Thursday, June 25, 2020

Europe Is Re-Opening--and Americans Are Not Welcome

Piazza San Marco, one week ago today, 8 pm

Good news, if you're a resident of China, Vietnam or Uganda! You're likely to be allowed to travel to Europe when the EU begins to re-open its countries to non-EU citizens on July 1.

But because of the shocking ineptitude and cynicism of its government's response to the novel coronavirus, residents of the United States, on the other hand, are likely to find themselves lumped in with a couple of other notoriously corrupt authoritarian/kleptocratic states, Russia and Brazil, as being prohibited from traveling to Europe this summer.

In a country such as the US (or Russia or Brazil) in which even the most globally-accepted fact--such as evidence that wearing masks can slow the spread of the virus--is dismissed by its ruling party as a fiendish politically-motivated assault on individual or national sovereignty, it's no surprise that you can already find those who suggest this ban on American travel to Europe is simply political tit-for-tat, as American travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt does in one of the articles linked to above:
“This may be a political maneuver,” [Harteveldt says]. He pointed out the U.S. hasn’t allowed international visitors into the country since March, and “It’s possible that if the U.S. rescinds its travel restrictions, the E.U. may decide to let in U.S. visitors.”
This kind of comment rather tellingly assumes (or projects) that the EU's decision-making process ignores scientific evidence as completely, callously, and cynically as does the ruling Republican party of the US.
But even a quick glance at current infection numbers and trends in the United States would suggest to anyone whose mind has not been thoroughly corrupted by partisan or nationalist propaganda that there are extremely good reasons for Europe to keep American residents out, as it's reported in today's Washington Post that Wednesday's number of new coronavirus cases in the US surged to an all-time high. 

38,115 new infections were reported by state health departments on Wednesday, breaking the old one-day high of 34,203 set on April 25, and making the United States the only country in the world whose latest number of new infections surpasses, after a slight decline, its previous peak reached more than two months ago.

And as you look at the graph below from three days ago, remember that the green line indicating the new cases in the US would, as of today, be quite literally off the chart: having hit 38,000 cases, well above the graph's scale which ends with 30,000.  

And contrary to the assertions of the pathological liar now occupying the White House, and the overtly authoritarian party he heads, this increase in infections can not be explained away by increased testing, no more than the virus itself (with its disastrous human and economic effects) would simply "fade away" (Trump's exact words last week) were the US to do less testing. (Though in pursuit of this blatantly delusional end, amazingly enough, the Trump Administration is indeed planning to cut federal funds for testing--and primarily in one of the country's hardest hit states, which also happens to be a state Trump must win for re-election.)

It seems to be a characteristic of the corrupt--whether individual or community or political party--that they unfailingly (and often falsely) project their own warped sense of the world and selfish motives onto others, and I hope this will be the case as regards Mr Harteveldt's comments about the EU's decision-making process on whether to let American (or Russian or Brazilian) residents visit the EU this summer.

As much as I'd like to see residents of my native land in Venice--especially after our own flight to visit family in the US was canceled and our planned visit scrapped--nothing about America's handling of the coronavirus presently justifies the risk.

And this is a profoundly sad commentary not just on the needless suffering now going on the US, but on the degraded and abject figure that the US now cuts in the world.

But if Americans can't visit Italy now, they can still read about it. And given the latest machinations by the Trump Administration's Department of Justice (this is only one example, alas) and the enabling Republican Senate, I'd suggest they might want to start with the work of Leonardo Sciascia who, in books like his collection of stories Open Doors, or the novel Equal Danger, reflects on living in a state in which the complicated matter of justice, and even of proper governance itself, is sacrificed to brute assertions of absolute power.

Ponte della Paglia, one week ago, 1 pm: less than a dozen people looking at the Bridge of Sighs. On any other June afternoon in any other non-coronavirus season, this space would be jam-packed

Caffe Florian, one week ago, 1:15 pm

Monday, June 8, 2020

A Family Outing on the Grand Canal

Even with European tourists beginning to return to Venice, the sight of this family of ducks blithely paddling in the middle of the Grand Canal just before 1 pm last Saturday from near the Rialto fish market to the Rio di Noale--a distance of more than 300 meters--is proof that the water traffic has, thankfully, not yet returned to the mad moto-ondoso-filled level of its pre-lock-down years. And one can at least hope that it never will be allowed to get that bad again. 

Friday, June 5, 2020

Five Cloudy Pieces, This Afternoon

And one additional image as a color example, to demonstrate that the mononchrome images above are not manipulated except by the application of the digital equivalent of a green filter on an old film camera: the clouds really were that distinct today.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Maritime Republic

Tourists from within Italy began showing up in Venice about 10 days ago--at least that's when I started to notice them--and now with hotels beginning to re-open and free movement allowed within the Schengen Area the city is busier than it has been since the end of February. And though the number of tourists is a small fraction of what had become the horrific norm, the contrast to lock-down mode is, nevertheless, rather jarring.

The four-day national holiday weekend that concluded yesterday with the Festa della Repubblica certainly had everything to do with the latest influx of visitors and today's local newspaper headlines all trumpeted the crowded conditions on trains, vaporetti, and beaches, and the absence of face masks (which are no longer required in public, though today I noticed that a majority of people, myself included, continue to wear them).

Unprepared, or at least unused to the foot traffic, we thought to escape from it yesterday into the lagoon--only to find, as you can see in these three images--that plenty of other people had the same idea. Gusting wind and water traffic (usually in excess of posted speed limits) made for a choppy afternoon, and even our usual refuge in the barene pictured just below resembled a parking lot. While the crowds of both people and boats at the bacan (or long sand bar extending roughly perpendicular from Sant' Erasmo's beach), a favorite local summertime destination partly pictured in the last picture below, were so extensive as to exceed the capabilities of my camera's panorama mode. What you see at the bottom of this post is just a small fragment of the scene.