By Richard Galant, CNN
In 2008, Brian Sicknick reached out to Sandra Garza on a dating site. She responded quickly and when they decided to date, “he made an odd request,” Garza recalled: Could they meet for breakfast? It “was his favorite meal of the day, particularly blueberry pancakes …”
“Brian was very quiet, shy almost, and had an innocence about him that was incredibly endearing. We bonded over our love of animals, our military experience, and our passion for helping others — he as an officer, me as a clinical social worker.” They soon moved in together, sharing holidays, vacations and agreeing politically: they were Trumpers.
On the morning of January 6, Sicknick told Garza he would be policing the Capitol during expected pro-Trump protests. And she would be the person Capitol Police called after protesters stormed the Capitol and Sicknick was taken to the hospital, where he died the next day. When Garza saw the videos of the rioters brutalizing police officers, she kept thinking, “Where is the President? Why is it taking so long for the National Guard to arrive? Where is the cavalry?”
Garza has grown increasingly frustrated with Republicans who try to minimize the insurrection. “To know that some members of Congress — along with the former President, Donald Trump, who Brian and I once supported but who can only now be viewed as the mastermind of that horrible attack — are not acknowledging Brian’s heroism that day is unforgivable and un-American.“
The reverberations of Trump’s big lie — that the election was stolen from him — continue five months after he left the White House. But while he retains a strong hold on many Republicans, there are some signs of Trump’s flagging influence. His hand-picked vice president, Mike Pence, said he will “always be proud” of playing his constitutional role in presiding over the congressional session that certified Joe Biden’s victory, despite calls from Trump to block it. “If we lose faith in the Constitution, we won’t just lose elections — we’ll lose our country,” Pence said in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
“Mike Pence is seizing his chance,” wrote Michael D’Antonio. “After four humiliating years playing the role of the President’s lap dog, which culminated in his fleeing a mob of Trump supporters, who threatened his life during the US Capitol attack on January 6, Pence seems to have begun his push to claim the presidency for himself.” CNN reported that Trump’s endless complaints about the election’s outcome are not sitting well even with his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
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The sounds of summer
After a long quiet spell, David M. Perry and about 30 other people, all vaccinated, gathered on a friend’s patio for her birthday last month in Minnesota and got a chance to sing again. He started playing “Five Days in May,” by the Canadian band Blue Rodeo on his guitar. A few lines seemed perfect for this moment of emerging from pandemic into summer: “Sometimes the world begins to set you up on your feet again. It wipes the tears from your eyes …”
Perry observed, “When I don’t play music with other people for a while, a part of me goes missing, my mental health frays, the world drags slowly down toward gray and it’s harder for me to locate joy. But singing, specifically singing, emerged as a risk factor for the spread of Covid, so except for a few moments in one bubble or another, making music together vanished from my life.”
Roxanne Jones was lunching with a friend at a Brooklyn sidewalk café when she heard the music down the street. A block party was in full swing, with songs like “Before I Let Go,” by Frankie Beverly and Maze.
“As I joined the crowd and got in sync, it felt as if the sun and the music were healing me, soothing the pain and loss I’d suffered over for the last year,” Jones wrote. “I looked around and more than a few of us had tears in our eyes along with the smiles on our faces that even our masks couldn’t hide. I’ve never felt such gratitude in a crowd. That day in Bed-Stuy we danced till the sun went down, all of us grateful just to be alive.”
As Raul Reyes watched “In the Heights” in a movie theater — the first time he’s been to one in a year and a half — he thought of his Aunt Emma, who died of Covid-19 in January. “Many of the characters reminded me of my own family. And I strongly sensed my Aunt Emma’s presence; we had seen ‘In The Heights’ on Broadway together and she loved going to the movies. In some way, she was there with me in the theater. When the movie ended, the audience burst into applause. I did too, realizing it had been a long time since I’d felt part of something joyous and communal.”
Kirsi Goldynia curated these thoughts — and a bunch of others — in a CNN Opinion roundup on the return of public life.
Derek Chauvin’s sentence
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison Friday for the murder of George Floyd. Legal analyst Elliot Williams has followed the case since the beginning, finding it a challenging — and wrenching — experience.
