As relatives and the world watch anxiously for signs of hope and answers to what happened regarding Thursday’s early morning collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida, the overriding theme we’re hearing everywhere is that it can’t happen here…buildings don’t just fall down…not in America. But it did happen, and now the urgency is to not only to find possible survivors amid the tons of rubble, but to also find out why this particular building collapsed and if others are now in danger.
What is known is that the building, built on sand, was in the middle of a 40-year recertification and that the roof was being replaced. There were ongoing inspections related to the recertification and supposedly the building had passed safety inspections to date. A report from 2018, however, pointed to “concrete deterioration…including cracking and spalling” of columns, beams, and walls in the garage, and there were plans to address these issues. Those plans were not solidified until April of this year and concrete bids are still out. But what caused the degradation is unknown and there are multiple possibilities including a report in the 1990s that the building was sinking at a rate of 2 millimeters per year, new construction nearby was causing the building to sway, and even the possibility that climate change and rising seawater played a role. While it’s too early to speculate, in time, the bigger picture will become clear. There are always indicators and signs of things to come and it’s a matter of paying attention and remedying the initial signs before they result in a larger failure.
The same can be said for what’s happening with America’s democratic process. There are clear indicators of the erosion of our democratic structure.
As Trump and the GOP continue to embrace Trump’s lie that Democrats stole the 2020 election, our election system and democracy are being undermined and attacked, from the assault on our Capitol in early January to continuing assaults on election results and officials. And if Republican lawmakers in some states have their way, election officials will face another form of intimidation from proposals that would slap criminal penalties on them for “violating” even small procedural rules. In Texas, it would be a felony to give an absentee ballot application to a voter who had not requested it. These laws will prevent election officials from adapting to special or emergency situations as well as deterring them from performing even legal actions to help voters cast ballots. Additionally, 14 Republican-controlled states have now enacted laws suppressing or curtailing voting rights, especially for people of color, particularly Blacks. Numerous other states have similar bills in process.
What’s happening in America is not unlike what happened in Florida. At some point, we’ll understand why the building collapsed, taking it with it the lives of those who entrusted their safety to others enlisted to keep them safe. We’ll look back and see clearly how all the actions taken or not taken eventually led to the collapse. From a national perspective, when we look back at this moment in time in our country’s history, what do we want to see, our demise or the hope for a renewed, strengthened democracy?
This week, despite Trump embarking on his new pity party tour and as Trumpian loyalists continue to spread election and critical race theory conspiracies, we have hope. Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years for George Floyd’s murder, one of the longest sentences a former police officer has ever received for an unlawful use of deadly force. Rudy Giuliani’s law license was suspended in New York, and Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a lawsuit against Georgia over voting restrictions.
While thoughts and prayers are with all those awaiting word on their loved ones in Florida, there is renewed hope America will not face the same fate. Actions taken this week help to reinforce justice and will hopefully begin putting back guardrails on our democracy and the foundation upon which our country was built, for without a strong, stable foundation, not only buildings and structures but countries and civilizations themselves can be permanently destroyed. We must never give up hope that we can rid ourselves of the darkness which threatens our foundation once and for all.
JOIN Barb and John as they discuss It Can’t Happen Here.
Joining the show during the second hour is Vice President of Marketing Communications at Mozilla, Alex Salkever. Alex will be discussing his and co-author Vivek Wadhwa’s book, The Driver in the Driverless Car: How Our Technology Choices Will Create the Future.
Change has always been the one constant, but we’ve never experienced exponential change like we’re now experiencing, at such a pace, and on so many fronts.
As consumers, we’ve been happily going along for the ride with new technologies that come on the market, but as a society, we need to pay much more attention to where this road is leading.
So how can we navigate technological change at lightspeed, and what will happen if the accelerated pace of technology outruns our ability to gauge its potential hazards?
Salkever will discuss his and Wadhwa’s balanced evaluation of the impacts of technology in the fields of healthcare, education, transportation, energy development and more. In addition, he’ll address which industries stand to benefit most; what can be done to ensure the benefits of technology are shared broadly beyond the top one percent; whether cyber security can begin to keep up with our ubiquitous connectivity; and how driverless cars are a perfect metaphor for our anxiety over where technology is headed.
Alex Salkever is Vice President of Marketing Communications at Mozilla. He was a technology editor of Businessweek, a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor, and a writer on The Immigrant Exodus.
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