Monday, September 21, 2020



THE QUOTE OF THE DAY:  To make life a little better for people less fortunate than you, that's what I think a meaningful life is. One lives not just for oneself but for one's community. Ruth Bader Ginsburg.    

Greetings to you, blog reader, on this Monday, September 21, 2020. It is time for our periodic visit to the big crises we have been following for months now.

PANDEMIC. The major news of the day is that the United States passed the 200,000 mark in reported deaths of COVID-19. America continues to be the world's epicenter of the pandemic with by far the most cases and deaths. There is a lot of talk about a vaccine but the science indicates it is still many months away.

The rates of new cases and deaths in the world and in the United States remained the same this week as last. According to our consistent source, Worldometers, there were 31,263,360 cases in the world. Last week (Sept. 14-21), 2,051,483 cases were added, a rising rate of 7%, the same as the earlier week. There were 36,509 deaths in the world for a total of 965,509, a rising rate of 4%, also the same as the previous week.

In the U.S., 296,310 new cases were reported last week, for a total of 7,004,768, a rising rate of 4%, the same as the earlier week. As for deaths, 5,598 were reported last week for a total of 204,118. This is a rate of 3%, the same as the previous week. Thus, in both the world and the U.S., COVID-19 disease continues to spread and kill patients at the same rate as recent time.

However, South Carolina and Alabama are reporting improving figures. In SC, 5,844 new cases were reported last week for a total of 137,708. This is a rising rate of 4%, down from the 6% of the earlier week. There were 55 new deaths reported in SC for a total of 3,199. This is a 2% increase, down significantly from the 6% of the preceding week. In AL, 6,207 new cases were reported last week for a total of 144,962. This is a 4% increase, down from the 5% of the earlier week. AL reported 86 new deaths last week, a rising rate of 4%, up slightly from the 3% of the previous week. In AL, 2,437 people have died of COVID-19.

Charleston County continues to show real signs of slowing the spread. It reported 365 new cases for a total of 15,489. This is a rising rate of 2% for the week, down from the 5% of the earlier week. There were 3 new deaths reported last week, for a total of 256. This is a rising rate of 1%, down from the 3% of the preceding week. While rates have slowed noticeably, Charleston County still leads the state in cases.

The bottom line of the pandemic is that it continues to spread and to kill people in the world and the U.S. without slowing down. There are improvements in SC and AL but it remains to be seen if these will be long lasting. As rates stand now, we can expect 300,000 Americans to be dead of the plague by the end of this year. Actually, the number will probably be higher as people spend more time indoors in cooler weather. As there is still no national policy to deal with the disease and a vaccine is still a long way off, the future of the pandemic looks grim in our country.

LITIGATION. To my knowledge, nothing has changed recently in the courts between the competing dioceses. We are still waiting on some movement on three issues. 

1-On Sept. 10, the Church side filed a petition with Judge Gergel for enforcement of his Sept. 19, 2019 order placing an injunction on the breakaway side from claiming to be the historic diocese. My guess is that the Anglican diocese will file a counter-argument with Judge Gergel some time soon. At any rate, at some point, Judge Gergel will respond to the Church's petition. 

2-Request to SC Court of Appeals to expedite the Church's appeal of Judge Dickson's order to the SC Supreme Court. 

3-Response of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, to the appeal from the Anglican diocese of Judge Gergel's order.

POLITICAL CRISIS. There has been a sudden and dramatic turn of events with the death of liberal icon "the notorious" RBG. We now face two huge crises on the national scene, the election and the new justice for the Supreme Court. Each one of these would be enough, but together they will strain every seam of our civic fabric. The nation will survive, more or less, but God only knows in what condition. 

The more events move along, the more I am confident in my theory of contemporary America. We are witnessing a titanic clash between two enemy forces, that of the Great Democratic Revolution and that of the Counter-revolution. This state of affairs, also called the culture war, is about to reach a huge turning point. The next four months will be monumentally crucial to the future of the United States. 

The side of the ongoing Revolution has lined up with the Democratic Party. The Counter-revolution has taken over the Republican Party which has also become the personal realm of Donald Trump. The situation with the Supreme Court seat has brought to a head the culture war between the two sides. The unexpected death of Ginsburg has greatly energized the "base" of both sides. 

The Revolution is the majority party while the Counter-revolution is the minority party. The Republicans know they are shrinking as a political force. Soon, the United States will be a majority minority country. The Republicans have won the popular vote for president only once in the last thirty-two years, in 2004. They gained the White House twice otherwise, in 2000 by the Supreme Court and 2016 by the Electoral College. This year, they are likely to lose the presidency, the House of Representatives, and the Senate, at least according to the bookies in Las Vegas. Therefore, for the last few years, the Republicans have put a highly concerted effort into controlling the third branch of the federal government, the courts. They have packed the courts with young, right-wing judges who serve for life. They are about to pick such a person for the Supreme Court giving the court a powerful 6-3 conservative majority wildly divergent from the attitudes of the majority of the people of the nation. 

