The United States of Emergency

I-cant-breathe
Black America is screaming for justice now. (images via The New York Times)

The United States has ignited. The killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis by a white police officer was the match that lit the tinderbox of racial tension. Floyd’s death is the latest in a long line of atrocities committed against black people in America at the hands of police. America is in a state of emergency as The People are in the streets battling with police from coast to coast.

 

Former President Barak Obama was quoted in today’s NYTimes. “This is something that’s got to change,” Mr. Obama said, arguing the challenges of the last few weeks were the result of structural problems in the country. “They’re the result of a long history of slavery, Jim Crow, redlining and institutionalized racism that too often have been the plague of this original sin of our society.”

stop-killing-us
(images via The New York Times)

Thomas Friedman, an opinion columnist for The NYTimes, laments,

What to do? Where can we find the leadership needed to calm this situation, deal with its underlying causes and at least get us through the 2020 election?

Three years ago, I might have hoped that Senate Republicans would step in and restrain Trump. But now we all know better. The Senate Republican caucus today is nothing but a political brothel. Mitch McConnell is the madame. And McConnell and his caucus rent themselves out by the night to whomever will energize the Republican base to keep them in power and secure the economic benefits for their wealthiest donors.  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/02/ 

A similar tone is found in this opinion piece from The Times’ Editorial Board:

The chaos unleashed by the death of Mr. Floyd defies simple prescriptions; it is a result of too many underlying conditions. Authorities are facing a stern test: It can be all but impossible to police the boundaries of legitimate protest, particularly on the ground. And it must be painful for many police officers who put their lives on the line to hear themselves criticized by their fellow citizens.

Yet the testimony of local journalism, eyewitnesses and videos posted online make clear that too many police officers have little interest in protecting legitimate protest. While some officers have joined protests or knelt in solidarity, others, often in the same cities, have acted savagely, inciting or exacerbating violence.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/02/opinion/george-floyd-protests-first-amendment

America is on fire with anger, rage and anguish. Two months of being locked down, confined to our homes (if one is fortunate enough to have one) combined with the loss of employment, income and freedom to move about freely, created the conditions for the powder keg that exploded with the murder of George Floyd by the police. Hundreds of thousands are in the streets in more than 140 cities across the country, carrying protest signs, chanting “I can’t breathe,” raising their fists in solidarity and kneeling to remind the authorities of the horrific abuse of power that police have used on black citizens for far too long. Yes, Black Lives Matter. Yes, White Privilege is real. The magnitude of the protests and riots cannot be overstated. This is the Tsunami of Change, right now. We can choose to collectively pivot towards a just and fair society as the old paradigm of control by force breaks apart and goes up in flames.

black power_sky
Black Lives Matter. (images via The New York Times)

Dear Readers, some of you won’t agree with me, but the truth is that no matter where you live in this world, systems of institutionalized oppression have been visited upon your people, whether currently or in the distant past. No one on Earth has been immune from the control mechanisms put in place by those who profit from human suffering. The current crisis in the United States has been a long time in the making. Now that it is upon us,  we can no longer ignore it or be complicit in this struggle. It is ALL of our responsibility to participate in this awesome moment of Revolution. The alarms are screaming everywhere for our collective awakening and it is up to each person to shine the spotlight first within their own heart and see what is there. No matter how painful, how wounded, how dark or how hideous what may be found, it is finally time to really see it, acknowledge it, and then begin the difficult work of forgiving it. Forgiveness is not denial. Forgiving oneself first is the key to being able to change, and then to reconciliation with all others. It is a courageous process and it takes time. The past couple of weeks are showing Americans that the time for fighting violence with yet more violence is over. We MUST go beyond fear of the Other. There is no other.

The NYTimes put up this incredible photo essay showing visceral images from across the United States over the past ten days. I hope you will take the time to gaze at this moment, and ponder what it means to you. Photo Essay-George Floyd protests

Here is a link to an essay posted by Barack Obama in Medium. Many of us are grateful for his calm wisdom right now. https://medium.com/@BarackObama/how-to-make-this-moment-the-turning-point-for-real-change-9fa209806067

reconciliation is possible
Peace and justice go hand in hand when we open our hearts and realize the truth of who we are. (images via The New York Times)

The Value of Small Gestures

 

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This is how many kids are doing online learning during Covid days.

The end of this most unusual school year is finally upon us. Today was my last day of online tutoring . For the past five weeks I worked with students who bravely engaged with me through computer screens   Navigating through all this involved both huge challenges and delights. Along with hundreds of thousands of teachers and students, I learned two basic facts this spring: 1) we can teach and learn virtually–even with young children it is possible; and 2) it’s not nearly as much fun or satisfying to do school through computer screens (although it is nice to wear pajamas to school every day).

Society en masse experiencing shelter-at-home and safer-at-home orders has forced us to reconcile the lifestyle we all took for granted with a new way of living—apart physically, yet finding the most creative and innovative ways to still be together and connect human to human. We’ve had to be flexible and adaptable on the fly, and on all levels—mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional. In my case, the emotional level has felt most extreme. Days and nights have been wide emotional pendulums, from feeling steady, happy, and even joyful at moments, to later in the day dipping down into anxiety, fear, and loneliness. We’re undergoing a grand human experiment of learning resilience in the face of adversity, and of experiencing grace under unprecedented pressure.

