NOTES, 15 FEBRUARY 2021
Greetings, blog reader, on Monday, February 15, 2021, Presidents' Day. It is time for our weekly check in on the crises we have been following for nearly a year. So, let's take a look at the three we have been focusing on lately, pandemic, schism, and the civic state.
PANDEMIC. Finally, at long last, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic that we have turned the corner on the pandemic, the plague that has been overrunning America, and the world, for a year now. Next month, March, will mark a year since the novel coronavirus hit hard and changed our lives.
Looking at the statistics in our usual source, Worldometers, we see improvements in almost every category even though the raw numbers continue to be staggering. In the last week (Feb. 8-15) there were 2,689,588 new cases reported in the world, a rising rate of 2.5%. Compared with the earlier week (Feb. 1-8) we see a significant improvement. That week saw over 3m new cases, a 3% rise. Even so, over 100m people in the world have been infected by the covid virus. Deaths in the world also showed a decline in numbers and rates. Last week, there were 83,924 deaths, as opposed to the 89,342 of the previous week.
In America, there were dramatically fewer new cases last week and slightly fewer deaths. Last week saw 650,067 new cases in the U.S., a big drop from the 844,174 of the preceding week. The rising rate fell from 3 to 2%. Deaths in the U.S. last week were 22,241, down a bit from the 22,654 in the previous week. The death toll now in the U.S. is 497,174. Within a few days, there will be half a million deaths in America from this plague. The daily toll is running around 3k deaths as it has been for many weeks. Vaccinations are slowly but surely spreading. At present, about 15% of the American population has been vaccinated. The process has been uneven, to say the least. Yet, there are signs the distribution is improving even though both SC and AL are near the bottom of the list of states in distribution of the vaccines.
Rates in South Carolina are improving dramatically. Last week, the state reported 20,920 new cases, down from the 22,987 of the earlier week. The state also reported 347 deaths last week, a drop from the 609 of the preceding week. SC is now reporting 487,293 cases, close to 10% of the population, and 7,998 deaths.
Charleston County, however, continues to be a hot spot according to the figures. It listed 2,667 new cases last week, well above the 752 of the earlier week. It also reported 11 deaths last week for a total of 426.
As SC, Alabama is reporting dramatic improvement. Last week, AL listed 8,508 new cases, down greatly from the 12,874 of the previous week. AL also reported 727 deaths from COVID-19 last week, down from the 827 of the earlier week. As of now, AL is listing 480,931 cases, app. 10% of the population, and 9,242 deaths.
SCHISM. We are still waiting on the brief of the breakaway party in SC which it is due to present it any day now to the South Carolina Supreme Court. The Episcopal diocese submitted its brief over three months ago. I will report on the Anglican side's brief as soon as I get a copy. I have no idea when that will be.
A week from today, on Monday, Feb. 22, we should know whether the U.S. Supreme Court will accept the case from Ft. Worth. The Episcopal Church is asking SCOTUS to grant cert of its appeal of the Texas Supreme Court decision last year that awarded all to the breakaway faction. The Court usually announces its decisions between 9 and 10 a.m., so stay tuned at that time next Monday.
One interesting item to point out is that the lead attorney for the Episcopal Church at SCOTUS is Neal Katyal, one of the best known litigators in America who has appeared before the Supreme Court on many occasions, in some years more than any other attorney. He is also a well-known commentator on legal issues, on cable TV. TEC could hardly have a better advocate at this moment.
POLITICAL. At least we are over the trauma of the ex-president's trial in the Senate. As everyone knows, the Senate failed to reach the 2/3 threshold to convict. The trial has left the Republican Party badly divided, perhaps the best evidence of which is the behavior of Senator McConnell, the minority leader in the Senate. He voted to acquit and immediately went on TV to declare Trump guilty. The majority of the Republican Party is still strongly tied to Trump which is curious since, under Trump, they lost the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the presidency. Nevertheless, there are prominent Republicans who are repudiating Trump and trying to free their party of his control. It will be very interesting to see how the Republicans sort themselves out in the next few years. If they continue to follow Trump as they have, they will shrink into long term, perhaps permanent, minority political status.
It is also helpful to keep the big picture in mind. The fundamental crisis in America is that the nation is moving away from a majority white man's country to a diverse, multi-ethnic nation-state. From the time the first Europeans settled in America to the present, white people have always considered America their land. Other people were only peripheral. They were the "others." And so, the whites practiced ethic cleansing of the indigenous peoples, kept millions of Africans in slavery, after slavery kept blacks under Jim Crow, tried to keep Irish out in the 1840's, tried to keep Chinese out in the 1880's, sent thousands of west-coast American citizens of Japanese ancestry to concentration camps in the 1940's, and separated children from their parents at the Mexican border in the past few years. All of this was to keep America a white man's country.
However, demographic shifts are moving the whites to minority status in the U.S. Projections show that by 2045, non-hispanic white people will make up less than 50% of the population of the U.S. After that, the U.S. will be composed of all minority socio-ethnic groups. This means the U.S. will either continue to develop as a democracy or divert to a minority white-controlled state. The Trump mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 was composed of white supremacists who were resolved to use violence to defeat democracy and preserve white rule by any means.
That is the challenge of our country now and in the near future. Will the U.S. continue to develop as a nation devoted to equality of all people and majority rule, or veer off into white, minority rule? History suggests that democracy will win, but if it does it will be the first time in world history that a diverse, non-majority ethnic society succeeded in building a multi-cultural democratic republic. Thus, America is facing an enormous historic challenge. Only time will tell whether it responds well to this challenge.
Meanwhile, as whites shrink into a minority of the population, we can expect to see more and more violence of the sort we saw on Jan. 6. It appears there are certain segments of the white population who are willing to go to deadly extremes rather than see the non-whites became the majority. They stormed Charlottesville. They stormed Washington. They have not gone away. They will be back. America is now in its most fateful national period since the Civil War.
Meanwhile, our lives go on as we do our best to deal with the crises none of us sought. If we keep the faith in our religion and in our country, we will be alright because these bring out the best in us. May we find the strength and courage to move on faithfully into the unknown future. Peace.