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The Sculptor Tasked with Completing Gaudí’s Sagrada Família

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In this meditative short film, Etsuro Sotoo talks about what made him want to spend 41 years working as a sculptor in an attempt to finish Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Família basilica in Barcelona. From a website dedicated to Sotoo:

In 1978 Etsuro Sotoo arrived in Barcelona. He had just graduated in Fine Arts, he had just one year of experience as an Art teacher. When impressed by the unfinished temple: “It was the most fabulous pile of stones I had ever seen” …He asked for a job as a stonecutter. He wanted to continue the Nativity façade (the only façade that, thanks to his work, would be declared by Unesco World Heritage). He did a test and they gave him the position. Since then, he has completed what Gaudí did not even have time to think about. When he finished with the gaps, he started with the architect’s notes. When the tracks are over, it’s up to him to make decisions.

According to the video, Sotoo even converted to Catholicism as a way for him “to know Gaudí”. (via craig mod)

Tags: Antoni Gaudi   architecture   art   Etsuro Sotoo   video
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iridesce
1 day ago
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You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument

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acdha
16 days ago
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Anyone who is bothered more by statues crashing down than this is really showing their true colors
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iridesce
14 days ago
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“Cancel Yale” Is Silly—Or Is It?

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Some conservatives think they have found a very clever way to troll the activists who push for renaming things named after slaveholders. Yale University was named after a slaveholder, Elihu Yale. If we believe in renaming military bases that were named in honor of Confederate generals, what principled argument is there for not renaming Yale University? The “reductio ad absurdum” is designed to show that activists are extremists and that carrying their principles through to their logical conclusion would result in actions that none of them are presently encouraging people to take. And it’s a silly effort to troll activists, but it raises an actual serious question: what principles do we use to evaluate what should and shouldn’t be renamed? Is renaming a university so costly as to be unthinkable? 

Ann Coulter, naturally, is delighting in joining a fake conservative #CancelYale movement. They do not mean these things of course, but they think that they are “using the activists’ logic.” Right-wing pundit Jesse Kelly said

Yale University was named for Elihu Yale. Not just a man who had slaves. An actual slave trader. I call on Yale to change it’s [sic] name immediately and strip the name of Yale from every building, piece of paper, and merchandise.

Ann Coulter tweeted: “202 years of celebrating a racist, genocidal slave trader is enough. YALE. MUST. CHANGE. ITS. NAME.” Mike Cernovich, a slimeball of whom we have have written before, said that “Everyone who has ‘Yale’ in his or her biography is a racist who supports slavery.” I think they are hoping that they can get some famous Yale alumni to either become flustered and unable to explain why Yale shouldn’t be renamed, or to actually call for renaming Yale and thereby create a giant distracting controversy. 

Some seemed quite genuine in thinking that Activist Logic positively requires the renaming of Yale, and there could be no argument otherwise. Jesse Singal of New York magazine asked:

What’s the good-faith argument against changing Yale’s name, if we’re being honest? It can be a conservative trolljob but also be true, if you believe slaveowners’ names shouldn’t be honored in this manner.

Now, there is an obvious “good faith” argument against renaming Yale. But one reason conservatives are clever to have selected this particular target is that it’s an argument nobody will want to make. The argument is: “Yale’s name is important, and there would be a much more significant loss in getting rid of Yale’s name than in the case of bases named after Confederates.” 

The argument anyone who wanted to defend Yale against Coulter would make goes like this: 

The costs of renaming it would outweigh the benefits. This is because the associations between the name “Yale” and Elihu Yale the man are minimal; over time, the university has built up so much history that the name has developed an important identity completely separate from him, an identity that is different to that which is associated with living on a particular military base. Furthermore, the Yale name has a great deal of meaning to students, faculty, and alumni. Around the world, the name signifies a specific institution they are proud to be part of. Renaming it would destroy a significant part of the institution’s cache. It would also deprive students and alumni of color of a marker of social prestige that they have worked hard to earn. Thus, while one of our principles should be that things named after slaveholders should be renamed, we have other principles as well, and sometimes a particular renaming would carry a significant downside versus a limited upside.

