2020 has been a difficult year, but we have learned about the word “reckoning.” We need to look into our hearts, but use our brains.

Oh, 2020: I was so looking forward to you, with a new election (!!!!!), more travels, and more things to do. Uh: The election did happen, but it has been a hard-fought battle, but the rest of this year has just been strange, mainly because the virus that was flying around the earth was killing people. 

So far, I have not heard anyone in Colorado boasting about the state that has (at least) two people who have contracted a variant from COVID-19, which is now called B.1.1.7.  Apparently, this new variant is not more likely than the regular coronavirus to make people more seriously ill or death, and the vaccines slowly wending through our state would still work with this new variant.

Months and months ago, the federal administration had sort of a “who, me?” attitude. I feel lucky I live in Colorado, where our governor has done his best to keep the virus as low as it could go, though he sometimes shakes things up, which needs more information. 

With containment and telling people to stay home, that meant that everything was upset: Restaurants being closed – back and forth, so it’s hard to know one day after another; people losing their jobs, and scrambling to go on unemployment (which reminds us that computers should not rule the world); the fear of losing your home; students at home or at school and getting confusing, and the antagonism in various parts of Colorado (and elsewhere), where people were feeling they were told if they need to wear a mask they would lose their freedom. 

The first time I had heard the word “sheeple,” it seemed ridiculous, but since I wear a mask when I go out of my home, call me a sheeple — at least when it comes to masks. 

The cartoon on this post is a winner: Harry Bliss’ “In With the New” is a nod to Charles Addams, whose magic continues to thrive. On this New Yorker cover, there’s a bat, there’s a bottle of bleach (with martini glasses), there is a president burning papers (perhaps tax documents?), and there’s a buoyant baby sauntering into the picture for 2021. For more on Bliss, here’s the link:

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cover-story/cover-story-2020-12-28

To begin, I think we know a lot more about COVID-19, and we are now learning about the coronavirus B.1.1.7. Viruses mutate, and this is why people really need to heed the situation that has become a mantra: wear a mask, wash your hands, etc., etc. This virus has not only killed more than 340,000 people in the United States, and also more than 4,000 in Colorado. 

But as this virus hangs over our heads, there are other issues that need some sort of resolution – but here, only two: homelessness, and rage and vandalism. Just about everyone who works at a newspaper does a year-end round-up, and that was what I wanted to do here. But two is enough. 

Homelessness

When I returned from a trip last December 2019, there were stories in various news outlets that addressed the status of the camping ban. The story was posted on Westword not only exploring Denver’s homeless legal situation but also the issues that have had an impact on Boise, Idaho, as well. 

“Westword reporter Sara Fleming explains the differences in both cities. But the crux of the matter is this:

“As Denver’s camping ban is tested in courts — the city is appealing the decision — it may join Boise as a battleground of rising tensions over a national question: Is it cruel and unusual punishment to ticket, arrest, and cite people for sleeping on the streets?”

Fast forward to December 2020, and there is this:

“Since many people in the encampments do not want to go to a shelter, but where can they go? They pop up all over Denver, then they are being swept away. 

“On Tuesday and Wednesday, Judge William J. Martinez presided over a hearing in the U.S. District Court of Colorado, which was to be for two days, but will schedule a third day after the first of the year. There was a lot of testimony, and many witnesses, but other witnesses will undoubtedly have more to say. 

“In today’s story by (Conor) McCormick-Cavanaugh, noted: ‘The evidentiary hearing stemmed from a lawsuit filed in October by Andy McNulty of Killmer, Lane & Newman LLC on behalf of Denver Homeless Out Loud and ten homeless plaintiffs against the City of Denver, the State of Colorado and a contractor that works with the city on homeless encampment sweeps. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises municipalities not to sweep encampments during the pandemic, to avoid furthering the spread of COVID-19; the plaintiffs want Denver to stop the sweeps for the duration of the pandemic.’ “

So, back in the court. Denver’s mayor fended off setting up camps because neighbors didn’t want them around their neighborhood. What is now happening is there are two small Safe Open Spaces that can accommodate perhaps under 100 people. There needs to be more. 

A newsletter sent out by the person in charge of the Department of Housing Stability, or HOST, Britta Fisher, laid out what the department is doing:

“For every resident experiencing homelessness, there are many more facing housing instability or who are in need of an affordable home. Together with our partners, we assisted more than 2,100 households this year through our rent, utility and mortgage assistance programs — well more than double the number of households assisted in 2019. What’s more, HOST has had an incredibly busy year of funding much needed construction. As we finish the year, a total of 1,598 city-funded affordable units are under construction among 22 different projects.”

But that takes time, and with $40 million being devoted to HOST from tax money when voters approved the November election, things need to be done quickly. The encampments have made some neighborhoods frightened and angry, because of people who have mental issues, and more thefts have happened (like, how many mounds of bikes can you handle?). This cannot continue, but people need help. 

