June 7, 2020
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Rags and Bones

by Jonathan Wallace jw@bway.net

George Floyd

I never thought that 56 years after 1964, we would still be protesting a white cop having knelt on the neck of an unarmed African American man for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Even in the South, and certainly not in Minneapolis.

The Photo Op

What a classic Trumpian moment: tear gas some people, including priests, to clear them away from a church, to which the President then strolls, holding up a bible by one corner as if he has never held a book before. It was a classic combination of Wannabe authoritarianism, stupidity, arrogance, and cluelessness, the Toxic Miasma that is Trump.

The military response

We have seen remarkably little through the Trump administration of something I had hoped for: people drawing the line, saying "I can't do this, I won't be further involved". A great unknown all along has been what the military would do if the chips were down. On the one hand, we have been blessed since 1800 somehow with a remarkably professional and self-limiting military. This is extraordinary when a completely respectable liberal democracy might easily have suffered a military coup or two in two centuries of existence; Athens, the birthplace of democracy, recovered from two instances when the patrician class overthrew the democratic government. On the other, there have ben little glimmers, this past twenty years, of religious fundamentalism creating powerful alien pockets, units or schools in which a Jewish soldier or "secular humanist" would hesitate to serve. That was a danger signal.

The spectacle this week of various military officials renouncing or backing away from Trump's vow to use soldiers to quell the demonstrations has been Hugely reassuring--even Defense Secretary Esper, after that egreghious and inane statement about the "battlespace".

So maybe democracy is still possible.

Life in the cloud

Before there was an Internet or cloud, I had a childhood vision of living online. It usually took the form of a fantasy in which, in a dystopian wasteland, I, a scavenging child, found a ruined structure where there was something like a telephone handset. I picked it up and on the other end was a hugely patient AI (probably inspired by Mike in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress), endlessly available and attentive, a sort of electronic Good Parent.

In a strange way, in Coronavirus Time, I am living the dream. I haven't seen my friends or co-workers in person in months, but talk to people on the phone or in Zoom every day. I don't miss physical presence; wholly electronic intimacy satisfies me almost entirely, as I suspect it does not most people.