But notice that this defense of Yale’s name, while logically valid, is also elitist, presuming the legitimacy of the kind of social prestige Yale grants. Yale would never give up its name because the name has come to mean something far more important than a tribute to a particular odious dead “philanthropist.” It has come to mean Yale, an institution with prestige and influence. It assumes that a person’s association with Yale as a word has some importance that we would not want to disappear. The reason why many Yale people would be horrified at the renaming suggestion clearly has something to do with Yale’s brand, which not only sells a lot of sweatshirts but is also valued as a marker of social status that sets people apart from one another. Yale may be proud of its “community” and “identity,” and would insist that, much like a city or any other university, it is simply trying to protect a name people take pride in. But it is also an exclusive club, one whose alumni get to be treated as if they are automatically knowledgeable. One reason the conservative “Cancel Yale” troll works so well is not because there’s no argument for keeping the name, but because arguing strenuously against the re-naming of Yale requires Yale people to admit that they highly value being Yale people and would not want to stop being Yale people. It is demanding that those who have won in the “meritocracy” risk giving up their privileges for the sake of racial justice. (I say “risk” because I think ultimately changing the name on the sign wouldn’t change the institution’s social function much.) I’m sure the alumni of any university would fight hard to keep from having it changed, but going after Yale specifically is a satisfying poke at liberal elites who want justice as long as it comes at no cost to themselves.

Is it clear that Yale being called Yale is more important than Ft. Bragg being called Ft. Bragg? Perhaps it’s worth thinking about what a name means to people. As philosopher Juliet Capulet famously noted, roses are not roses simply because they are called roses. But perhaps Juliet was wrong: if we discover that the man roses were named after (Arnold Rose) was a trader in human beings, perhaps we would lose something by renaming the rose, since its name has come to have significant associations, and we have essentially forgotten that Mr. Rose even existed. And perhaps that ineffable something lost would be greater than the gain that comes excising tributes to odious men from the language. 

Perhaps the way to measure whether things should be renamed is to make a “cost-benefit analysis.” (Ew, I hate that term.) Renaming a city might not be worth it, if the city has a proud identity separate from the nasty guy for whom its named—New Orleans is named after Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, but I am not sure that any revelation about Philippe’s conduct in 1701 should cause us to ditch an identity that has built over hundreds of years. The costs are too high. It’s not worth it. On the other hand, renaming “Lee Circle” as “Tivoli Circle” (its original name, though I thought they should have gone with Circle de Fats) was perfectly sensible. No real loss there, nothing to debate. 

So there are more and less obvious cases, and activists will make judgment calls. For example, even if we don’t rename every street with a horrible person’s name, we could at least rename Jefferson Davis Parkway. We all know who the guy was and the associations are quite strong (especially when you’re standing at the intersection of Jefferson Davis and Martin Luther King), so renaming is obviously the right thing to do. In some cases, maybe there’s not much symbolic value in doing the change: if every street in the South that is named after a horrible person had to be changed, you’d have to rename half the streets in the South, and I think energy is probably best spent on symbols that matter the most—like a statue that sits in the middle of the town square—that are most associated with the person, and that cost the least to get rid of. I assume that logic is what leads Tulane University to rename a building—since who cares about individual campus buildings?—but not rename itself. It’s not necessarily “hypocrisy” since the principle isn’t that renaming things outweighs every other consideration, but that when we can rename, it provides a useful opportunity to educate people about history. (And of course, people should know about the deeds of Paul Tulane and Elihu Yale.) 

What about the bases? Well, one reason the Army itself doesn’t seem to be making too much of a fuss about renaming the bases is not only that the Confederates were literally traitors, but that this could be a phenomenal bit of PR for the armed forces. It will show they’re good and enlightened and progressive! Renaming baess is a relatively cost-free way to get rid of nasty slave-owners nobody cared about anyway and build pride in U.S. Army heroes, if that’s the sort of thing you think ought to happen. (If anything, as leftists, we should oppose renaming military bases because we shouldn’t and can’t sanitize the U.S. military’s function by giving its bases more “woke” names.) 

