from the United States starting on July 1. Looking at the above graphs, that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but the folks at Fox News are up in arms, demanding that the Europeans remember what our grandparents did to help them during WWII, and suggesting this has more to do with the politics of power than it does with public health. The truth, however, is that we deserve this fate… Let’s not forget that this was the Trump administration brain trust that decided that it was safe to reopen the economy. The President’s daughter was on the committee, but not a single scientist, let alone an epidemiologist.

I take no pleasure in this. I don’t like the fact that I’m raising my family in a nation in decline — in a pariah nation. But I do see the humor in it. For all of Trump’s railing against “shithole” countries, and the right’s fear mongering about caravans of diseased would-be immigrants making their way to America, it only seems fitting that we’d now find ourselves on the other side, trying desperately to make the case that we really aren’t as diseased, dangerous and insane as we appear. But all the evidence points to the fact that we are. And we’d be well-served to accept it, and act accordingly. We need to do some serious introspection, and accept, regardless of our finger pointing at others, that we’ve been the shithole country all along.

And it’s not just the fact that we did nothing to stop the spread of COVID-19. It’s that we did so willfully. It’s not that we didn’t have the financial wherewithal to take action, or the ability to put plans in motion, like almost every other advanced nation on earth did. It’s that we actively fought against doing the right, responsible and intelligent thing, choosing instead to focus on blaming others for our plight, and engage in magical thinking.

60 years of Republican manipulation, I’m afraid to say, have brought us to point where we are no longer a force for good in the world, but a country to be fearful of. We are stupid, cruel and violent. And we deserved to be shunned.

For those of you who don’t accept the truth of what I’m saying, here’s an example from earlier today.

And here is another.

Yes, I know that there is still reason to be hopeful. I know that there is a strong and growing resistance. I know that young people are in the streets. I’m just disheartened today, thinking about how we got to this place, and the decades of intellectual rot that we have to contend with. This didn’t just happen overnight. The disinformation, fear mongering, and racism that we turned a blind eye toward all of these years has brought us to this point, pushing us down the slippery slope toward authoritarian idiocracy. And we have a generation of unbelievably hard work ahead of us to make things right.

Posted in Health, Politics, Rants, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 48 Comments

Today in our upside-down hell world: an accusation of treason, claims of a plot to steal the election, more lies about the pandemic, and a warning about Christians being forced to “recant” their faith

[above: Donald Trump repeats the absurd, dangerous and scientifically laughable lie that our COVID-19 infection rates are only rising because we’re testing more. In reality, cases are rising because Donald Trump has purposely slowed testing, pushed states to reopen prematurely, and politicized the wearing of masks. Full stop. And, as a result, the United States ranks 26th in the world in COVID-19 tests per 1 million people, and 9th in deaths per 1 million. And, no, people aren’t dying more here just because we’re testing more. That’s not how it works.]

I’m not in the business of making predictions, but, for those of you wondering what this election season may have in store for us, now that Trump now starting to slide in the polls and lose evangelical voters to Joe Biden, I think it’s safe to assume that it’s going to get pretty fucking dark.

Today alone, Donald Trump accused Barack Obama of having committed treason, said yet again that Democrats are in the process of “rigging” the election against him, and signed an executive order to further limit immigration in an attempt to shore up support on the racist right… Oh, and one of his attorneys put out a statement saying that she will not “recant” her Christian faith when the godless, liberal hoards come for her. [She just said that “they” would be coming for her, but it was clear what she meant.]

So, yeah, the President of the United States is accusing a beloved Democratic leader of a crime that’s punishable by death, suggesting that, if he loses, it will have been because of coordinated voter fraud, and laying the groundwork for a full-on civil war pitting the decent, white Christians of our nation against the law and order-hating criminals that make up the godless, non-white left. [The new vote-by-mail conspiracy theory has to do with the fact that some ballots are being printed outside of the United States.] But that’s not what I want to talk about today. No, I want to talk about the fact that, between now and Election Day, a whole lot more of us are going to die.

