If I don't start writing more than once or twice a week soon, I'm afraid I'm going to lose all credibility as an obsessive-compulsive attention-seeker. I should at least be able to find an amusing 70s hair band video for you all. I'm not even trying.
An initiative campaign launched last week to shine a little light on the City's freight train approach to building a new jail in Seattle. It's the culmination of about four months of discussion and planning. The effort is much bigger than Real Change, and is fronted by a group of activists calling themselves Citizens for Fairness and Efficiency in Public Safety. I wish we'd discussed a bit less. We have until May to collect the 23,000 or so signatures needed to qualify for November's ballot. The big public launch is on February 19, 7:30-9 am at Town Hall. You're invited.
In my more hopeful moments, I think that this effort, and the opportunity for movement building across race, class, and issue that it represents, is just the kind of organizing that could lead to the new civil rights movement this nation so badly needs. In my less hopeful moments, I think of how overwhelming the odds against our success really are, and how this could be just one more example of institutional power and momentum overwhelming citizen participation.
So, the stakes feel high, and I'm working my ass off, trying to focus on what's important. Today started with a 9 am interview with the Socialist Worker. This arrived far too soon after yesterday's thrilling 1 a.m. conclusion of a 16-hour day. Today, I was at Real Change until 7:30. A mere ten and a half hours. I really should be working right now. No. That's not right. I really should be sleeping.
On the other hand, this is my idea of a really good time. Everyone should be lucky enough to live in the burning light of their passion, surrounded by people they love and respect. I have nothing to complain about.
Above is a two-part video of my speech at our packed forum at Seattle University's Pigott Auditorium last week. I was supposed to speak for 8 minutes. The evidence strongly suggests I went over my time, but at least I wasn't alone in this. This video, if you let it, will lead you to others. All of the panelists were wonderful. The Seattle Channel is showing the forum daily. Sometimes twice. It was that good.
Below is the "Directors Corner" I wrote for Real Change today in the time I had between the initiative steering committee meeting and the meeting of the Real Change board. This issue, in some ways, is about whether we have eyes to see and the courage to change. So, I wrote about that.
As I drove into work this morning, I was thinking of my 9 a.m. interview with the folks from the Socialist Worker newspaper, and what I might say. Here was a rare opportunity to dig a little into the connections between globalization and growing inequality, the war on drugs as a means of criminalizing the black and marginalized, shelters and prisons as containment systems for the surplus and abandoned poor, and how class and race are the unacknowledged third rail in this question of a new Seattle jail that the city is desperately trying to avoid.
This is a time when enormous possibility for change is colliding directly with the prospect of system collapse. This leaves one with a vertiginous feeling of combined hope and dread. As my car made its way down I-5, I drifted to the theologians who have addressed the times in which we live.
Walter Bruggeman, author of The Prophetic Imagination, talks about having courage and conviction, despite the many inducements that exist to just shut the hell up and go along with the program. “Situations of cultural acceptance,” said Bruggeman, “breed accommodating complacency.” When a ten-fold disproportionality exists in King County between Blacks that are jailed and their representation in the community, we are called to actively imagine a different reality
I also thought of Reinhold Niebuhr’s take on Matthew 10:16, “ which reads, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” Niebuhr writes concisely on institutional self-interest as a reflection of the human capacity for evil, and how liberals are often naive on this point. His work was enormously influential during the nation’s last civil rights movement and needs to be revived.
The new city jail is not about how our city handles misdemeanants. It’s about whether Seattle accepts an unacceptable status quo, and commits to a future of deepening race and class inequality as a response to system failure. For the questions behind the questions, the analysts often miss the point. The philosophers, on the other hand, have much to say.