With less than two weeks to go until the presidential election, I find myself losing sight of all the many other things going on in the world. I’m sure many people feel this way as well. This week’s Extra! Extra! looks at a whole slew of non-election related news, including LGBTQ+ rights and the trifecta of global pandemics: police violence, climate change and COVID-19. And then, of course, we do take a look at election-related news too.
Rachel: I’ve been thinking all week about how to feel about this as a cultural/lapsed Catholic. On the one hand I think even this (ultimately abstract, as it doesn’t amount to a shift in dogma or Catholic theology) gesture will make a genuine difference for many queer folks growing up in Catholic-practicing families and communities, as families and loved ones may genuinely revisit their stances; on the other hand, the Vatican still went out of their way to state as recently as 2019 that the existence of trans people “annihilates the concept of nature”. On yet another hand, this is absurdly too little too late – it’s 2020! Civil unions??? – and ultimately, regardless of theological beliefs, the Vatican as an institution is an inherently oppressive and colonial one; symbolic tolerance of LGBTQ folks is… not liberatory, really. This thought does not have a resolution! I would very much like to hear from other LGBTQ Catholics and folks historically colonized by Catholic empires.
Himani: People keep talking about how Texas is turning purple. That may very well be true but as long as Greg Abbott is governor, it seems like state-driven policies in Texas will remain a deep shade of red. Earlier this year, we saw how Abbott used the governorship to try to undermine police reform in Austin. Now he’s at it again by “recommending” to the state’s Board of Social Worker Examiners to remove the civil rights protections for queer, trans and disabled people. And, unlike the city of Austin — which stood by its police budget cut — the Board caved to this pressure from the governor. The ramifications of this decision are clear.
Himani: Yes, this article is about Amy Coney Barrett’s deeply homophobic views, but also let’s talk about private schools for a hot minute. As per this AP article: “the school’s and organization’s teachings on homosexuality and treatment of LGBTQ people are harsher than those of the mainstream Catholic church” — which, given Rachel’s comments earlier, is a pretty low bar… This is a school that told a gay student to tell a lesbian parent of prospective student that they would have no place in the school, and that this applied to trans and queer families and students on the whole. The school has enshrined the notion of marriage being solely between a man and woman, prevented children from LGBTQ+ families from enrolling, itself bullied its own LGBTQ+ students, … the list goes on and on.
And yet, as the AP article continues, “The actions are probably legal, experts said.”
This is a private school that has received taxpayer money in the form of vouchers. And this is among the many, many reasons why the policy shift towards “school choice” is such a terrible, terrible idea. There’s a long list of other reasons why it’s bad, but tax-payer funded discrimination is pretty high up there.
Police Violence, the World Over
Himani: Police violence was at the forefront of the American conscience this summer. But police violence is, truly, a global problem. Right across the border, Canada is grappling with some of the same issues as the U.S. in terms of the wide latitude it gives to law enforcement and the deadly consequences of that. An ocean away, Nigerians have taken to the streets over that very issue. Over in the Philippines, Duterte is obstinately justifying the thousands upon thousands of extrajudicial killings that have happened at the hands of the police on his watch. In Belarus, police are violently suppressing protests as people demand their right to free and fair elections, much like we saw in Portland earlier this summer and witnessed in Nigeria this week as well. A similar situation is playing out in Thailand, but just today it seems like the government is responding to the pressure from pro-democracy protests. These are just a few instances of police violence that have made the news the past couple of weeks.
Just like we've seen in the U.S., the police in Nigeria are responding to protests about police brutality with more police brutality. pic.twitter.com/j1K5Ydxefm
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) October 21, 2020
Climate Change and Racism Go Hand in Hand
Himani: From the beginning, climate change and racism have been close bedfellows. For centuries, white, Western colonials prioritized their own (short-term) prosperity at the expense of indigenous people and the environment. And those patterns continue. The oil tycoons and land developers and big agricultural corporations know the environmental consequences of their actions. But they don’t care because they don’t have to live with them in the present and won’t have to deal with them in the future. And when some of the effects of climate change start to be felt by those in power, they turn to their two favorite approaches: cultural appropriation and trading in one problem for another.
Himani: It’s such a horrible bind we’ve put ourselves in the world over. The only safe way to exist, to try to fight the virus is to shut down economies. But shutting down economies leads to devastating consequences for the poorest people in society. In Malawi, where half the country lives below the poverty line, this has resulted in a sharp increase in suicides. If only, we as a global community, structured our societies differently. If only we did not endlessly chase after dollars, as Rachel notes below, as well. A pandemic might still have wreaked havoc in the world but perhaps not quite as much death, destruction and devastation.
Rachel: There’s been a lot of (rightful) criticism of the passive voice here – people didn’t “slip” into poverty, as a happenstance, but were thrust into it by the government. Similarly, ‘dried up’ is some very careful phrasing; federal aid was actively denied to us despite calls for it; aid that was actually meant for small business was instead reallocated in bulk to corporations; many businesses that did receive aid weren’t actually beholden to use it to pay workers. All those points are crucially important; I’m also thinking of this news in light of the development just yesterday that GoFundMe has expanded its own relief program in the form of Causes, which include Covid-19 relief. It’s too kind to say it’s a farce – not only has the government abjectly refused to care for its people, but in doing so has created a vacuum that allows a private company to step in and make a profit just by facilitating other private citizens trying to keep each other alive. The invisible hand of the market, I guess!
On Elections, in America and Beyond
Himani: As the world anxiously awaits the results of the upcoming U.S. election, let’s take a look at a few other political situations around the world.
Himani: Ardern has been widely praised for her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and that played a big role in her successful re-election. In a world of populist (essentially) dictators winning landslides and becoming even more authoritarian, this is such a breath of fresh air. I can’t wait to see what she’ll do in her next term.
Himani: This article was a sobering reminder that even when democracy is suppressed to the point of no longer being anything even close to democracy, elections still serve a purpose. I’ve thought about this a lot when I think about the work Alexey Navalny has done for years in Russia. As Americans grow increasingly jaded with our own electoral process, this would be a lesson we would do well to learn.
Less Than Two Weeks Out : Let’s Talk about the Issues
What to Expect on November 3
Himani: I was in seventh grade when Bush v. Gore happened, and it literally disillusioned me on American democracy for the rest of my life. The 2016 election was absolutely devastating for me and others for so, so many reasons. And this. This is my absolute worst nightmare that I am very, very much afraid will be our reality.
Rachel: This isn’t political analysis, but my therapist also brought up this week how many of her clients are making or should make election night preparedness plans about how they’re going to spend the evening regardless of outcome and make sure they’re as well-resourced and cared for as possible. I think this is a great idea and would encourage it for you also! Are there folks you can be with, digitally if not in person? If you do want to get updates, what are sources you trust and share values with that you can get those updates from, and how can you turn off access to the other sources? Would it be a good idea (and possible) to take off work or other obligations the next day? Do you have plans for ways to get involved in making your communities healthier and safer through and beyond the election regardless of outcome? We’re here for you now, and will be on election day too.
Extra! Extra! is on a biweekly schedule for the month of October. We’ll see you in two weeks! (Yes, after the election…)