My eyes open in the silent night. The moon lights up the deep world. I lay still, feeling the quiet, the embrace of the skies, noticing the silhouette of the ever-reaching trees. The soft pressure of the cat breathes warm with me. I know the peace this earth can hold.
Of course there’s next to no press coverage of it, but a United States court of law yesterday found that the National Security Agency acted illegally in its mass surveillance of US citizens’ telephone data and lying about it. As reported by Reuters, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declared it may have been unconstitutional as well.
The government’s assertion that the warrantless surveillance program of its own citizens served to fight domestic extremism also fell flat in the courtroom as the court ruled that the records did not support such claims.
This is a WIN for the American people. This is a WIN for the American Civil Liberties Union that helped bring the suit. It is also a WIN for courageous whistleblower Edward Snowden who disclosed the crime in 2013, and who remains in exile under threat of the US government’s use of the Espionage Act against him for said truth-telling.
It is wonderful to see a victory in the category of what’s right, but, somehow, and sadly, I do not think that this will reassure Snowden that it might be safe to come home to the country for which he so bravely stood up at such great personal cost.
It’s way past time that we recognize folks like Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Julian Assange as the heroes they are. It is despicable that the powers that be continue to malign them, hunt them down, imprison them, torture them, and more using the empowerment and funding of the people these heroes sought to protect. It is way past time that we demand that those entities serve their people legally and constitutionally, with transparency and accountability.
As usual, folks, the responsibility is ours to raise our voices and seek what’s right.
We have seen a lot of protests. We have seen statues pulled down, institutions renamed, products scheduled for rebranding. We have seen a lot of discussion, a lot of reading, a lot of educating.
What we have not seen is a whole lot of purposeful response from government.
Oh yeah, we’ve had police crackdowns and shows of police solidarity. We’ve seen Trump get right on it to make sure folks who tear down statues as they seek social change pay a hefty price for it. We’ve seen our legislature gin up reform bills designed to go exactly nowhere. We’ve seen the presumptive Democratic nominee suggest reform, and, oh, more funding to re-educate police (again).
So, for all that the people made it pretty damn clear they want change, it’s kind of a nothing sandwich from our illustrious “representation.” How could anyone be surprised?
Seems like the government rarely rises to the moment unless it’s on behalf of the only class they care about.
So as we call for defunding of police, i.e., shrinking police budgets while diverting funds to programs that actually help build socially and economically healthier communities and individuals, I cannot help but ask, why stop there?
I can think of a lot of things that make excellent candidates for the defunding treatment.
For starters, how about the legislature? They seem to be doing jack on behalf of the people these days. What say we just cut the budget for salaries and benefits for pretty much everyone in the House and the Senate right now? We could put those funds to actual good use. That’s at least $300 million in salaries and benefits alone, but if we throw in other federal departments and agencies, we’re talking hundreds of billions.
For example, how about the Environmental Protection Agency? I think it’s pretty clear it’s become an anti-environmental sort of body — time to cut the budget for that. There’s more than $8 billion with which we could actually do something. We could net a few billion more if we defund the sold-out FDA while we’re at it. The Department of Agriculture – almost $150 billion. We could net another $55 billion or so if we give the CIA and the rest of the National Intelligence Program the defunding treatment.
How about the war machine? Sure Sen. Bernie Sanders is proposing a 10 percent cut to military spending, but it’s almost guaranteed that legislators will make sure that the initiative goes nowhere — like they always have. We could shift an astonishing amount of money from military endeavors to peace endeavors. The 10% that Bernie Sanders is talking about amounts to $74-frick’n-billion.
How about prisons? The US predilection for locking people up translates to $80 billion each year in taxpayer dollars, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. I think we all know we’re overdue for scaling back on incarceration.
How about animal agriculture? We currently subsidize this environmentally destructive, human and animal health hazardous industry with about $38 billion in taxpayer funds. Come on, this is a no brainer. What could we do with $38 billion?
This is just a smattering of budget items that leap to mind.
It is not to say that there aren’t some worthy programs and purposes to which our tax dollars are directed, but it blows my mind the way our government just squanders a jaw-dropping amount of our tax dollars for things none of us actually want or need. Many of these things we pay for are things we actually resent or to which we have ethical objections, while there are other things that go lacking.
I notice the shadow falling over the afternoon. I pause, wondering. Then, a long, rolling rumble of thunder confirms it.
I feel both a tension and a peace, and I’m not quite sure how that works together.
The weather moves in, and the rain begins to pelt.
The sudden coolness and wateriness of the world surrounds me. The energy sweeping this maelstrom to my doorstep buzzes in the air. The pressure of the next thunderous boom builds inexorably.
And yet, I am at utter peace. There is somehow safety in this sequestered moment, resting in the arms of nature even when there may be trouble there. There is a necessary letting go; there is nothing to which to hold on. This minute just is.
I look down, and there is my best friend cat stretched out lazily about as far as he can go, wholly content.
It is just a breath of a moment where all the worry, all the unknowns of life in the Time of Covid recede: a rainy respite from what might be normal, or should be, or could be, or God help us.
Coming away from it all too quickly, I feel the forgotten sense of potential, and right on its heels, fatigue. There’s a lot of work in all the routines of uncertainty and concern, and I’m tired as the mantle of subconscious worry slips back over me. We’re all tired, I think.