“Beyond my professional role, much of this story has been personal to me as a Black American man,” Williams wrote. “Floyd’s death was a public reminder of that which I’m sure virtually every Black person in America is intimately aware: racism is real; inequities exist in the criminal justice system; even mundane encounters with law enforcement can quickly become deadly.”
Chauvin’s sentence “is a reminder of something that first got into my head as a young prosecutor: ‘justice’ is a relative concept. Over these months, I would cringe when I would see signs calling for ‘Justice for George Floyd.’ What would that even mean? Despite his 7-year-old daughter Gianna’s heart-wrenching statement at the hearing about how Floyd lives on with her in spirit, no sentence can bring Floyd back to his family.“
A throwback moment
It seemed like a return to the old world of Washington politics when President Joe Biden announced Thursday that the administration had struck a deal with Democratic and Republican senators for a $1.2 trillion bill to improve America’s roads, bridges, transit, broadband and other physical infrastructure. “The news that members of both parties have come together to support critical priorities should be celebrated,” wrote Lanhee Chen. “It’s a bit of throwback to the time when bipartisanship wasn’t a dirty word and productivity was valued over ideology.”
In the New Yorker, Susan Glasser wrote, “This infrastructure deal proves Biden’s theory of the case: that the elusive middle in American politics is alive, if often hardly in evidence.” But, she added, “… anything beyond this may well be impossible. The habit of taking what you can get and then voting yes has all but vanished. Permanent outrage is Congress’s brand now, not perpetual compromise.“
And even the infrastructure plan’s passage is not a sure thing. A lot more work has to be done to enact the bill into law, and it faces many potential hurdles — including the goals of progressive leaders who want to spend trillions more and raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy, a move Republicans are determined to resist.
Will Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell try to dissuade GOP senators from handing Biden a victory in his quest for bipartisanship? Chen argued that the bipartisan plan announced this week is a “rare win-win” and that “both sides stand to gain some political advantage from getting this deal through Congress and onto Biden’s desk for his signature.”
The infrastructure deal came two days after Senate Republicans blocked a sweeping voting rights bill that was a top priority for Democrats. The President had backed it but, as Frida Ghitis noted, “many were surprised when Biden didn’t use every tool within his reach to push the voting rights bill known as the For the People Act” and instead emphasized reaching a deal on infrastructure. Why?
The odds were slim that anything Biden could have done would have swayed enough senators to pass the bill. But more significantly, Ghitis argued, “Biden … is wagering that improving infrastructure, creating jobs and raising standards of living for the bulk of Americans will prove a more effective way to show democracy works than shifting procedures on how to vote. It’s a gamble, and like every gamble, it may or may not pay off.“
In killing the For the People Act, Republicans certified their party as “officially anti-voting rights,” wrote Rev. William Barber II, Barbara Arnwine, Penda Hair and Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. Democrats “must rise to meet the moral crises of our time, forgo the filibuster and pass generationally significant protections to rescue the promise of democracy.”
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Rescuers searched for survivors after part of a 12-story beachfront apartment building north of Miami Beach collapsed in the early hours of Thursday; at least five people died and officials said more than 150 are unaccounted for.
The cause was a mystery, Miami architect Kobi Karp pointed out. “I was in high school in 1981, the year it was built,” he wrote. “Its concrete piles, shear walls and columns with floors of horizontal concrete slabs represented what has been the gold standard of coastal construction for more than 100 years.”
“Champlain Towers was undergoing its 40-year building inspection at the time of the event, though documents have not yet been submitted to Surfside officials, according to the town clerk,” Karp noted. “Any information from that ongoing process may produce insights into the cause. To be certain, over the course of the days, weeks and months, forensic engineers will shed light on what went so terribly wrong.”
Race and racism
“You may not love me, but I love you” was the card that Keith Magee‘s six-year-old son wrote to a classmate after he said he didn’t want to sit next to him because he doesn’t like “boys with brown skin.”
Zayden Magee came up with the perfect response, but the whole experience weighed heavily on his father. “I know that my child will probably one day look back on this incident as the first of many,” Keith Magee wrote. “He will recognize it as marking the beginning of a lifetime of being the target of some people’s hate because of the color of his skin. I know that his bafflement will turn to hurt and his hurt will turn to fear. I know he’ll gradually lose his easily trusting nature and his expectation that he will be universally appreciated for being caring and funny and enthusiastic — just for being him. And I can’t bear it.”
