Happy New Year: Welcome to the 2021 version of 2020

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Top illustration by Tim Forkes

Lately I’ve been binge watching the critically acclaimed HBO series The Wire. I’ve written about it before (kudos to creator David Simon),  I forget when or why, but I keep watching it over again because it is so good. It’s one of those shows (or movies) we keep watching because we pick up something “new” every time. Like in Season 2, Episode 10, titled “Storm Warnings.”

There’s a scene in which Baltimore Police Colonel Stan Valchek (Al Brown) goes charging into the offices of the Special Crimes Unit he created to settle a grudge with his rival, union boss Frank Sobotka (Chris Bauer). He confronts the police and FBI agents assembled there and harangues them about the spread of the investigation that was supposed to be about taking down Frank Sobotka. 

He yells at his son-in-law Roland “Prez” Pryzbylewski (Jim True-Frost) to pack his shit, they were leaving. Old Stan gets too aggressive with Prez and then the enraged son-in-law pops the old man across the kisser. Now, if you’ve been watching the series from the first episode to that moment, you’re cheering young Prez, laughing even. But, what really had me rolling out of my chair this time around was the look on police lieutenant Cedric Daniels’ (Lance Reddick) face as Prez delivers the shocking blow to his father-in-law. I just broke out laughing picturing it now.

If you want to know what’s wrong with police departments across America, especially after living through 2020 and the rise of the Black Lives Matter awakening, or movement, with the subsequent changing of attitudes across the spectrum when it comes to the inequalities of the legal and penal systems in America, watch The Wire and get a few clues.

“Shit rolls down hill,” as the saying goes and what we saw happening to George Floyd in Minneapolis — and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Atatiana Jefferson in Forth Worth, Botham Jean in Dallas, Philando Castille in Falcon Heights, Eric Garner, NYC, Freddie Gray of Baltimore, the list could go ond on — what we saw happening to these black men and women starts with the system. A system that, in the beginning, was designed to control slaves, especially run away slaves. And now that system is governed by people who have grown accustomed to the racist foundation of law enforcement and think of it as being “normal.” If there are problems with the men and women wearing the uniform on the street, it starts at the top of their chain of command and spews downward.

The system, in every Americans city or county, was designed with oppression of the African American community. It has become so ingrained into our society poor, dumb white people like me needed to have it spelled out, time and time again and then encouraged to watch the various videos of police violating the rights of black men and women and in some cases, like the George Floyd and Eric Garner cases, watching as police choke the life out of someone. And yet, some poor, dumb white people like me still don’t get it. That’s why they say “All lives matter,” whenever they hear “Black lives matter.”

Black people, famous ones, can — and have — told their stories of racial profiling, from former president Barack Obama, to Senator Cory Booker, to actors like Will Smith, musicians like Oteil Burbridge and more. Many of us remember when, during the 2016 campaign, Black Lives Matter members jumped up on stage with Senator Bernie Sanders and commandeered his podium. And Sanders was like, “Here! The stage is yours.” 

The African-American community was finally going to be heard — by everyone. Not just in Maxine Waters’ district, or that of other black communities, but across the Democratic Party spectrum. That sort of freaked out a few white people in the party.

Then in 2018 Stacey Abrams ran for governor of Georgia and lost only because her opponent, Super Deep Trump Cult member Brian Kemp, controlled the voting structure of the state. He was Georgia’s Secretary of state, and therefore was able to legally suppress the vote of African-Americans and other predominant Democratic voting blocks. As we recall, in 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (Shelby County v. Holder) allowing states and municipalities to once again discriminate against African American voters. Bigotry is part of our national heritage you see, like statues to the racist and treasonous Confederate generals, certain people just don’t want to let them go. Like tearing down statues and removing the Confederate battle flag from public spaces, eliminating racist and discriminating voting rules and policies is erasing our history.

Hell, our high school history books don’t even discuss slavery, Jim Crow and racism in a real manner so why get rid of racism in out voting policies? To no one’s surprise the gutting of the Voting Rights Act led to the closing of voting locations in African American communities (we saw people waiting in 10-hour lines in 2018), extreme purges of the voting rolls and the implementation of strict voter I.D. laws, all of which suppressed the vote in African American communities and other peoples of color. Then Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp held the levers of power in his race against Stacy Abrams and he used that power to steal the election. Okay, if he did it legally, is it still theft? That’s a rhetorical question.

The good people of Georgia need to oust the current senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue and replace them with the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. Flip the U.S. Senate and give control to the Democrats. Put Moscow Mitch — the Grim Reaper — McConnell on the back bench. I’m sure the two millionaires can find work as over-paid consultants/lobbyists once they are removed from the Senate.

So this is what’s going on in my head on New Year’s Day, 2021. Not the coronavirus which has now infected over 20 million people, roughly 8.6% of the population and killed about 350,000.  Plus the millions of “recovered” victims who have life long, or long lasting effects from COVID-19. Conditions from which they are likely to never gain full recovery. That is still the top story of 2020 and it will be in 2021, even as the vaccines become more wide spread and a real presidential administration takes office January 20 and begins to lead the fight against the pandemic.

Hospitals in Southern California are turning away ambulances now — this is happening as we read this — because there is no more room for sick patients, nor is there enough equipment or medical personnel to care for the sick. If you went to a Christmas or New Year’s Eve party anywhere, but especially in California — like the hundreds of idiots at a New Year’s Eve party in a Miramar warehouse in San Diego that featured a collapsing stage — good luck if you catch the coronavirus and need hospitalization. Seriously, you’re screwed.

So, on that cheery note: Happy New Year. One bright note: Betty White is still with us!