This past Wednesday, Donald Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity that COVID-19 was going to “fade away.” Since then, however, it’s done the opposite. It’s come back with a vengeance, especially in our southern and western states. According to analysis by NBC News, “In the last 14 days, Oregon has reported a 234.4 percentage jump in infections, Oklahoma jumped by 202 percent, Florida’s number increased by 155 percent, and Arizona’s confirmed coronavirus cases climbed by 142 percent.” And, no, this isn’t just because we’re testing more. More people are filling hospitals. And more people are dying.

From the New York Times:

…In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Dr. (Michael) Osterholm noted, “We’re at 70 percent of the number of cases today that we were at the very height of the pandemic cases in early April.”

He said that a wave and trough pattern of the virus rising and falling like influenza was one of the scenarios described in an April report that he helped to write. Now, however, the data on how the virus spreads do not support that pattern. “I don’t see this slowing down for the summer or into the fall,” he said.

“I think this is more like a forest fire,” he said. “I think that wherever there’s wood to burn, this fire is going to burn it”…

That’s it. I just wanted to let you all know that things are going to get a lot fucking worse, and that Donald “slow the testing down” Trump isn’t going to be any help with his anti-mask crusade and demands that states like ours — states that actually tried to stomp this out — be “liberated” by armed conservative activists.

I want to go on, but I’ll just leave you with this note from Arizona, where Republican Senator Martha McSally just proposed giving every taxpayer $4,000 each to take a vacation. That’s right, Republicans are actually encouraging travel during the pandemic.

This is a death cult, folks. We are living in a fucking death cult.

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1,000 march in support of Black Lives Matter in Ypsilanti

My friend Donald Harrison, one of the founders of the iFFY film festival, took his video equipment to yesterday’s Black Lives Matter march in Ypsi as part of his Citizen Activist Media initiative. Check it out.

Ypsilanti Black Lives Matter Protest June 20, 2020 from 7 Cylinders Studio on Vimeo.

[As for iFFY, Donald tells me that it’ll run from October 1 to October 3 at the Riverside Arts Center, and also live-stream online. What’s more, all proceeds from ticket sales will be distributed to non-profits that are working on food security, health, racial justice, equality, art, education related issues here in Ypsi. For more on iFFY, check out my interview.]

Posted in Art and Culture, Civil Liberties, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , | 48 Comments

“Slow the testing down please”

It’s totally petty, but I’m taking all kinds of pleasure right now in the fact that so few Republicans showed up in Tulsa this evening to risk their lives in order to celebrate Donald Trump’s huge, triumphant return to the rally circuit.

For what it’s worth, Brad Parscale, president Trump’s campaign director — the guy who, just a few days ago, was bragging about how they’d distributed over “800,000 tickets” for this event — is now implying that they would have filled the place, if not for the fact “apocalyptic media coverage” and “radical protestors,” who, according to him, “blocked access to the metal detectors, preventing people from entering.” There doesn’t, however, seem to be any evidence to suggest this actually happened. [The venue seats 19,000, and I’m hearing that only 6,611 showed up.]

Trump’s crowd size, though, isn’t really what’s newsworthy about this evening’s event in Tulsa. What’s noteworthy is that Donald Trump, while standing in front of the intimate gathering, said that he’d given members of his administration the order to slow down testing for COVID-19, as he didn’t want the official number of cases in the United States to increase.

As of today, 121,980 Americans have died from COVID-19. This number would have been considerably smaller had the Trump administration acted faster to roll-out coordinated testing across the United States. And Trump’s comment this evening is pretty much an admission of guilt. He essentially said that he allowed Americans to die because he didn’t want to see headlines about the number of cases growing under his watch.

A White House official apparently told The Washington Post that the President had been kidding when he said in Tulsa that he’d asked people to, “Slow the testing down.”

Just how fucked do things have to be for your most palatable spin to be that the president was joking about the deaths of 121,980 people?

But maybe people are finally beginning to realize that they’ve been duped. At least that’s my hope when I see videos like this one, of the cavernous area Donald Trump spoke at.

But some, I guess, still can’t let go. They’re apparently willing to cling to anything they can. Some are even celebrating the fact that Donald Trump, during this mini-rally was able to both descend a staircase on his own without crying and drink a glass of water one-handed. That’s how fucking low the bar has gotten. As the old Donald Trump would have said, “Sad.”

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 47 Comments

How should a community respond when an elected official admits to racism and asks for another chance?