As for Yale, personally I am a socialist, and I think Yale ought to be expropriated and turned into a public school called New England University (New Haven campus), which would be free to all and admit anybody who met a set of clear admissions criteria (once there are too many applicants, they’d be selected by a pure random lottery). Harvard would of course become New England University (Cambridge campus). A political fight in favor of Yale changing its name—while keeping all of its resources and its basic function as a reproducer of the American ruling class—is probably not worth having. But it’s also not a name worth defending. 

I went to law school at Yale, but personally I wouldn’t object in the slightest if students rose up and demanded it be renamed. More importantly, it is a place that reproduces social inequality, and like renaming a military base, renaming Yale would be like Philip Morris rebranding as “Altria” and Blackwater becoming “Academi.” (Instead of “cancer sticks” and “mercenaries” they want you to think “altruism” and “education.”) If Fort Hood becomes Fort W.E.B. DuBois, it’s not going to take on any of DuBois’s values. A base by any other name still smells like PART OF THE AMERICAN IMPERIALIST WAR MACHINE. 

But losing slaveholders’ names is generally not particularly costly, and the basic principle ought to be that when things can be easily renamed and monuments to bad people taken down, they should be. It’s 100% positive when slaveowners’ busts are ripped down and tossed in the river. It’s great that civil rights activism has gotten us so far from the 1950s, when activists had to demand equal participation in an annual ceremony to honor a slaveholder. Now they say “fuck that guy” and throw him into the sea. Obviously we need to make sure we do not prioritize purely symbolic gains at the expense of material ones, but there is no reason we can’t have both, a society that treats people fairly and honors people who were actually honorable and did not own other people. Generally activists have actually shown that they’re pretty reasonable about selecting targets, and the conservative attempt to show that “the activists’ logic” is absurd has actually only revealed how sensible it is. 

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iridesce
20 days ago
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Workers Keep Society Going. After the Crisis, They Should Run it Too.

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Every day across Britain, what we now describe as key workers set out to maintain life. They do this not only in care homes and hospitals, as EMTs, doctors, nurses, cleaners, or porters. They do it in supermarkets, stacking shelves, and in food production; they do it by cleaning our streets and collecting our bins; they do it by delivering mail and keeping essential public transport operational. 

In sustaining the lives of others, they put their own lives at risk. Thomas Harvey, a 57-year-old healthcare assistant in Ilford and father of seven died from Covid-19 at the end of March. His family say he was forced to work with “just gloves and a flimsy apron.” One nurse, Mary Agyapong, contracted the virus while pregnant. She is survived by her infant child. Another medical worker, Karen Hutton, passed away just two weeks after the birth of her grandchild. Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, a urologist in Romford, wrote a Facebook post begging the government for personal protective equipment “to protect ourselves and our families.” He died days later.

In London alone, five bus drivers had succumbed to Covid-19 by early April according to Unite the union. Akie Fenty, Bola Omoyeni, and Stefan Haluszczak passed away keeping postal services running. An outsourced cleaner in the Ministry of Justice, Emanuel Gomes, spent days working with coronavirus symptoms, fearing that he would not be entitled to sick pay, before dying on April 24. 

Each day, workers like these lay the foundations of a decent society – based on common endeavour for the common good – only to watch them torn down before their shifts have ended. They are torn down by the fecklessness of a Tory government which refused to take the pandemic seriously, delayed lockdown, allowed non-essential work to continue, then failed to provide adequate PPE, tracing or testing; a government which had the time to learn the lessons from Italy and Spain, but instead allowed Britain to surpass them to the worst death rate in Europe. A government which now flirts with further disaster by lifting the lockdown before it ensures safety.

They are torn down by the pompous, but also by the profiteers. In early March, Wetherspoons announced a 15 percent increase in its profits – and promptly told its workers to go find jobs in Tesco for the duration of the pandemic. Food manufacturing staff concerned about falling ill were told that “if we need to get rid of 200 people’s jobs next month, I’m going to look at who turned up to work.” British Airways responded to the crisis by making 12,000 workers redundant on the day one of their colleagues died. He had been working on flights that brought loved ones home to see their dying relatives.