But for just that moment, I let go and now I remember what that feels like, that it’s possible inside this epoch of abnormalities. I picture the narrative we’ve lately been living just drifting out the window, like a mist sucked away with the now retreating weather, and I can’t help but notice what’s left.
Best friend cat renews his stretch, rolling over, abandoned to it.
We learned yesterday that Democratic presumptive nominee Joe Biden does not support police defunding. That didn’t take long.
Considering that Biden was responsible for the 1994 tough-on-crime bill that exacerbated problems rather than solve them, his rush to rule out defunding should come as no surprise.
It’s interesting that a lot of folks seem uncomfortable with defunding. I would guess that comes from a lack of understanding, and, of course, resistance to change.
Defunding doesn’t mean we drop everything overnight and suddenly find ourselves in some kind of ‘wild, wild West’, every person for him/her self. No, it means reallocating funds to support people in the ways they really need help, so that crime and distress are not such prevalent realities for so many people in the first place. It also means developing a new vision for the kind of policing we really need and want in our communities, and then making that happen, too. It also means rejecting a form of policing that does not serve our population well.
It’s a radical step toward making actual systemic changes. And it showcases other areas that need radical overhaul. Our mental health, education, and health systems are not so great, nor are they equitable. All of them need reform. Plus, defunding forces us to look at the fundamentals of meaningful work for a meaningful wage, secure housing, and availability of nutritious food.
We’re talking about basic respect for each human being.
But back to Biden. He’s got a lock on the nomination. He’s doing well, by doing nothing, in recent polling against Trump. It’s pretty sad commentary that this is what we’re down to.
Biden may be a familiar, perhaps friendly-looking face, but take a serious look at his record in terms of peace, justice, and equality. This is a candidate that has authored legislation that has hurt people of color, among others. He is another candidate who has allegations of sexual assault and harassment against him. His cognitive abilities are seriously under question. His engineered rise to the forefront has alienated many progressive voters, perhaps for the long haul. And he has made no effort throughout the campaign thus far to instill confidence or enthusiasm, hat tip to corporate donors.
Folks, we can do better than this.
We should not be surprised that there is actually a movement afoot. Believe it or not, a March Against Biden is set for June 27. These are not Trump supporters. Nope, these are voters who fear a loss to Trump because Biden is such a demonstrably lousy candidate. They are all about finding a better candidate. Check out @BidenMarch on Twitter.
Dems, are you listening? It’s not too late. We really could have a decent candidate if we put our minds to it.
We are witnessing firsthand the power of the people in the ongoing protests. Things are changing in our society entirely due to the people’s fearless and persistent demands right now. Another thing we can absolutely demand is a better candidate, not just a perhaps-lesser evil. One actually worth voting for.
Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey gets credit for showing up and engaging with the protestors there. He’s all about police reform, just like we’ve been hearing for years all over the country.
When asked, however, he indicated that he would not support fully defunding the department at the epicenter of the current unrest. That response was met with immediate scorn from the gathering of protestors surrounding him. They jeered him from the event, the crowd parting for his shamed departure.
Calls for reform, at this point nothing more than a tired rejoinder, are just not enough.
And if you weren’t convinced that reform is not enough, have a moment to consider the members of the Buffalo, New York emergency response team — all of whom resigned their roles on that team (though not their jobs) in solidarity with the two now charged with felonious assault on a 75-year old protestor. They and others assembled to cheer those two after their release. Do the citizens of Buffalo feel safer now?
What is this group of people really about? They can avert their eyes and walk past a bleeding old man laying on the ground after members of their own delivered blows to him, but they’ll show up enthusiastically in a way that ultimately communicates the notion that laying blows on a 75-year old non-violent protestor is somehow justified in their world.
It is not enough to talk simple reform. All of the various attempts at reform still led to this day.
Defunding these departments and diverting the monies to positive, supportive development in the communities makes all the sense in the world. After watching so much police violence now and through the years, and considering some of the toxic police union rhetoric, fully defunding does not sound unreasonable.
As in disband. Let ‘em all go. Phase our current departments out, and start over with a whole new approach.
We wouldn’t even call our new groups ‘police’ or use the militarized moniker ‘officers’ — or, for that matter, captains, sergeants, units, etc. Forget all that military stuff, including the weaponry.
No, I’m not sure what we’d call them but their objective would be laser focused on peace and safety for the people. They would be trusted community partners, not an opposing, militarized force acting as the muscle of the government and the privileged. They would value life and quality of life over property.
It will require a lot of rethinking.
It is something that needs to be fleshed out in a community process. One that ought to get started in communities across the nation.
Let’s start a whole new kind of garden. Let’s do it permaculture style – sustainable, supporting life, resilient, caring, and fair.
the moth alights in front me. i later learn it is the eight-spotted forester, but that’s just the name the English-speaking humans give to it. i don’t speak eight-spotted forester, so i do not know to what name the moth would actually answer. it speaks no language i understand. i don’t know its ways. it lives a life beyond my comprehension. but there it is, comfortably paused just there where i can’t help noticing its stark splendor. i reach out and touch the very tip of its wing. it does not move but spreads its wings out for me to see. this moth is part of my world, both ordinary and exotic, living its own life its own way while i live mine – and it is easy to see how beautiful and perfect that is.