Just Convergence

If you face an adversary armed with a bow, you don’t necessarily make yourself safer by breaking the arrows as they come. You don’t necessarily even make yourself safer by seizing and destroying the bow. Might not your adversary have other weapons on hand?

The police are animate though, so perhaps it’s more fitting to imagine that someone assails you with a dog. The dog could be killed, tamed, defanged, freed, redirected, or simply put on a leash, but what of your assailant?

In a text conversation, my friend Alex (in addition to calling for “garbage bags for cops” and “state of the art PPE for docs”) opines, “There also needs to be [a] legal framework to prevent private security militias from being further cemented into cities [to prevent] what could be potentially an exodus to the private sector for ex-cops more than already exists.”

The forces most directly served by the police have shown protean flexibility over the course of US history, and I worry both about the singular rage directed at the police and the narrow focus on police reform, not because the rage isn’t justified and the reforms aren’t called for, but because the progression from slavery to Jim Crow to mass incarceration points to the ability of entrenched interests to outmaneuver and undermine movements for social justice. To often, we find ourselves a step behind, and I share Alex’s concern about the shift to private security forces, and harbor additional worries about e-carceration, counterinsurgency, and the medium-term hybrid warfare to which an emerging broad Left movement for change will almost certainly be subjected.

On the pandemic, quoting from the study (now available) that I referenced yesterday:

By analyzing the trend and mitigation measures in Wuhan, China, Italy, and New York City […] we show that airborne transmission is highly virulent and represents the dominant route to spread the disease. […] We conclude that wearing of face masks in public corresponds to the most effective means to prevent interhuman transmission, and this inexpensive practice, in conjunction with simultaneous social distancing, quarantine, and contact tracing, represents the most likely fighting opportunity to stop the COVID-19 pandemic. Our work also highlights the fact that sound science is essential in decision-making for the current and future public health pandemics.

On the convergence of struggles for racial justice, public health, and climate sanity (about which I’ve been writing in recent days), there’s a good, short interview with Rhiana Gunn-Wright, “one of the architects of the Green New Deal,” in which she states:

When the Green New Deal came out, […] [p]eople were nervous that attaching climate change and climate policy to calls for racial justice or economic justice was too much, that we were actually going to make it harder to make progress on climate—as if they aren’t all connected, which they are.

We were essentially saying that climate change is not just a technical problem. It’s not just an issue of emissions. It’s an issue of the systems that have allowed an industry that essentially poisons people to continue, and to do so even as it further and further imperils our survival, both as a nation and as a globe. It comes down to issues of race and class and place.

And so this moment actually makes me glad that we did that work before. Because it has meant that some groups that are seen solely as climate, like the Sunrise Movement, have invested in this set of uprisings. They’re working with the Movement for Black Lives to get their members out to protest, to connect them to actions, to help them understand how climate is connected to this.

On holding the Governor accountable for his manifold failures, Ross Barkan continues to do good work, including in this recent piece, “It was Andrew Cuomo’s Curfew,” in which he writes:

The backlash against the curfew and the calls for de Blasio’s resignation played perfectly into Cuomo’s hands. De Blasio was the front man for a reviled policy. Cuomo, again, receded into the background, leaving a lame-duck mayor to absorb a week of horrendous local and national press. It is a maneuver Cuomo has perfected; take credit for successes that are barely his own and avert blame for failures that are directly his doing. Cuomo’s tragic incompetence in the initial weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak was emblematic of what I will term, for a lack of a better phrase, the Cuomo style. Now that New York’s coronavirus case load is in decline, Cuomo will declare victory and seek plaudits for tamping down the pandemic. But almost 30,000 people are dead. The blood on Cuomo’s hands is real.

On the billionaireocracy, and the need to oppose it at every step, Essam Attia has a powerful piece in The Indypendent, questioning the wisdom of trusting Michael Bloomberg with our contact tracing data, in which he asserts:

A dangerous trend is emerging among members of the American billionaire class and their political allies. They perceive themselves to have limitless power. Bloomberg has demonstrated his willingness to exercise that power, from the unconstitutional stop-and-frisk policy to covert spying in mosques, Islamic schools, Muslim-owned businesses and restaurants and his ambitions to install a drone surveillance program to target and surveil all New Yorkers.

Finally, in a brief round-up, it should go without saying, but “pedestrian-friendly street redesigns that happen without diverse public input can end up harming the communities they serve”; super impressive and inspiring that a 19-year-old “Queens Student Activist [Got] NYC Pols to Return Cop Union Funds” through doing some basic campaign finance research; and the debate rages on – today in separate pieces for The Intercept – regarding the radical reversal of position on the safety of large public gatherings by many public health experts, a debate which centers on claims about harm reduction and the relative threats to health posed by the pandemic and structural racism on the one hand, and accusations of hypocrisy and politicization of science on the other.

Heartbreakingly, an essential worker – caught up in a mass arrest by NYPD at a protest against police brutality that was being shut down for violating the above-mentioned curfew – has now been in jail for a week. I encourage you to call, write, or Tweet in his defense.

Heart-mendingly, a “woman who was arrested near a [protest in New Orleans was] released after hundreds of protesters immediately surrounded the [police] car [into which she’d been forced] demanding for her to be released.”

Here’s to a future of racial, health, environmental, and climate justice. We might simplify that to simply a just future, and a life-affirming one. I hope to see such a convergence emerge as the new center of our politics.

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