General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, served at multiple command and staff positions in eight divisions and special forces over nearly 40 years in the military, SE Cupp noted. But that didn’t stop right-wing pundits and lawmakers from blasting his stance on race this week. “Milley linked racism and extremism to the attack on the Capitol, and defended the notion that the military should explore and combat the racism and extremism within its ranks. He also took particular umbrage with the idea that doing so makes the military ‘woke,’ as some easily-offended right-wingers have complained.”
Britney Spears is asking a judge to end the conservatorship that has allowed her father, Jamie Spears, to exercise extreme control over her life since 2013.
The conservatorship appears to be “overly controlling,” wrote Kara Alaimo, citing a New York Times report that Spears said she had been forced to go to a mental health facility and to perform with a 104-degree fever and that she has been limited in who she can date and even prevented from changing the color of her kitchen cabinets.
“There’s something arguably even more distressing here,” Alaimo observed, “the fact that we know about it in the first place. The conservatorship itself and whether it remains or has ever been the proper course of action here center on Spears’ mental health and finances. These are topics that she — and every woman (and man) — should have the right to keep private.“
New York starts picking a mayor
Democratic voters in New York City went to the polls Tuesday to pick their choice for mayor. With the new ranked-choice voting system, the final results are expected to take weeks to tally. Nate Cohn of The New York Times summed it up in a tweet: “The NYC mayoral primary results page is live. Be sure to check back in a few weeks for the final result”
Whoever ultimately wins, one thing is clear — voters went for moderate candidates over progressives by a large margin, wrote John Avlon. “The clear leader at this point, Eric Adams, is a former police officer and current Brooklyn Borough President who promised to be tough on crime, rejecting calls to ‘defund the police.’ That message resonated because violent crime is on the rise in New York City, as it is in many cities across the country. Last year, the city saw a 97% increase in shootings and a 45% rise in murder, and crime has continued to spike in 2021.”
“The political appeal of touting ‘law and order’ is clear,” wrote Julian Zelizer. But he cautioned Democrats that retreating from reforming the criminal justice system would be a mistake. “In the end, the nation must realize that true ‘law and order’ depends on racial justice.”
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Taliban is surging
Afghanistan’s top two government officials visited the White House Friday to make their case for aid as the US pulls its remaining troops out of the country. They’re right to be concerned, wrote Peter Bergen. “Their country is in danger of being swallowed up by the Taliban,” he noted, citing a report that the “Taliban are in a stronger military position now than at any point since 2001,” when the war began after the 9/11 terror attacks on the US.
America “has contributed to the deteriorating security situation by consistently saying for more than a decade that it is leaving Afghanistan, which has undermined the Afghan government and strengthened the resolve of the Taliban, who have won at the negotiating table from the Americans what they failed to win on the battlefield,” Bergen noted.
“Without swift action by the Biden administration, we could see in Afghanistan a remix of the disastrous US pullout from Saigon in 1975 and the summer of 2014 in Iraq, when ISIS took over much of the country following the US pullout from the country three years earlier. That withdrawal was negotiated by then-vice president Biden.”
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Aliens may be watching us
After decades of rumors, the US government finally released its report Friday on unidentified flying objects seen in restricted military airspace. It carried the forbidding title of “Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” and pointed out that explanations abound: it could be “airborne clutter” or “natural atmospheric phenomena,” government or industry experimentation, “foreign adversary systems” or a “catchall ‘other’ bin.”
Physicist Don Lincoln is skeptical that the UFOs observed are from other planets. “Difficulties of interstellar travel aside, it seems to me to be inconceivable that an advanced species would find us interesting enough to visit, but not interesting enough to contact. And, if they wanted to avoid contact, they’re not being very stealthy about it.”
Lisa Kaltenegger directs the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University, where she explores planets and the possibility of life in other solar systems. New technology may help answer the question of what’s out there. “NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will be the first telescope large enough to identify signs of life on worlds looking back at us, if it is out there. It is scheduled to launch later this year. Will it find evidence of real extraterrestrials?“
Thousands of planets are physically located in positions where it would be possible to detect the presence of our planet and signs of life on earth, Kaltenegger wrote. “With Earth in prime view of so many stars, might there be alien astronomers who’ve discovered us already?”
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