Blow and Collins

In “The Top Social Justice Stories of 2015” Mr. Blow asked readers for the the events they thought mattered most this year. Climate change, voting rights and Guantanamo made their lists.  Ms. Collins gives us “The Donald Trump Days of Christmas” and says that for starters we should say our “Happy holidays” while they’re still allowed.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

In a recent column, Charles M. Blow asked Henry Louis Gates Jr., Michelle Alexander and Dan Savage what they thought the biggest social justice stories were this year. Their wide-ranging responses included Black Lives Matter, the refugees crisis and minimum wage increases.

In addition to those topics, readers suggested a variety of stories that resonated for them. Here are some highlights, edited for length.

Paris and Climate Change
In my opinion, from a long term perspective, global climate change is the greatest threat to social justice. The damage to coastal areas, the change in weather patterns, the creation of new mass migrations as humans try to escape the effects of climate change – all will represent social justice tragedies. What is worse is the new “meme” circulating among the wealthy that they and their children and their grandchildren will be able to escape the impact of climate change due to their wealth. And so the story of the Paris Accords is a social justice story: the Accords are both a triumph and a failure. A triumph that all nations have pledged to reduce carbon emissions, a tragedy because it is too little, and it is too late.

Brad, Arizona

Water in Flint, Mich.
Do not forget the lead contaminated drinking water that was inflicted on the population of Flint, Michigan. Clean drinking water is a basic human right for all people. The deliberate indifference to the health of the residents, especially the children of Flint, Michigan and what I suspect is an attempted cover-up by governmental officials was an affront to common decency.

No need to wonder what would’ve happened had the underlying water problem occurred in more affluent and politically well-connected municipalities.

Somehow, I do not think that this affair is over.

Mark Dobias, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

Family Homelessness in Cities
This doesn’t make the same headlines exactly, but the persistence of family homelessness (and in many cities, homelessness in general) and effects of gentrification in larger cities is a major social justice issue. Younger, more affluent people are moving into traditionally Black neighborhoods, slumlords are selling properties for a profit and leave people with limited options. Are we going to continue to leave our fellow citizens behind, or are we ever going good to realize that a vibrant society depends on everyone, not just the privileged?

Kim, N.C.

Saudi Arabia’s Intervention in Yemen and Guantanamo Prisoners
The author did not specify in his introduction that this topic of discussion would or should be limited to what has happened in the United States of America. To me, the biggest social justice stories are Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen, and the continuation of imprisonment without trial of 100+ human beings at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay for the 13th year.

Barbara, New York

Voting Rights
I’m surprised that no one included what is, by far, the most important social justice issue this year, and in the past several years. No right is more fundamental to fair and equal treatment than the right to vote. Civil rights leaders began with voting rights because little could be achieved without the right to vote. Voter id laws have gone viral in the states, and they disenfranchise the poor disproportionately. It disturbs me that intelligent people give precedence to the Confederate flag, a narrowly applicable change in minimum wages, and the resignation of the Mizzou President. It’s the little people who have lost the vote. Social justice is about the little people, not grand gestures.

Michjas, Phoenix

Gay Marriage Enactment
Let’s not forget that justice triumphed in Kentucky where Kim Davis, a local town clerk, acting on the basis of claimed, deeply-held religious beliefs, refused to issue a marriage license to a gay couple. A federal court enforced the US Constitution and the rule of law and sent Ms. Davis to jail. The loud and clear message is that no one has the right to impose his/her religious convictions on others, in derogation of the law. Shame on those self-interested politicians who supported her and her flagrant disregard of the rule of law.

Gomez Rd, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Phone Cameras and Police Arrests
The Sandra Bland murder was an example of profound injustice, and it was all caught on video, a shameful example of our system in action. The video captures the injustice that happens in every city in America. It’s important because it a good example of the “caught on video” arrests that have been a sign of our times, and an important impetus for change. A category on these lists should be “phone cam, police cam arrests” for the education and insight it has given many Americans into a broken system.

PE, Seattle, Wash.

