defund … something?

but let’s not defund the postal service!

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 think it’s high time for a little defunding.

a better candidate

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.

a whole new kind of garden

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.

let us resound

Last night marked a fearful and determining moment for this country. When the sitting president deploys police/military forces to rout peaceful protestors, we have turned a terrible corner. 

He demonstrated his capability by using those forces for the purpose of shoving his way to an astonishingly hypocritical photo op. That photo should live in infamy not only in its disgusting display of hubris but its grim disdain for the people, freedom, and, yes, religion.

It is terrifying to see police/military personnel participate in this destructive farce, turn against the people, and walk all over the oath they vowed to uphold as well as the Constitution. That they are capable should be deeply troubling in light of the president’s clear, expressed intent.

This cannot stand. We, the people, must be strong and united in the peaceful defense of freedom, peace, justice, and equality. Where voices have called out all week in the name of justice, let us resound with it.

This moment cannot be allowed to pass without redress. It is time for all of us to take a stand against this debased breach of trust and revilement of the premises upon which we agree and presume our government and country should abide. Our legislature continues to fail us, no matter which party, but we must demand they step up in defiance to this egregious development. We must demand they respond to our calls for a moral justice.

It is also time for a true leader, one that boldly stands up for the people, to come to the fore. I don’t think that person is the one hiding out in a Delaware basement, but I know they’re out there somewhere. There’s still time, and, in fact, that time is now.

Step up.
Stand up. 
Stand for freedom.
Stand for love.

action not platitudes

So, what I’m wondering is…. where’s the response?

People across the nation are protesting. There is clearly a problem, and many people are speaking out their anger and frustration. Although George Floyd’s inexcusable murder was a triggering event in the midst of a bizarre and stressful time, the emotions didn’t evolve overnight. 

One would think that leaders in our country would be proposing actual solutions.

Instead, while everyone is protesting the police, in response, all we get is more policing. Videos abound of police in their damn riot gear intimidating peaceful protestors, bullying them, yelling at residents and protestors, and using violence that ranges from pushing people down, whether they are walking with a cane or not, to ramming them with their vehicles.

And sure, I applaud people like Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson in Flint who set his baton down and marched with the people, but we have to look beyond moments of solidarity and ask, okay, how are we really going to fix this?

Where, I ask, where is the leadership? There is an absolute void, whether Republican or Democrat, of a leader anywhere who is stepping in to actually address the grievances being raised across this nation right now. Shooting for looting is not a problem solver. Nor is empty rhetoric like calls for “healing this country“ from Mr. You Ain’t Black.

Hellooooo!!! We are looking for a real leader who actually has some vision and the ability to articulate it, formulate it, and execute a meaningful response. We’re talking about substantive, structural, practical changes on behalf of the people. We want positive, compassionate action, not just words.

So far, crickets.

How about defunding police departments?  As in, let’s have less policing, not more. I know I’d feel safer. Invest those funds in the creation of positive, healthy communities that stand on peace, justice, and equality.

How about demilitarizing the police? Yeah, we really don’t like seeing those bully lines of black-garbed soldiers ranged against we the people. We don’t want to see tanks on our streets. We’re sick and tired of SWAT raids, tasers, and bullets.

How about developing a compassionate approach to policing, implementing new commonsense training right from the get-go, and recruiting a suitable type of person for such work?

How about a livable minimum wage? As in, why, yes, we actually do care about all of our workers and their families, essential and beyond.

How about depopulating and closing prisons? We all know there’s just no reason for us to be the worldwide leader for imprisonment, unless, of course, you want to make a profit.

How about healthcare and housing solutions? How about equity in the workplace? How about equity in schooling? How about meaningful work? I don’t know, I could go on.

And just as there is a dearth of healthy leadership in government, we also yearn for leadership for those oppressed. Both the literal and figurative knee on the neck serve well to suppress much needed organized dissent and vision on behalf of the suffering classes. Maybe now is the time those visionary voices can rise and lead again to make for a better nation for all.

peace officers, not police officers

George Floyd is dead after police responded to a suspected forgery. Floyd’s is yet another unpardonable story of a black man succumbing to death under brutal and disproportionate police response. 

Such handling should be unheard of, but somehow none of us are surprised. While acknowledging that police are exposed to risky situations, we’ve heard self defense too many times in suspect situations for it to be believable. Heard it too many times to suppose that the police themselves are not responsible for escalating otherwise innocuous situations. 

When one considers the vast injustices and crimes against the citizenry executed by people in corporations and government that routinely go unchecked in any respect, it absolutely boggles the mind that anyone could approach an individual suspected of forgery prepared to kill him or treat him with brutality. It defies sanity that anyone could similarly approach individuals for countless other ‘crimes’ that are in reality mere evidence of the lack of a healthy social and economic structure and a government with a cold shoulder for much of its populace.

No one, except perhaps for the Amy Coopers of the world, wants to call the police anymore. Since they have assumed their militarized persona, police are broadly feared, distrusted, and disliked. For people of color, the dread is unimaginable and unforgivable. And for those with mental health challenges, it’s beyond terrifying.

Our police officers aren’t just armed, they are prepared for battle, right down to the tanks. They are inculcated with the mentality to go with it. It appears that an unfortunate percentage of them are steeped in prejudices. And we pay for it with tax monies.

This just should not be, and we all know it.

I like to believe that a person is drawn to police work with an intent to make a positive difference in the world. We need to support that intention.

We need to start over on the whole concept of policing. We need to start from scratch on how our police are trained. We need to relieve them of their war weapons and de-escalate their heightened warlike mentality. We need to be done with SWAT teams. We need to take away incentives like civil asset forfeiture, military grade arms coming from the feds, and prison lockup quotas for those for-profit prisons. We need to weed out those for whom discriminatory injustice is not reprehensible. We need to decriminalize in areas.

We need police who are true public servants. These are the police that can be trusted. They are welcome and level-headed friends in a moment of need. They seek to build an inherently safer, healthier community.

We want compassionate local police who care about their community across the board. Ones who are absolutely only prepared to use a weapon or brute force as an extreme last resort. Look at a number of other countries that somehow manage with police who generally go about their business unarmed. Who woulda thunk?

While we grieve with George Floyd’s family for this terrible loss, we need to bang the drum. We want peace officers, not police officers.