The conscientiousness of labour and the irresponsibility of capital. It is the great contrast of our times. But it should not come as a surprise, it has been demonstrated in our communities for decades. While working people provided our public services, capital privatised them; while working people fought to keep our youth clubs open, capital applied the pressure which shut them down; while working people staffed our local foodbanks, capital created the conditions which made them necessary. Day by day, in actions small and large, labour provides the collective basis that makes society possible. It stitches together the social fabric only for capital to tear it apart; it builds only for capital to vandalise. 

And yet the dominant creed for more than a generation has been to venerate capital. We have been told that the real value in our society is created not by the nurses, the cleaners, and the bin collectors but by the stock brokers, the bankers, and the billionaires. “All economic policies must be designed as a spur to the wealth creators,” Margaret Thatcher told the House of Commons in 1985 in a speech opposing the minimum wage. As if the vast corporate empires of our age had not been built on the backs of minimum wage work. As if their wealth was the product only of the genius of some capitalist.

This idea has deep roots in right-wing politics, that the brilliance of the few outweighs the contributions of the many – and that, on this basis, the elite in society have earned their place. Thatcher would often regale ballrooms of suited businessmen with the parables of the talents, of their talents, and contrast them with sermonising of her own about the wastefulness of workers.

Her intellectual guru, Keith Joseph, was even more blunt. Workers and their unions, he said, had “driven out” wealth creators by their demands for decent wages and conditions. The depth of his contempt for anything which could be said to sustain a society can be seen in the 1976 Stockton Lecture where he contrasted the “private wealth-producing sector” with the “public wealth-consuming sector.” The message was clear: the workers we champion today – who provide public services to save lives – were the parasites, he and his business friends were the producers.

This was a vicious lie, and it has done untold damage. But this crisis has reacquainted us with the truth. An army of mostly low-paid workers carry out the tasks which keep our society running. Capital reaps the rewards of their endeavours. Increasingly, it refuses to even allow them share in its riches, choosing executive bonuses and shareholder dividends instead of wage increases, and offshore bank accounts instead of paying taxes. 

As Labour’s 1945 manifesto put it, the business elites act like “totalitarian oligarchies within our democratic State,” “they have and they feel no responsibility to the nation.”

So why, then, do we allow them to control our economy? Why are the major decisions over what is produced and for whom, over the nature of future investments, over who is entitled to what, made in corporate boardrooms? Capitalists don’t create wealth, even in the most innovative sectors. As Mariana Mazzucato has demonstrated, the technology which makes the smartphone ‘smart’ – GPS, touch screens, the internet – all derives from public investment. And the phones themselves are made in China, using lithium mined in Bolivia or cobalt from the Congo.

The job of the capitalist in the modern economy is not to create wealth. It is to bring the factors of production together at a given moment and for a given purpose. They enjoy this privilege only by virtue of ownership, and that ownership itself is derived from exploitation today and for many decades past. And they use this privilege only in pursuit of profit – any social ends which may accrue are at best a byproduct. 

Often they are not even this, such as when Big Pharma tries to limit public access to vaccines or PPE producing companies see a pandemic as an opportunity to price gouge. Actions like these lead to demands for governments to step in and discipline capital, but why should it control the supply of essential medical and health supplies in the first place? If the economy was democratically owned and run by workers, wouldn’t they make decisions more likely to correspond with the common good?

Capital does not respect the work needed to build a society. The only work it values is that which produces profit. This is why our system is so corrosive to the very collectives – family, community, society – which have sustained us through this crisis. Capital values the care we give to our vulnerable neighbours, so long as we’re providing a service for a price. It says that the hungry can be fed, and the homeless housed, but only if they can pay for it. And increasingly it says that healthcare can be provided to those in need, once private companies have made a buck along the way.

But a new consensus can emerge from this moment of crisis, as it has from crises past. We can say the days of capital tearing down the society labour builds are over. We can demand that conscientiousness displayed by workers is rewarded by a place at the heart of post-crisis Britain. Except this time, workers won’t only lay the foundations, they’ll build the entire structure – a society in which the decisions which shape our lives are made for and by working people. That is the socialist ideal.

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iridesce
22 days ago
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Here's What I Want My White Friends To Know About My Encounters With The Police

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Admittedly, I’ve waited a while before expressing my thoughts on the deaths of Black people at the hands of the police, and, in particular, the killing of George Floyd.

