The victim count from the February 6th earthquake and aftershocks in Turkey and Syria keeps climbing – with 21,000 dead at this writing. Countless thousands more survivors have been made homeless in midwinter. It is a script for mass trauma, grief, and chaos.
About 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) away in Moscow, uber-madman Putin is still engaged in lethally punishing Ukraine for being Ukraine and Ukrainians for being Ukrainians, while weapons manufacturers everywhere privately celebrate their expanding profits. Week after week, meantime, masses of ordinary Russians seem to succumb to the relentless official gaslighting around what is actually going on.
On the latest from Washington’s Capitol Hill, George Anthony DeVolder Santos is still in Congress –although a determined group of LGBTQ newbie lawmakers plus legal eagle (and straight) ally Congressman Dan Goldman have now formally filed a resolution to have him expelled. They will push to, at a minimum, force every member of the House to go on record pro or con in a floor vote. So maybe this augurs well for a little schadenfreude in the offing. One can only hope. (Or write some letters.)
The civil turmoil in Israel continues. Tens of thousands of outraged (mostly Jewish) citizens take to the streets weekly to oppose their country’s pivot toward open autocracy without judicial oversight. The protestors demand a return to the status quo ante, in which they have long enjoyed the not inconsiderable trappings of democracy — without the inconvenience of an authentic, genuine, one-person-one-vote, equal-rights-under-the-law democracy allowing Palestinians under Israeli rule the same human and civil rights they themselves value so highly.
(A schadenfreude-tinged footnote: a few demonstrators have begun standing together to hoist signs about Palestinian rights; right now, they are an isolated few, but — who knows.)
It is fascinating how erstwhile right-wing ex-prime minister Netanyahu under threat of indictment for corruption has agilely morphed into liberal-centrist current PM Netanyahu by simply expanding his alliances farther and farther to the extreme right until his cabal went over the cliff into the abyss where the LGBTQ-loathing, Arab-hating, with-God-on-our-side Noam party lives. For now, Bibi may be under less threat of indictment, as his cronies agitate to gut the justice system like a dead fish, an initiative which might (if they succeed) effectively end the legal system’s personal threat to the premier for the present.
Palestinians struggle to find a horizon for hope as young men (mostly) are shot dead one after another by Israeli forces with almost total impunity in the West Bank. Sometimes, Palestinians fight back. But a just resolution of the conflict? Myriad well-intentioned attempts are promoted, but none is anywhere close to success yet.
Seventy-six-year-old Palestinian-American grandfather Jamal Niser, with diabetes and failing eyesight, is still in prison somewhere in Israel, without charge or trial, a phenomenon known as “administrative detention” that Israel adapted from British Mandatory times. According to Addameer, Jamal is in good company — as one of a reported 835 such detainees right now, whose incarceration can be extended indefinitely, at any time, by military fiat.
Meanwhile in the American Evangelical Chastity Belt, women’s reproductive rights continue to be eviscerated state by state in the US. In West Pembroke Pines, Florida, women track team athletes and their parents are now pushing back against DeSantis-inspired questions about the young women’s menstrual cycles on their team physical evaluation forms. Yes indeed, you read that right. Such questions are designed to entrap them later if they have an unwanted pregnancy and try to end it. Or if they receive medical care as transgender. I’ll bet you on a stack of Bibles that there are some for-profit private prison companies like GEO in Florida already gearing up for fast-tracked new facilities construction. It’s a lucrative business opportunity, housing all those teenage women athletes whom DeSantis wants to catch and incarcerate along with their mothers, doctors, nurses, and the Uber drivers who transport them somewhere, sometime, for their reproductive health care. (How about a nice stack of Bibles from the People of Praise — you know, that 1,700-member secretive cult that Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett and other like-minded and obedient conservative Christian women belong to…)
If you are interested in hard data and informed analysis about the rapidly deteriorating status of women’s reproductive freedom in the US, you can consult the venerable Guttmacher Institute (est. 1968) website for deep background. And if you want detailed, passionate coverage of the latest developments, try Jessica Valenti at Abortion Every Day, on Substack (free version here).
And of course, all of the grim news cited above is before you take a look at what’s going on in the rest of the world! Rohingya people fleeing for their lives in boats again. Climate refugees in numerous regions languishing in DP camps. Armed militias on the rampage in conflict hot spots.
Talk to us, Mr. Pence!
So for me, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this, the announcement that US Department of Justice Special Prosecutor Jack Smith has just subpoenaed former vice president Mike Pence to testify about the 2020-2021 Trump-led insurrection against the United States government is a heartening development in an otherwise desolate landscape. Pence has not yet indicated whether he intends to comply without a potentially lengthy court battle. But, in the meantime, hey — I’ll take my Schadenfreude where I can get it.