Those who deny its existence might as well deny inertia

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Newton’s First Law holds that objects in motion tend to remain in motion unless acted upon by another force. We understand this as a description of inertia, and readily see how it applies to the physical universe. We slide a book across a table, for instance, understanding that it will only stop moving when it falls to the floor or when the friction created between the upward force of the table and downward force of gravity is sufficient to bring its motion to a halt.

But the concept of inertia applies not merely to the physical world. It also applies to the socio-economic world and the forward motion of historical events. Life is not a series of single-day occurrences, followed by a re-set to the beginning, like a video game. Instead, that which happens today will impact that which happens tomorrow, and so on. Indeed, the inertia of history lasts far longer than that of the book sliding across the table. Historical events and patterns leave legacies. …

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Image: AK Rockefeller, Flickr, Creative Commons ShareAlike License 2.0

As the novel coronavirus continues to tear through America, reaching new daily highs for infections and stretching hospital capacity across the country, one thing is undeniable: COVID-19 was never the biggest problem. We were. This virus, like most, is opportunistic. It takes advantage of pre-existing conditions. And Americanism is the world’s ultimate co-morbidity.

There is a reason 130,000-plus have died here, far more than anywhere else on Earth. There is a reason the United States continues to suffer under the weight of the pandemic, long after it subsided in most of the industrialized world. There is a reason Americans are currently barred from traveling to most of Europe. And in each case, the reasons are the same: we are a failed state, beholden to a set of cultural values that make us more vulnerable, and more dangerous than anyone else. …

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Although I have always loved learning about history — and possibly because of this fact — I have never been a fan of statues. Even as a child, I thought they were odd totems to the past, lacking any substantive information that would allow those gazing upon them to make much sense of what they represented.

As I got older, I liked them even less. As a Southerner, I came to view statues as tributes to horrible people who fought to maintain an evil system of human bondage — ego-soothing security blankets for racist losers who produced them not to honor history but to fabricate it. …


Tim Wise

I’m an antiracism educator/author. Forthcoming: Dispatches from the Race War (City Lights, December 2020). I post audio at patreon.com/speakoutwithtimwise

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