Through online tutoring, I observed that the kids adapted to the lockdown situation with surprising agility and often much less drama than many adults in the room. The biggest hardship for children, I’d guess, is their highly restricted social time with friends and limited opportunities for physical exercise. Teaching academic subjects is challenging enough through a screen; how PE teachers manage it is nearly incomprehensible.

Saying goodbye to my students, who are all between 7 and 9 years old, was an internal process that took many days. I realized anew how hard it is to say goodbye to people I grew fond of, and all the more so because of their innocence and vulnerability. The biggest learning for me during the past six months is that a caring adult can make a huge difference in a child’s life. Small gestures matter greatly—the few minutes that you give to really listen to a child so they can express what’s in their mind and heart will give them self confidence and trust in you.

This spring has shown many of us the value of small gestures. It has shone a spotlight on people that many of us casually take for granted—now deemed essential to the running of society. I believe that teachers, tutors, paraprofessionals, and school staff members are included in the group of essential workers for society. Although some parents and family members may disagree, I would argue that a child’s school community is a critically important part of their life, and what they experience within their school will either enhance their self-worth, intellectual, emotional, and social capacities, or do the opposite. Society as a whole must continue to support their local public education system, and not let corporate money interests dictate how the system is run.

As a last gift, I shared this music video with my students today. It’s an old song, and still sounds so good. I hope it brings a smile and few dance steps to your body, mind, heart, and soul.

 

 

It’s finally time for big, structural change

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image via commondreams.org

Dear Readers, usually I am careful on this blog to avoid sounding strident or provocative to the point where some of you won’t bother to read it. But today I feel that I must speak out about the absolute urgency of our common crisis moment here in America.

The Covid-19 pandemic has devastated the American economy during the past six weeks. Congress has passed several unprecedented economic recovery bills, which they touted as helping everyday Americans and especially small businesses to get through the emergency intact. Yet, it is coming out into the public that a large percentage of the billions of dollars designed to help small businesses and their employees, is instead (once again) lining the pockets of corporations and billionaires who are siphoning off the money from the ones who cannot survive without it. Read the Forbes magazine article  here.

“We’re not going to be able to check all the loans before they go out the door because there’s over 26,000 of these loans, but before we forgive these loans, we’ll check every single one over $2 million,” Mnuchin pledged on Tuesday. “I encourage everybody to look at this and pay back these loans now so we can recycle the money if you made a mistake.”

More than 220 public companies have applied for at least $870 million in small business loans, according to data analytics firm FactSquared.

Under the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, The Paycheck Protection Program was originally allocated $349 billion for emergency small business loans, but that funding was quickly exhausted amid overwhelming demand that has often caused glitches in the system. Despite weeks of controversy around the PPP, another $310 billion was injected into the program thanks to the latest $484 billion coronavirus relief bill passed last week. “–Forbes magazine

Among ALL of the immense lessons Covid-19 has been teaching us, this particular one is definitely in the top 3 for people to pay attention to. We watched as giant corporations consolidated their wealth during the 2008 Great Recession. We saw predatory companies buy up smaller ones, including many banks. During the past 12 years, wealth consolidation by the wealthiest corporations and CEOs has gone from terrible to inconceivable. It is inconceivable that literally a handful of humans’ net worth is more than well over half of the population of the United States combined. Let that sink in for a moment.

Top wealthy people US-Forbes-2019

Top wealthy people 2-US-Forbes-2019
www.forbes.com/forbes-400

Further reading:  https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/04/27/no-were-not-all-together-how-super-rich-are-cheating-america

Watching the news spectacle coming from Washington DC each day during the pandemic, many of us feel by turns angry, frustrated, sad, devastated, or perhaps even resigned to the ineptness and absurdity we are hearing from the POTUS and his administration. One author from Ireland commented about it this way (from Commondreams.org) :

The gifted Fintan O’Toole offers a fresh, brilliant, devastating perspective on a time when the sense of America as a great country “has all but evaporated.” Now the epicenter of a pandemic, he describes a nation “locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid-19, has amplified its lethality. This is not mere ignorance – it is deliberate and homicidal stupidity,” he writes. “It is one thing to be powerless in the face of a natural disaster, quite another to watch vast power being squandered in real time – willfully, malevolently, vindictively, often in the recurring horror show of briefings in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.” 

The question most of us wonder is, Where do we go from here? When will the citizens finally awaken out of the nightmare of what life in America has become for the majority of us? Isn’t it way beyond time to open our eyes and squarely face the obscenity of unbridled greed and power-mongering being flaunted right before our faces? And then say:  NO MORE. EVER AGAIN. The hundreds of millions of people who continue to suffer due to monstrous inequity by the power elite deserve better. The Covid-19 pandemic is showing us our collective neuroses like never before.  May we each have the deep courage and strength to finally, creatively, and loudly point it out, protest, petition our members of congress, and most importantly, to vote for real, structural change to the status quo. The criminals must be permanently stopped, and the time is NOW.