Hope

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

~ Howard Zinn

Thank you, Howard.

Arrested cop

Well, I’m torn over this latest news. I’m glad the hypocrisy of the state in ignoring it’s own murderers while punishing others for crime has, for the moment, lessened. The pig who executed a Oscar Grant “then refused to explain his actions to investigators has been arrested in Nevada on suspicion of murder.” But will punishing one person for his reprehensible act do anything at all to get rid of the system that perpetuates acts like this? Will it make the rest of us less vulnerable to state sponsored violence? Doubtful.

Killing a cop right back doesn’t get rid of cops. Playground justice like that is no justice at all. I’m more interested in killing the cops as an institution than I am in exacting revenge on one of them for doing what they’re set up to do.

Being Made Invisible

The following was written by my girlfriend. I found my own voice in her writing, and so I offer it to you from us both

You really can’t know, until you’re on this side of things.

I had no idea. I grappled and prayed and thought, and made a decision. I made a decision about an act I will take, that will not directly affect anyone else. And now, every single day, I am inundated with messages about what’s wrong with me, or messages that make me invisible. Inundated, surrounded, immersed. I don’t seek it out, it just gets handed to me everywhere.

Some advocates and ads just say “Vote.” Fine. That’s your right to say to me. I’m gonna answer “No.” End of exchange. That’s about 5% of the conversations.

The rest are earnest, arrogant, condescending, angry faces. “If you’re concerned about your environment, you’ll do this.” “Get off the couch, you lazy bum, and do this.” “If you don’t do this, you’ve got no right to complain about anything.” People I know and people I don’t know. Everywhere, everywhere. Over and over and over and over and over again, in every direction.

Have you ever felt like the only person experiencing something? Have you ever felt invisible? There is nothing in the wider world that exists outside the voting juggernaut. There’s nowhere casual to go that gives me peers to hang out with. There’s nothing to combat the feelings that I am hated, that I am a threat.

It’s a bit like it was when I first became a vegetarian, though the scale is much more enormous this time. Meat eaters would (and still sometimes do) engage me viciously; they would argue and try to debate with me. I’ve never tried to convert anybody to vegetarianism. Your diet is not my business. I don’t understand why I’m such a threat to you, just making my own decisions. I do not see why there can’t be room just to be this thing, quietly.

Oh, but I’m not one of those vegetarians? I’m not one of those kind of nonvoters? I’m not one of those kind of Christians? Oh, well then, that doesn’t make me feel less lonely. Where is the space for me, then? Will you actually try to understand me, and others like me? Will you make space for the ones that are different, or will you negate us? Will you even fully imagine our existence, so that there’s some small place for us in the conversation? Or will you continue to lump groups together when it’s convenient for you?

There is no public venue where legitimate reasons not to vote are given any space. None. This is part of my anger, as it makes them invisible, even to those who don’t realize they’re struggling to find them. Every time nonvoters are so casually characterized as lazy, or ignorant, or selfish, or misinformed, or in need of help, one of our core freedoms is being taken away.

Have you ever listened, really listened to the arguments given on most voting PSAs? They sound like evangelists. They do not work from logic, they work from emotion. They make no room for you, the audience, to disagree. They assume you’re either one of them, or that you need their help. They make assumptions about you, about your character and attitudes and wellbeing. They bully. It may not be clear, since they’re talking about being voters, and you likely are one. But the next time one comes on, pretend they’re asking you to convert to Christianity, or some other group foreign to you.

Now I’m reminded of being in another minority… growing up queer in a family where queer didn’t exist. It’s really quite similar in a lot of ways.

Vote

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Vote
Use your voice
Make your choice
Take down the psychopathic power structure
Replace it with another
less diseased?
We’ll see

In a system built on violence every vote’s an affirmation
an attestation
a confirmation
that you believe in the system
That violence (when used by the right people) can make things better

In a system that is sick every vote’s an infection
A blind eye to every inspection
forced at the end of a gun

At the heart of every law is a threat
That it doesn’t matter where your heart’s set
All will comply, one by one

That they will push and pull and take you where they will
And if you stand still
They will break you down with their billy clubs and tear gas

Because the people have spoken
Your bones may be broken
For the majority have placed you in the criminal class

You see…

There is an arrogance to creating a law
Saying you know better than me what’s best for me

But I’m not looking for confrontation
I don’t want to tear you down when you try to build a better world
I just want you to see like I see
That your better world is built on bones

When you choose between the left and the right
When you fight the good fight
When you try to make a sick system kill a little slower than before

I know your heart is true
But in a system built to subdue
Your heart can be used up to feed the lust for gore

And I’m sorry
I don’t have the answers
I can’t say what can replace this Empire

See, I fear the Empire sickness
Will always be with us
Much like Christ said of the poor

So I try to speak from a place of love
Standing at the bottom, always looking above
And explain why I will not pick up your ballot shaped sword

Gabe Harrell – Vote.mp3