“Why now?” my wife asked me when I finally decided to write something. “After all, there had been Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and you didn’t vent.”

Perhaps it was because all these deaths had left me too exhausted.

And what of my white colleagues and friends? Had they too become too exhausted to ask me how I was handling everything that is happening in this country? I don’t know. It hasn’t come up. Instead, there’s just been a lot of well-meaning tiptoeing around me, as if asking how I was feeling might violate some unspoken right to personal anguish. Finally, two weeks after George Floyd was killed, a lifelong white friend admitted he “was scared to ask,” so he hadn’t. 

I asked him why and he said perhaps because he didn’t want to make me relive something traumatic ― that it was my private experience not to be shared unless I chose to. “Perhaps,” he said, “I tell myself that so I can avoid the subject.” 

My sense is that my friend, like a lot of my colleagues, is afraid to find out that somebody close to him has also been victimized by the police because knowing that truth pops the bubble of his perception of our shared reality.

After all, most people might describe me, like the few other African American men I work with on staff, as affable, intelligent, even generous — the same adjectives that were used to describe George Floyd by those who knew him best. And I believe most people want to believe that people with such qualities enjoy pleasant, police-encounter-free lives.

“It’s OK to ask,” I told him. “If I don’t want to share my share of the regular indignities American Black men suffer, I’ll say so.” So he did.

That’s why I’m speaking up now.

My sense is that my friend, like a lot of my colleagues, is afraid to find out that somebody close to him has also been victimized by the police because knowing that truth pops the bubble of his perception of our shared reality.

There’s an old Swahili saying, “haba na haba, hujaza kibaba,” which literally translates to “little by little, the container gets filled.” It could mean water in a jug or it could refer to little indignities that gradually fill up a soul.

Little indignities like when my parents moved our family into an all-white, upper-middle-class, Northwest Washington D.C. neighborhood after my sixth birthday and five little white boys greeted me, my twin brother and my 8-year-old sister by calling us the N-word.

Or little indignities like that time in seventh grade at my Catholic school in that same neighborhood when Ricky Lee called me the N-word as we lined up to return to class after recess. The only reason I didn’t get sent to the principal’s office for punching him in the face was because many other students had heard him.

Or that time in 1981, when I presented cash to a bank teller and asked her to issue me a cashier’s check made out to Harvard University, and she returned it made out to historically Black Howard University ― twice.

Or later that same year, while crossing the street near my Harvard dorm, when a white woman in her car locked its door when I walked past.

The indignities continued and grew when I moved to Los Angeles in 1989. There were the two times cops pulled me over on one of the city’s freeways ― once in 1990 and again in 1991 ― for “speeding.” And by “speeding,” I mean I was barely keeping up with traffic in my 1981 Mazda station wagon hoopty. Unlike white drivers I’d witnessed getting stopped for speeding, who had the luxury of receiving their citations in the comfort of their cars, I was ordered out of my vehicle and forced to stand against the freeway’s concrete barrier, arms straight, palms facing up while my car was searched.

Then, in 1992, the police pulled me over for “failure to yield on a left turn.” Again I was made to get out of my car, made to stand on the curb. But this time, they threatened to handcuff me. I negotiated my way out of being cuffed, but not out of having my plates run, having my car searched or being publicly humiliated. 

In February 1993, I was behind the wheel of a brick-red, four-door 1955 Chevy Bel Air ― a behemoth that looked like those yellow, old-timey New York City Checker cabs. I was alone and dressed in a suit as I was headed to my engagement party. As I motored past a gas station on Lincoln Boulevard, I noticed a cop car pull out and duck in two cars behind me. When I made a left on Ocean Park, he made the left too, and then he lit me up with his lights and sirens. 

I pulled to the curb under a streetlight and placed my wallet, driver’s license and registration on the dashboard, as I’d done previous times I’d been pulled over by the police. Then I raised my hands and palmed the car’s ceiling. A second cop car pulled up. It aimed its spotlight on my rear-view mirror. The other spotlight was aimed at my side, so I was blind to my back and side. Nobody approached me for 20 minutes. 