Confederate Monuments Renaming
The push to rename confederate monuments as part of a national effort to deconstruct our collective history of the post-reconstruction era that pushed a pro-confederate/segregationist narrative and continued the white supremacy establishment. This new meme has coincided with efforts to broaden the historical dialogue about slavery, the war and what followed including memorials to those who suffered under the yoke of slavery.

Syltherapy, Pennsylvania

Justin Trudeau’s Election
Justin Trudeau’s victory over Stephen Harper. Harper, despicably, chose to elevate islamophobia as a tenet of his campaign, and it backfired horribly. Additionally, upon entering office, he immediately diversified his close staff and undid many rules implemented by Harper that reduced civil rights for all those with Canada. The Canadian people voted out bigotry, and the country is better for it.

Chris, Michigan

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Happy holidays! I say this with some trepidation, because Donald Trump has vowed that when he is president, “We’re all going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.” That was a while ago, during his war on the Starbucks coffee cup design. So very much water has run under the Trumpian bridge since then.

But I’m still trying to figure out exactly how a universal “Merry Christmas” mission would be accomplished. Would there be a “holiday” gag order? Seasonal salutation checks at the border?

This is supposed to be a down period for presidential campaigning, since most of the population is focused on celebrating you-know-what with friends and families. But Trump has given us such a not-normal year that people will be drinking eggnog by the fire and discussing the proper use of the word “schlonged.”

The happiest holiday parties should be with Team Clinton, which clearly believes that going to war with Trump is good for her cause, and that having Trump as the Republican nominee would be even better.

Their current fight began when Hillary, in the last Democratic debate, said ISIS was “going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.” There is actually no specific evidence this is happening, although it certainly seems probable.

For the sake of perfect accuracy, Clinton should have said that ISIS “is bound to start going.” We would dwell on imperfect verb choice longer if PolitiFact hadn’t just announced that out of 77 Trump statements it looked into, 76 percent were rated Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire.

The Trump campaign is a new phenomenon. He mainly flies around on his planes, speaks at big rallies and calls into radio and TV news talk shows. Trump brags about his lack of interest in fund-raising, but he doesn’t seem to be spending much of his own money, either. This is a guy whose great keys to fortune were inheriting real estate and putting his name on things that other people often paid for. Maybe he figures he can become president just by branding it.

After the Hillary diatribes, Trump told a howling audience this week that he hates journalists, and he appeared to be mulling the idea of killing some of them. To be fair, he did conclude by announcing he wouldn’t do that.

For which I presume we’re supposed to be grateful.

Once, long ago, I was the subject of Trumpian ire — I had referred to him as a “thousandaire” — and his response was to send me a copy of the column with a couple of insults written over my picture and a note in which he misspelled the word “too.” So really, he’s not all that threatening. As long as he remains a private citizen, the worst he can do is to throw up an ugly apartment building or hotel in your neighborhood.

But the president thing is no longer a joke. You may have noticed that the competition is starting to fall away. This week Senator Lindsey Graham threw in the towel, or, in polite political-speak, “suspended his candidacy.” Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul and John Kasich seem likely to be consigned to the loser’s section when the Republicans have their next debate.

That brings us down to six people, one of which is Ben Carson, who’s fading fast. Also Jeb Bush, who was last seen wandering around New Hampshire, reminding people how many times he’s been there. At this point in the political cycle, if you’re a desperate candidate you go somewhere cold and try to get the population to fall in love with you just because they’ve had so many opportunities to shake your trembling, frostbitten hand.

Ted Cruz is doing something along that line in Iowa, where he’s ahead. But he’s also moved into a clear second place in the polls, terrifying the party establishment and many Republican billionaire donors, who regard Cruz as an obnoxious self-promoting egomaniac. There is nothing the oligarch class hates more than egomaniacs.

The big donors appear to be particularly fond of Senator Marco Rubio, the attractive, 44-year-old Floridian who has done very well in the debates. The other candidates find Rubio’s popularity irritating, particularly since he hasn’t been campaigning all that hard. Or doing anything else, it appears. Trump called Rubio a sweaty underachiever “with no money, zero.” This is, if nothing else, a campaign where the insults are meeting a new norm. Thanks almost entirely to the front-runner.


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