Thus, the courts will become the power base of the Counter-Revolution for a long time to come. The Republicans have completely politicized the judicial process, the supposedly non-partisan branch of the federal government. After they have lost the executive and legislative branches, they will have the judicial branch for decades. They cannot undo the basic reforms of the Great Democratic Revolution but they can use the courts to eat away at the edges and in some cases severely diminish what has been accomplished. For instance, abortion is a huge issue on the Counter side. They can abolish it in effect if not technically. We will also see dramatic roll-backs in rights for blacks, women, homosexuals, the poor, and the old, all of which were the great beneficiaries of the Great Democratic Revolution. We will also see a big boost in the enrichment of the wealthiest people as well as repeal of environmental protections.

If Trump gets reelected, we can expect a tsunami of roll-backs of democratic reforms, much greater than what we saw in Trump's first term. If the Republicans keep the Senate, we will also see a virtual dictatorship from the White House. The Republican Party has become Trump's lap dog and no one exemplifies this more than SC Senator Lindsey Graham. Four years ago, he vowed loudly that he would never change his opposition to confirming a Supreme Court justice in an election year. Now, he is shamelessly and loudly declaring just that. Hypocrisy flashes in neon lights. If he had any credibility before, he certainly has none now. No thinking person would believe anything he says forevermore. The point is, Trump has cowed the entire Republican party. They are going to rise or fall with him: and I think we can safely predict how this faustian bargain is going to turn out.

At any rate, we are heading into the greatest national crisis since at least 1968, and I would argue since the Civil War. I feel more and more that America will be different on the other side of this crisis. Trump and the Republicans have already broken down many of the agreed upon norms and rules of our common civic life. In order to have a functioning democracy, we have to have majority rule. This is something the Republicans have refused to accept. We also have to have agreed-upon rules, something else Republicans have repudiated. With guardrails gone, Democrats are now talking about nuclear options if they gain Congress and the presidency such as statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. This would automatically add four Democratic Senators. They can also abolish the 60 vote rule in the Senate to stop filibusters. Moreover, they can raise the number of justices in the Supreme Court to any figure they choose. The Dems could pack the Court with a majority of young liberal justices. So, what the Republicans have started is a very dangerous game. They may rue the day they ever started it. No one knows where this is going. I for one agree that if the Republicans discard norms and rules in order to try to repeal the Great Democratic Revolution, the Dems will have no choice but to respond in kind. The nation should not let the minority rule the day. This would be the end of the democratic republic.      

A PERSONAL REQUEST for prayers for the rector of my parish, St. Luke's, of Jacksonville AL. The beloved Rev. Robert Fowler tested positive for COVID-19 a few days ago.

He is at home treating the usual early symptoms. So far, so good. St. Luke's has not had an in-person service in six months. The plan was to resume services in the building on October 4. All plans are on hold now as we wait and pray for a speedy recovery. Please add the Rev. Robert Fowler to your prayer list.

The more the distressing crises move in on us, the more time I seem to spend in my garden (besides, the weather has turned cooler and drier). It needs me and I need it. The garden is now moving into its fall phase. This is a time of bitter-sweet beauty as we enjoy the last full flush of flowering while knowing cold and dormancy are just around the corner.

Japanese Silver Grass "Cabaret" (Miscanthus sinesis condensatus 'Cabaret'). I am fond of ornamental grasses and have many clumps in my garden. They all reach their fullest flowering in late summer/early fall. Pampas grass is by far the most popular ornamental grass in the south but there are many other good ones. Owing to their sizes, grasses are not recommended for most home yards and gardens. This clump is eight feet across.

Some roses are still in bloom. This is "Coral Drift," one of the best of the shrub roses. Its small size at a couple of feet makes it a good addition to a sunny spot in the yard/garden. It puts out a profusion of coral flowers from frost to frost.

Chinese Abelia (Abelia chinensis) is an excellent shrub for the southern garden. In summer and fall it is covered in countless tiny white flowers that are aromatic (similar to tea olive). I have this on the far side of the garden from the gardenias. This shrub needs a lot of room. This one is about ten feet across. As you see, it is a favorite of butterflies. I am blessed with lots of butterflies and hummingbirds and am saddened when they depart in October.

Finally, my usual sign-off. We are in a dark hour of crisis on crisis. We must not deny this. Our lives are disrupted. Death stalks our families, friends, and communities. No one asked for this. That choice was not ours to make. Let us meet the perils of this night head on with strength and courage and live this hour to the best of our ability. No one knows what is going to happen, but my study of history, my patriotism to America, and my faith in Christianity tell me we have the wind at our backs. Let us move forward together. Peace.