My arms, shoulders and back hurt from keeping my hands raised but I didn’t move. Finally, the spotlights turned off and I saw a cop standing at my driver’s side window. Six patrol cars and a SWAT team also surrounded me. I was instructed to exit the vehicle and step to the curb. When I got there, one cop reached for his handcuffs. I told him I would not allow him to cuff me ― that I would keep my hands where he could see them ― and I demanded to know why I’d been stopped. He holstered his cuffs and kept his mouth shut. 

The entire street was blocked off. I counted 13 cops and six SWAT members. Ten more silent minutes passed before a sergeant approached me. I repeated my question. He told me a red sports car with two Black men inside was seen fleeing the scene of an attempted carjacking of a white man in a Porsche. When I pointed to my large, nearly 50-year-old sedan and then mentioned I was the only person in that “not a sports car,” he responded that somebody might be hiding in my trunk. By then, I was about done, so I reached for my car keys and took a step toward the back of my car. Every single cop drew and pointed his gun at me. “Freeze!” somebody yelled. 

But they didn’t have to. There’s a distinctive sound made when that many hands slap holster leather and armored SWAT members yank their long guns level. It stopped me cold. I shot my hands skyward.

“There’s nobody in my trunk,” I said. I remember it sounded more like a plea than a statement. The sergeant grabbed my keys and approached the trunk. All weapon barrels moved off me and trained on it. The sergeant unlocked my trunk and threw it open. Empty.

Moments later, SWAT, police and the bystanders who’d gathered around the scene all quietly receded into the dusk. The sergeant handed me back my keys without a word, ducked into his squad car and drove away. No apology. Nothing. Again I was left alone to gather myself, drive to my fiancée’s house and explain why I had just missed the engagement party. 

I cannot recall anything from the rest of that night or from the next few days. I shared this encounter for the first time recently with my twin, who has his own police experiences. He seems to think I may have post-traumatic stress disorder. 

These few stories I’ve just told you are only a handful of the countless little indignities that I have experienced as a Black man in the United States ― and I promise you they are not unique to me.

Whether I do or don’t, I cannot say. What I can say is that these few stories I’ve just told you are only a handful of the countless little indignities that I have experienced as a Black man in the United States ― and I promise you they are not unique to me. Affable, intelligent, maybe even generous ― many of the Black men you already know likely have similar tales. Most of us are willing to share. It helps relieve the psychic pressure from those indignities ― that “haba na haba, hujaza kibaba” of our souls.

My white friend expressed outrage, disgust and despair after listening to my police encounters. I knew those feelings so I let him steep in them for a while. Several quiet minutes later, I admitted to him that despite the inconceivable on-camera killing of George Floyd ― and all of the Black lives that had been taken by the police before him ― this time I felt cautiously optimistic about true change occurring in this country.

May 1963 shocked the conscience of this country. The naked brutality of water from firehoses slamming people into walls; German shepherds attacking children, decent women, stalwart men. The momentum of the civil rights movement really accelerated once the nightly news aired those images from Birmingham, Alabama. No longer could white people wonder how true the stories really were, no longer could they wonder if maybe “those Negroes might have been exaggerating just a bit.” Yes, the stories were. No, Black folk hadn’t.

In May 2020, it happened again. I believe it is the unrelenting way that Derek Chauvin stared into the unwavering lens of the camera phone as it recorded him killing George Floyd for the whole world to witness that just might catapult us into a new and permanent era of police reform, just as that grainy footage of people being mowed down with firehoses and attacked by police dogs 57 years ago pushed civil rights to the forefront of the American psyche. No longer does the world have to wonder if these stories of police brutality are really true ― or wonder if maybe Black folk might have been exaggerating just a bit.

No longer can any respectable white person sit idly by and live with the indelible image of the stark evilness of police brutality and not feel compelled to act. As horrific an act as that was on that Minneapolis street corner, I find strength in the peaceful protests that rose up in its wake because it’s no longer just us Black folk on the front lines. I see good white Americans who are, I believe, awakening, who are coming to the aid of their fellow countrymen. 

I just pray you all are awake enough to avoid the temptation to hit the snooze button like you did after Garner and Martin and Bland and Brown and ...