Tuesday night, during Ypsilanti’s City Council meeting, Mayor Beth Bashert, when discussing the re-appointment of Ka’Ron Gaines as a City Human Relations Commissioner, said the following. “Since I will be crucified if I vote against any black person on any commission, I’m going to vote yes,” she said. And, with that, yet another political career here in Ypsilanti may have come to an abrupt end… A protest calling for Bashert to resign has been scheduled for Monday, June 22, in the parking lot behind Puffer Reds (113 West Michigan Avenue), at 4:00 PM.

Here, for those of you who are interested, is the video of City Council meeting. The section in question begins at 3-hour and 39-minute mark. [If you then scroll forward to 4:13, you can hear Council member Nicole Brown asking for an apology on behalf of all of the black individuals on the call, to which Bashert defensively responds, “I’ll consider your comments.”

Bashert, by way of explanation, posted the following on Facebook last night, conceding that her actions “were racist.”

Last night at City Council, I made a biased statement and voted based on that statement. Then I compounded the whole thing by digging in and getting defensive when questioned. All of those actions were racist. I am deeply ashamed and saddened that I did this. I have spent the time since that meeting feeling remorse, shame, and anger at myself.

I understand that none of the terrible feelings I am having at this time come close to the painful experiences Black and Brown people suffer due to racism.

Recently, City Council declared that Racism is a Public Health Issue which impacts everyone. As a white person, unfortunately, I am a racist person because I was raised in a racist culture and because I am an imperfect human being. I care deeply about confronting racism, yet that does not mean that I am not racist. I am trying to confront racism in myself.

I am committed to learning in public and sometimes that entails making mistakes in public. I have made a number of mistakes around race and racism while being mayor. I am grateful for the patience I have received, the teaching that others have provided, and I strive to learn something from each mistake. And I have gone on to make entirely NEW mistakes in public, inevitably.

I continue to take action to educate myself about racism. As a leader, I have helped raise the issue of race in local, state and national interviews and conversations. When the COVID Pandemic put a spotlight on race inequities and disparities in our local and national communities, I acted to protect the residents of the community I represent. As part of that work, I have shown up, donated, written proclamations, endorsed and supported candidates, marched in demonstrations, built friendships across race lines, consulted folks across race lines for solutions, encouraged projects that will help Ypsilanti’s Black community, voted to support progressive actions that target racism, and more. These actions are a sign of my good intent.

I hope that my actions have been better than my words, as I join with others in the fight to end racism. My actions have not been perfect, by far, and I continue to learn.

Last night, I was defensive and frustrated and caused harm as a result. I harmed my fellow council members, especially Mayor Pro Tem Lois Richardson, Nicole Brown, and Anthony Morgan. I harmed City Manager McMullan.

I deeply regret my words and I apologize. I desire to work to repair my relationships with Council members. I hope that these individuals and the community can see their way through to offering me forgiveness, as I seek to do better. But I understand that it is my task alone to tackle.

I am committed to continuing to show up, to learn to be a better ally, and join in the work to end systemic racism. I hope to earn back your respect and I’m grateful for any opportunity to benefit from your help in doing so. I thank you for your kind attention.

I’m inclined to say that, when people indicate a willingness to make amends and grow from their mistakes, they shouldn’t be met with anger. With that said, though, the more that I listen to the Mayor’s comments, the more problematic I find them. I know that some of our more conservative readers will, no doubt, respond by saying, “What’s so racist about this? She voted for Gaines, when everyone else on Council — including the black members of Council — voted against him.” And, yes, I suppose, it would have been more overtly racist had she said that she would be voting against someone because of his color. But, as we know, racism doesn’t always come at night, beneath a sheet. And, thankfully, in this instance, we don’t have to debate whether or not the comment in question was racist, as the Mayor herself concedes that it was. And, that, I suppose, is something that we should be thankful for. She didn’t try to pass it off as humor, or suggest that her colleagues heard something that just wasn’t there.

So, how are we, as a community, going to respond? Are we going to demand that our Mayor leave office, or are we going to give her the opportunity she’s asking for to help her make amends? I’d love hear what others in the community — especially people of color — have to say on the matter.

update: Effective tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM, Beth Bashert will no longer be the Mayor of Ypsilanti.

Posted in Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 109 Comments


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