The links here are new:

https://www.westword.com/news/homeless-shelter-staffers-get-boost-on-colorado-vaccine-priority-list-11871882

Rage and Vandalism in Civic Center and Downtown

The most horrible day in 2020 was the murder of George Floyd, when a policeman in Minneapolis knelt on the man’s neck for more than 8 minutes, and he died. Enough was enough, with something like 200 Black men and women over the past year who have died at a police officer’s hand (or gun). This is the reckoning that is necessary to find equity and the fight against systemic racism.  Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Elijah McClain….. this could go on and on this year and centuries ago. 

A woman who made a video watching that murder on a smart phone shocked just about everyone. That’s when the protests began, and the protesters were doing the right thing. But, then, there were the others, who were raging night after night, tagging, breaking windows, setting fires, around the country, including Denver (and my neighborhood). 

The upshot: Denver’s Civic Center and parts of downtown were left shattered, and parts of the city still  looks like a war zone: plywood boards, fences, and such – a mess. But what really concerned me was the toppling of statues in Civic Center and on the State Capitol grounds.

While living in Virginia for 8 years, I learned that the hundreds of statues of Confederate soldiers were erected decades after the Civil War was over. The “Lost Cause” did not want to go away, and the “War of Northern Aggression,” was still around. But many of those statues have been removed and sent to a museum (or elsewhere). One side lost, and it was treason trying to conquer the north. Still, much as I consider these statues problematic, they still reflect history – up to a point. 

Back in Denver: I’ve never particularly been a fan of Christopher Columbus, since he “found” the Americas, even though people were already there. But the statue in Civic Center was pushed over. Call me stupid, but I never read the plaque on the statue’s pedestal that was devoted to Columbus. To me, I considered it the Vitruvian Man, which was created by Leonardo da Vinci addressing the proportions of a man. Artist William F. Joseph created the statue, and it is not known if it will be placed there again.  

The same is true with the Pioneer Monument, which the city took down to keep it from being knocked over. The main figure in the monument was Kit Carson, whose treatment of Native Americans was horrible. The artist, Frederick MacMonnies, originally wanted to use the central figure of a Native American, but popular sentiment did not succeed. The other three figures at the base are a miner, a hunter, and a pioneer woman. The monument, at the intersection of Broadway and Colfax Avenue, is one of the finest statues in the city, but it may not be placed there again.

And finally, the Civil War soldier facing west at the Capitol grounds, from an excerpt from a story on Colorado Public Radio:

“The statue on the west side of the statehouse in Denver was designed by Capt. Jack Howland, a member of the cavalry, and is intended to honor state soldiers who fought and died for the Union in the Civil War. However, members of the unit also took part in the Sand Creek Massacre on Nov. 29, 2864 — a shameful episode that the state has long struggled to reconcile.

“ ‘The soldier that sat there on the Capitol Hill was completely insulting to the Cheyenne-Arapaho people,’ said Herb Welsh, a member of the Northern Arapaho. ‘Not only to us. To our ancestors.’

“Welsh was part of a group that traveled from the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming several years ago to lobby for the addition of a memorial   to the Sand Creek Massacre on Colorado’s Capitol grounds.

“Welsh said he was overwhelmed to hear the statue had come down.

“ ‘Some people will call it vandalism. Some people will call it criminal. But it had an effect,’ Welsh said, noting that coverage of the statue’s toppling will lead to more people learning about the events at Sand Creek.

“On November 29, 1864, soldiers, led by Col. John Chivington, killed more than 160 Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians. The attack was condemned even in its own time. A congressional-level investigation found that Chivington ‘surprised and murdered, in cold blood, the unsuspecting men, women, and children on Sand Creek.’ Many social media posts claim the statue is of Chivington, though this is not the case.”

In its place, will be a different statue, to commemorate the Sand Creek Massacre.

From a blog post last month: But this time, the Capitol Building Advisory Committee voted 7-2 to accept a sculpture that represents a Native American woman mourning after losing her family members to the soldiers involved in the Sand Creek Massacre. It was the only work brought to the committee presented by an organization named One Earth Future; the descendants of the massacre chose the artist. The image above shows the maquette (or model) of the work, created by artist Harvey Pratt, Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. The maquette is modeled in clay.  I would assume that the artist gave the woman really large hands because the sculpture would be set up on a pedestal, hovering over the viewers. Those hands? They are the major elements of the maquette, if not finely modeled.”

The maquette, made of clay, needs some refinement. In the future, the project will move to the state legislature, with the Capitol Development Committee.

But when police officers did not protect those statues, that made no sense, unless the police realized they had over-reached during the protests, where people were wounded

The links below concern the statues that are no longer on their pedestals:

https://www.cpr.org/2020/06/26/another-downtown-denver-statue-in-honor-of-christopher-columbus-torn-down/

https://www.cpr.org/2020/06/25/colorado-civil-war-soldier-statue-torn-down-at-the-capitol/

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