Jeffrey James Madison works at American University in Washington, D.C., and is a host on WAMU 88.5. He is a former airline pilot and current published author. He is a well-regarded aviation safety Human Factors expert. He is also co-founder of Veteran Compost Residential Food Scrap Services (vcresidential.com). His latest projects include the scheduled launch of TheClimate.org and the podcast “Climate Woke?” (climate-woke.org) this summer.

Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on HuffPost? Find out what we’re looking for here and send us a pitch! 

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acdha
25 days ago
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On that shared reality: I went to PyCon Atlanta in 2010 and had a good time with a lot of great people. Every time I see the t-shirt, I’m reminded of a friend’s story about a different conference there which almost ended with a trigger-happy cop at a dodgy traffic stop who ended up not even citing him but not before giving him a very scary 20 minutes where he had good reason to think he was about to die.

I’ve never had that experience in my life.
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sarcozona
7 days ago
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angelchrys
25 days ago
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Overland Park, KS
iridesce
25 days ago
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Vietnam, Population 95 Million, Has Recorded 0 Deaths from Covid-19

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Several countries have been celebrated for their success in curtailing the Covid-19 pandemic — Iceland, New Zealand, Mongolia, Hong Kong, Taiwan — but Vietnam, a nation of 95 million people that borders China, has recorded only 334 total infections and 0 deaths. 0 deaths. They are currently on a 61-day streak without a single community transmission. (For reference, the US has recorded 2.1 million cases and more than 115,000 deaths with just 3.4 times the population of Vietnam.)

How have they done it? They acted early and aggressively.

Experts say experience dealing with prior pandemics, early implementation of aggressive social distancing policies, strong action from political leaders and the muscle of a one-party authoritarian state have helped Vietnam.

“They had political commitment early on at the highest level,” says John MacArthur, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s country representative in neighboring Thailand. “And that political commitment went from central level all the way down to the hamlet level.”

With experience gained from dealing with the 2003 SARS and 2009 H1N1 pandemics, Vietnam’s government started organizing its response in January — as soon as reports began trickling in from Wuhan, China, where the virus is believed to have originated. The country quickly came up with a variety of tactics, including widespread quarantining and aggressive contact tracing. It has also won praise from the World Health Organization and the CDC for its transparency in dealing with the crisis.

From the BBC:

Vietnam enacted measures other countries would take months to move on, bringing in travel restrictions, closely monitoring and eventually closing the border with China and increasing health checks at borders and other vulnerable places.

Schools were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday at the end of January and remained closed until mid-May. A vast and labour intensive contact tracing operation got under way.

“This is a country that has dealt with a lot of outbreaks in the past,” says Prof Thwaites, from Sars in 2003 to avian influenza in 2010 and large outbreaks of measles and dengue.

“The government and population are very, very used to dealing with infectious diseases and are respectful of them, probably far more so than wealthier countries. They know how to respond to these things.”

By mid-March, Vietnam was sending everyone who entered the country - and anyone within the country who’d had contact with a confirmed case — to quarantine centres for 14 days.

Costs were mostly covered by the government, though accommodation was not necessarily luxurious. One woman who flew home from Australia — considering Vietnam a safer place to be - told BBC News Vietnamese that on their first night they had “only one mat, no pillows, no blankets” and one fan for the hot room.

Forced bussing to quarantine centers in the US, could you even imagine? Better that hundreds of thousands of people die, I guess.

The Vietnamese health system also implemented aggressive contact tracing:

Authorities rigorously traced down the contacts of confirmed coronavirus patients and placed them in a mandatory two-week quarantine.

“We have a very strong system: 63 provincial CDCs (centers for disease control), more than 700 district-level CDCs, and more than 11,000 commune health centers. All of them attribute to contact tracing,” said doctor Pham with the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology.

A confirmed coronavirus patient has to give health authorities an exhaustive list of all the people he or she has met in the past 14 days. Announcements are placed in newspapers and aired on television to inform the public of where and when a coronavirus patient has been, calling on people to go to health authorities for testing if they have also been there at the same time, Pham said.

More from Axios and The Guardian.

Tags: Covid-19   medicine   science   Vietnam
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