Today is Saturday January 2nd. Kia ora katoa.
What an odd time of year this is. In Aotearoa New Zealand, where we can mingle and celebrate without fear, festivities have been slightly muted. I guess the overwhelming emotions are gratitude and relief, that, for now, we are spared the worst of the coronavirus, and of UK and US politics. There’s a great deal to be thankful for! But while celebrating Christmas and New year’s Eve are usually such a big deal overseas, Kiwis are like “Yeah…Nah”. Whatever. Here in New Zealand the road toll for the holiday season is alarming, but this summer we cannot blame weary tourists for driving on the wrong side of the road.
Overseas, the variant strain of Covid has now been detected in 33 countries, and in three US states: Colorado California, and now Florida. In many places, hospital staff are just desperate. I have to say that the situation reminds me of a novel by Emile Zola, Germinal, which made a profound impression on me. The miners’ lives are truly bleak, and they lack enough food, but eventually they stay out on strike, and, one wonders, what do they eat then? I think of American people, millions of whom lived in poverty before the pandemic, many of whom were struggling, some homeless, and just how do they survive in this environment of the pandemic? Zola’s novel is of course about leadership and the strategy of rebellion, and a very fine novel it is, too.
This morning I listened to a right-wing (anti Trump) podcast – I know, sometimes these folk are just too frustrating to listen to, but one of them bemoaned the lack of consequences of the Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, and the death of Breonna Taylor. These protests were huge, sparking protests in many other countries, and a deal of police brutality in the US. I know many conservatives were truly alarmed and amazed to learn how dreadful and different things are for black people, even politicians and well-educated folk, at first hand. The Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, usually so mild-mannered, Eugene Robinson even let down his guard. The Rev Al Sharpton’s sermon at one of Floyd’s funeral services was deeply moving, about how George’s death had sparked almost world-wide awakenings and mostly peaceful protests; and how the Minneapolis police had no right to kneel on his neck, which God had made. Apparently Linsey Graham was amazed when Will Hurd spoke of being stopped by police when driving in his own neighbourhood. Even these worldwide protests, which went on for days, did not have an awakening effect on Trump, who saw fit to meet any kind of protest with tear gas and brutality. He didn’t actually order troops to fire on anybody, although Kyle Rittenhouse, who took the law into his 17 year old hands and shot three people in Kenosha, Wisconsin, killing two of them, will not be charged. Did I mention he had an illegally obtained AR15?
Meanwhile, in the US, Senator Josh Hawley (a very entitled young man, by all accounts), has indicated that he will challenge Biden’s status as president elect, thus forcing Congress to count formally the Electoral College votes. Pence, who is to chair this January 6th session, has asked for a lawsuit against him to be dismissed. “Pence seeks rejection of lawsuit that aimed to expand his power to overturn the election”, says The Washington Post. (Breaking news: a judge has dismissed this case). And the senate has voted to override Trump’s veto on the Defence Bill. But the UK Guardian reports Iran’s Foreign Minister as saying they fear an American attack.
Then there are the Georgia run-off elections on January 5th, which will determine control of the Senate: if Democrats win both seats, they will narrowly have control. The stakes are enormously high. Trump and the Republicans are sending very mixed messages. It’s almost as if Trump doesn’t want Republicans to win, thus hurting Mitch McConnell and any other Republican who has openly spoken against him, saying he lost the presidential election. What can his aim be? Who knows? One thing’s for sure, it will probably be a tight race. But remember, this is the state that elected Congressman John Lewis. It’s Martin Luther King’s state. And then there’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Q-Anon affiliate, and congresswoman elect. There are a lot of black people in Georgia. Trump is ridiculing its republican governor, Brian Kemp, who has been one of his most loyal foot-soldiers. He’s even tweeted that Kemp should resign! It should be an interesting election to watch, if one can bear to. The amount of money going into these elections is staggering, especially given the real hardships people are experiencing, exacerbated by delays in financial relief.
Then there’s the right-wing protest set down for January 6th in Washington, where you aren’t allowed to carry arms, concealed or otherwise. The Proud Boys are allegedly “standing by”, as requested by Trump, as I’m sure are many others. One fears that things will get out of control, and Trump will declare emergency powers. Then what? He seems desperate to hold onto a job that he has no interest in doing. Discussions abound regarding the state lawsuits awaiting him, when he stops being president, and to what extent he should bear consequences for his cruel actions. This probably steels his resolve to remain in power, somehow, anyhow. Some say the challenges have no chance of working; that may be so, but many of us would certainly like to see Biden safely inaugurated as President, and see him move into the White House. Then, perhaps, we can breathe a sigh of relief, and start worrying about all the other pressing problems, such as the challenges posed by climate change, aggression by the police, aggression by Russia, China, and North Korea, income discrepancy, trade arrangements, and so on.
Everyone is saying 2020 has been such an “horrendous” year; but what awaits us now? Time will tell, I guess.
It is now Sunday, January 3rd. I have just heard that not only will Ted Cruz add his name to the list of republican senators contesting Biden’s win of the presidential election on January 6th, but a large number of republican congressmen will join them (140 House Republicans, 11 Senators as of now), although some senators, Lisa Murkowski, for example, have gone public to counsel against this. Trump has insulted Ted Cruz very badly – his wife, his father; what hold does Trump have over him? Sensible people (George Conway, Glenn Kirschner) say this “challenge” has no chance of succeeding. Why won’t republicans defend the democratic process? Even the much-vaunted Constitution (government of the people, by the people, for the people). But we are still nervous.
In other news, the Russian penetration of US government computer networks is reported as being more extensive than earlier thought (it was already scary!), and the official death toll from Covid 19 stands at almost 350,000.
The new variant off Covid 19 has arrived in New Zealand. Since New Year, there have been 19 cases diagnosed of Covid 19, all in managed isolation. Of these, 6 are the UK variant of Covid 19. The government has instituted pre-departure tests for Covid 19 for travellers from the UK and the US from January 15th, but it’s here already. An ICU doctor from London is reported as saying “I’m watching whole families getting wiped out here, and it’s got to stop.” This is the variant that was reported as being more infectious, but not so deadly.
Happy New Year, everyone! 2021 doesn’t look great from here…but there are things to look forward to. Here we give thanks, adapt, and get on with our lives. Ngā mihi.