I never studied the Civil War, except briefly in an eighth grade US History class. Thus my knowledge was confined to the myths in American textbooks and what I imbibed from the culture in general, such as movies and other media. My conception was that southerners before and during the Civil War were solidly united in favor or slavery and the war to preserve it, and were solidly racist. Williams’ book shows that the latter notion was true–even those opposed to slavery were for the most part racist. But there were a few cases of whites opposed to both slavery and the war uniting with slaves to fight the confederacy, examples of the multiracial unity that remains so critical for the success of workers’ struggles today.
F for failure, failure of the US capitalist system to exert any control over Covid-19. In fact, US capitalism now has the worst death rate of any “advanced” nation in the world (https://ourworldindata.org/explorers/coronavirus-data-explorer), despite being the richest and most powerful (at least for now). By January 10, 2022, the US had the most infections since the start of the pandemic of any country – 61,263,030- and the most deaths – 851,356.
Workers crushed under structures collapsed by storms of greed – sounds like the theme of an overblown drama, but it’s literal, not literary, in the USA today. Not only are those who perished more likely to be poor and black or brown, but, based on prior experience, assistance to the survivors will be highly disparate. Just another example of racism, profiteering and the sacrifice of workers’ lives at the altar of the dollar.
It’s not enough to judge a left journal by its cover. A recent case in point: people in left social media circles of late have been taking shots at the democratic socialist magazine Jacobin’s latest issue (https://jacobinmag.com/issue/lower-the-crime-rate), with its provocative (and maybe confusing) cover bearing the slogan “Lower the Crime Rate.” A range of radical voices online have reacted to this cover as if it amounts to a kind of endorsement of police repression in liberal guise. But actually the lead articles inside the issue are, in this comrade’s view, quite good. From the Opening Statement by Benjamin Fogel to the interview with Marie Gottschalk, the contents here are valuable for the way they highlight major blindspots structuring liberal and much “left” common sense and activism around policing, prisons, and the carceral state these days. The issue deserves wide engagement, as it can help us to see more clearly some of the real challenges that lie before us in terms of radically changing the system of “criminal justice” in the USA. One need not share Jacobin‘s emphasis on electoral politics (or the specific organizational vehicle of the Democratic Socialists of America) to find value in the magazine’s pages.
It’s no surprise that Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges for killing two protesters against the police shooting Jacob Blake 7 times in the back and paralyzing him. It’s no surprise that no charges were brought against that cop.
What happened during 2020-21 in the USA? Lots of cataclysmic stuff:
Over 750,000 people died from Covid, blacks at twice the rate as whites
Schools were shut for a year
Unemployment, poverty, evictions increased
Access to social services, mental health care decreased
Community programs for recreation, tutoring, and social support closed
At the same time,
A police officer was finally convicted of murder in the death of a black man
Protests against racist policing and calls for defunding or abolishing the police grew nationally
Detainees in immigration and criminal jails protested dangerous conditions
Calls for bail reform and decarceration grew
There is no question that gun violence also increased during this period. Shooting deaths in 2020 were up from previous years, and in the first five months of 2021 alone 8100 people were killed in the US, an average of 54 deaths a day. There was also a big increase in gun sales, 23 million in 2020, which is a 64% increase from 2019.1 Many articles and newscasts attribute the increase in shootings to this increase in gun sales, which is an easy explanation, but research shows this is not actually the case.
This article appeared in Psychology Today and is expanded from an earlier piece in the Annals of Internal Medicine
“I can’t breathe,” my 22-year-old patient said. He was the last patient I would see on a long shift at a jail where I worked occasional shifts as a medical doctor. He was breathing, fast and hard, frighteningly so. He said he was a type-one diabetic, previously well controlled on four tailored shots a day, but had been denied his usual insulin since he was arrested. A fingerstick showed his sugar was higher than the device could detect.
I asked the nurse if he was right. Had he been underdosed? She confirmed his story. They’d given him regular (the wrong kind of) insulin, on a low-dose sliding scale instead of based on food, and at half the frequency of the injections he needed. He was breathing hard because he had a potentially lethal diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), acid blood from insulin deficiency.
The popular new book Inflamed, by Rupa Marya and Raj Patel, is both enlightening and enraging. It has several dominant themes. One is that inflammation is behind most disease processes in all parts of our bodies, an idea that is more and more accepted by conventional medicine. However the authors carry the idea farther, showing how the environment, both physical and social, is deeply entwined with inflammation and how even heredity is affected by these processes. The second main theme is that modern medicine has detached bodily systems from each other and the body from the world it inhabits just as modern humans have fallen out of harmony both with each other and the world around them. In contrast, there are many indigenous cultures that are better synchronized with their environment.
Young black – and Latin, immigrant, and Native American – children in the US have been chained up and abused for centuries. Today in schools where poor and nonwhite students are the majority, students are targeted and attacked for misbehavior, much of it minor, some of it mere dissention, some of it nonexistent. If incidents have a basis in mental health or other needs of the child, there is little help available. If there is deprivation out of school, such as unstable housing or insufficient food, there is little help available. Because this is the US we live in, a profit-driven society that depends on racism to exploit and divide workers.
Democracy is a word loved by almost everyone. Democracy has come to be equated with capitalism in a marvelous distortion of reality. Most US workers think it means that they live in a system where they have real choices over how their lives are run and who holds power. To capitalists democracy is a word to hide their monopoly on power while workers are led to believe that choosing which capitalist will hold elective office is all the democracy they need.