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Field Notes

Editor’s Note: End Times Politics

Politics may, as Karl Marx suggested, be an epiphenomenon resting on the “economic foundation” of society, but still have interesting things to tell us. The Democratic Party seems—I write this in the aftermath of Super Tuesday—to have successfully eliminated Bernie Sanders as a candidate. This was the work not just of party officials, who made no secret of their intention to control the nomination, but also of the voters, who in most places stuck with the old political machinery.

Fear is more powerful than facts

Thomas Paine wrote in The American Crisis, “To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead.” These words, penned in 1778, are like a preview of the global disposition to the threat posed by COVID-19.

Life Comes At You Fast

On March 3, a full two weeks before its scheduled meeting on March 17–18, the Federal Reserve announced a surprise interest rate cut of half a percent, down to 1.25 percent. It was the first emergency rate cut since October 2008, in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. The markets were caught off-guard, and far from reassured.

A Day without Women

Here in the Mexican capital, March 8 saw over 80,000 women fill the length of downtown Reforma Avenue. They donned purple shirts, bandanas, and flags, the symbolic color of the women’s movement that, coincidentally, matched the blooming jacarandas. Some have coined this mass movement “The Purple Tide.” They came out in droves—coronavirus concerns be damned. These women were not just marching for equal pay or greater government representation: they were marching for their lives.

Diary from a Genocide in the Making

I spent a week on the US/Mexico border in February with a grassroots group called Witness at the Border. It was my second trip this year, since we launched a daily vigil in Xeriscape Park in Brownsville, Texas, in mid-January. “Witnesses” from over 30 states and abroad have come to bear witness to the horror wrought by the current administration’s cruel immigration policies. A steady drumbeat of incomprehensibly racist policies keeps escalating. First, the travel (or Muslim) ban, then family separation, then children in cages, then “Remain in Mexico” (absurdly called the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP), and now an alphabet soup of stealth policies—PACR, HARP, ACA—that fast track the deportation of asylum seekers. As each new policy unfurls, quicker than the ACLU and other human rights groups can challenge them in court, another one pops up. Cruelty is the point.

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The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2020

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