June 18, 2020: Dreamers, protests and smoke

The sky is so gray with smoke sunrise doesn’t wake me.

Western wildfires in June are predictable, but with climate change they seem more frequent — and larger. The smoke this Thursday morning, June 18, 2020, obscured the Sandia Mountains to the south and Indian Country mesas to the west. I could barely make out the Jemez Mountains to the northwest. The smoke is mostly from the 100,000-acre and growing Bush Fire, northeast of Phoenix, but others in Arizona and New Mexico are spewing smoke northward.

It lifted a little before sunset but my eyes still burned.

Screenshot_2020-06-19 Fire and Smoke Map
Fires and smoke, June 18, from AirNow.gov

Almost 50 years ago, I fought wildfires in California and thought little more of them than as a way to earn good overtime pay. Too many of today’s fires, in size and intensity, are practically unfightable.

Tomorrow is Juneteenth, celebrating the emancipation of African-American slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865, and the end of slavery nationally, more than two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. (Washington Post: An original “Juneteenth” order Screenshot_2020-06-19 Here's the original military order that freed the enslaved in Texas and formed the basis for Juneteenth
found in the National Archives
). On our smoky Thursday, historian Michael Beschloss tweets a June 19, 1964 photo of Martin Luther King Jr. flashing what I guess is a combination victory and peace sign, after learning that Congress has finally passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Twitter then showed a photo of the Arthur Ashe monument defaced on Wednesday with “White Lives Matter” initials in his hometown, Richmond, Virginia.

arthur ashe stamp

President Donald Trump , after widespread objection, had earlier delayed by a day a campaign rally scheduled for Juneteenth in Tulsa, Oklahoma— as if his staff  had never heard of the holiday or Tulsa’s past. Today, Politico reported, he tried to take credit for winning Juneteenth national attention.

“Nobody had ever heard of it,” Trump said in a Wall Street Journal interview. “I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous.”

There was news this morning that the Supreme Court, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. voting with the 5-4 majority, upheld the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act, protecting undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.

Trump soon tweeted criticism of the court, calling the DACA ruling  “shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives.”

The city of Albuquerque, 30 miles south of me by road, issued a health alert because of the smoke. I decide against a morning walk. Cowboy and I were forced to play in the yard, my combination COPD-COVID bandanna hanging around my neck.

 

People who are at higher risk for respiratory issues from wildfire smoke are also more susceptible to infection and severe health consequences from COVID-19.

The not-forgotten past, often still part of the present, has underwritten many recent current events.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported today that more historical monuments are being removed, after the June 15 fork-lifting of the Oñate monument at Alcalde, recorded by the Albuquerque Journal’s Eddie Moore.

em061520b
Albuquerque Journal photo by Eddie Moore

The New Mexico Legislature began a special session to deal with fallout from the coinciding crises of coronavirus pandemic and oil market collapse. The 112 “citizen lawmakers” might also consider voting protections and police use-of-force reforms.

Efforts on Wednesday to communicate the session by video because of coronavirus and security got off to rocky start.  The headline in this morning’s Albuquerque Journal was “House members hit with racial slurs.”

Bill Soules, a veteran Democratic state senator and former public school teacher from Las Cruces, tweeted the night before: “I’ve been threatened with bodily harm twice in the last two weeks. I reported the incidents to state authorities each time. The negativity from people who disagree with my views is astonishing and frightening.”

On Wednesday, Albuquerque-based New York Times reporter Simon Romero, posted  on Facebook a photo of the foot severed from the Oñate statute at Alcalde in late 1997, a remembrance of the conquistador’s atrocities at Acoma Pueblo in 1599.

onate's foot
Facebook photo by Simon Romero

Elise Kaplan, a reporter at the Albuquerque Journal, who has been covering protests, armed militia presence and violence in Albuquerque, along with reporting partner Matthew Reisen, also tweeted on Wednesday night, sounding exhausted.

“I’ve now clocked at least 34 hours in the past three days and I am signing off.” she wrote. ‘There has been a lot said from both sides and we do hear you. All this stuff is hard.”

Following her reporting in the Journal, I know she has only recently  been pulled away from coverage of the coronavirus tragedy on the Navajo Nation.

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