Local Commentary

The Causes of Today’s Activism

America is entering into an era of unprecedented public ferment that we predict will not abate until there is a definite and wholesale personnel change at the White House. It is driven by four factors, at least.

First is the fact that the nation, now buoyed by the ubiquitous presence of cellphone video cameras and by a new and inspiring young generation of questioning and voting citizens, has had it “up to here” with the kinds of brutal police violence against persons of color that we all witnessed with the incredibly painful murder by a uniformed officer of George Floyd earlier this month. Systemic inequality and patterns of prejudice permeate our culture now, impacting the quality of healthcare, education and employment opportunities, much less how law enforcement is meted out.

Second is the novel coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19, that has already taken well over 100,000 lives of U.S. citizens this spring alone. Rushed efforts to undo a lot of the measures that were carefully taken to limit its spread are increasingly being ignored, threatening to cause another explosive outbreak and laying waste to all the preventative sacrifices made by the public in the last three months.

Third is the horrible and brutal performance of our president, getting worse, it seems, by the day. There seems no doubt that he has designs on a fascist dictatorship as everything about his body language, including the famous Bible incident, suggests. Now, with the aid of a complicit attorney general and key people in the congressional leadership, the threat of a major tampering with the November presidential election looms to the disenfranchisement of every American citizen, pro-Trump or not, because everyone’s right to chose will have been stripped.

Fourth is the onset of a great new depression caused in part by emergency measures taken to stem Covid-19, but guaranteed to deepen because the economy never really recovered from the Great Recession of 2008 and too many Americans were left living paycheck to paycheck (if they even have one), with half of the households unable to handle a sudden $400 expense if they had to. Along with systemic racism, systemic economic inequality threatens the future of the nation even as it is challenged to step up against growing rivalries around the globe.

Who knows what new crises may be added to this list. Surely there is global warming, one element more than others that could end life as we know it on this orb spinning through space. Weather catastrophes may loom, and the combined effect of a number of factors could lead to food shortages and famine, right here in the U.S.A. Finally, of course, there is the threat of war, a big war.

The remarkable thing about all this is that it no longer reads like some kind of apocalyptic science fiction scenario, but all these elements are really part of our “new normal.” So is today’s social ferment.