The rot we’ve learned not to smell

President* Trump,

Did you know there’s only been 34 times in our history that people have lain in state (which apparently is different from lying in honor – this has happened just 4 times; https://history.house.gov/Institution/Lie-In-State/Lie-In-State-Honor/)? It would be less cumbersome to say that only 34 people have ever lain in state, but because there were multiple unknown WWII and Korean War soldiers so honored in 1958, it’s not quite right. As an aside, the Korean War ended in 1953 and WWII ended in 1945 so it’s kind of odd that there was such a lag. Well, actually, although the unknown WWI soldier was honored within three years of the end of that war, the unknown Vietnam soldier had to wait eight years. Maybe these were people whose bodies were recovered or handed over well after the fact, but surely there were others who could have been honored like this sooner. Or maybe we really don’t hold fallen soldiers in esteem, maybe you’re just saying out loud what we collectively really think. We’re not exactly good at taking care or valuing one another, so there we are. And here we are.

Ok, moving on, what is clear is that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is the first woman and the first Jewish person to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. Rosa Parks lain in honor there in 2005 so that ratio is much better – one in four with regard to both her gender and her race. Ginsberg, on the other hand, is just 3% (rounding up) of those who have lain in state. Still, this is a better ratio than the number of women (or Jews) who’ve ascended to the presidency – big old goose eggs for both those demographics. Still.

You know, if someone from another planet dropped down and did a dispassionate (i.e., super objective) assessment of who is in what positions, who has what wealth, and who has what mortality and morbidity odds across all possible vectors of privilege and security, I would venture that resource distribution, to include power, would come out looking very skewed in most nation states on Earth. I would also venture that the US wouldn’t want to get too smug about how we’d come out looking because basically, compared to other wealthy industrialized countries, we pretty much suck on the fairness, equality (let alone equity), and justice vectors.

And lest we say to ourselves and one another – “hmm, looks like we need to work harder” or “well, you know, these things take time” or “geez, what do you want? Obama was POTUS and RBG is lying in state – that’s serious progress” – let us once again acknowledge that the skew is by design, it is not a bug in the system. Likewise, our feeble laments that we somehow haven’t worked hard enough or that we’re inching forward and just need to be patient or that the Democrats haven’t been savvy or bold enough or they haven’t figured out how to play lawless ball with you all – all this shit is part of the design too.

Yes, the brainwashing’s been effective and millions of us have been entrained to believe the status quo is dandy or that it’s the best we can expect. But really, we’ve always had smart, insistent radicals among us who were able to resist or wake up from the brainwashing and see what’s going on, who gave their all to dismantle systems of oppression. However, they’ve not succeeded because the machine is programmed to protect itself at any cost and in any damn manner necessary.

My imaginary alien visitors would see all this and if they were somehow able to issue us a report, I have a feeling that most of us would have our worlds totally rocked by the breadth and depth of the rot we’ve learned not to smell.

May we be safe to see (and smell) what we need to see (and smell).
May we be willing to sit with what it means that Breonna Taylor’s murderers face no consequences and that RBG is the first woman to lie in state.
May we have the strength to connect these dots.
May we accept that the status quo is not sustainable.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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