Contemplations – Now

An appetizer:

"We now live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings."
– Ursula K. Le Guin, in her acceptance speech for the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

"The struggle for American democracy is one made up of many different battles, from confusing court cases and cell phone records to tweets and the combatting of disinformation, but it is, ultimately, about us and our neighbors, and what we want our journey to be."
– Professor Heather Cox Richardson, Dec 30, 2019, Letters from an American. See also Contemplations: Letters from an American

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What should exist

"So we have to be thinking not just about what should not exist, we should be thinking what should exist and begin building that."
– Newark Mayor Ras Baraka

Silence is Not an Option: Reimagining the Police⩘ 

John Lewis

"Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself."

John Lewis, Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation⩘ , NYT, Jul 30, 2020

The hope of the world is the individual that cares

Pastor Carl Lentz, Hillsong East Coast Church. From Race vs Religion – Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, Episode 7⩘ , Jul 29, 2020.

10 Ways To Reduce Our Reliance On Policing And Make Our Communities Safer For Everyone

Excellent article by Alex S. Vitale, professor of sociology and coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College. There are alternatives and promising possibilities. We just need the courage and fortitude to try them.

  1. Mental health and social workers to respond to crises
  2. Violence interrupters to reduce gun violence
  3. Unarmed traffic patrols
  4. Civilian control of crime labs
  5. Fund better and safer transit service
  6. School wellness centers
  7. Dispute resolution experts for neighborhood and domestic disputes
  8. Support, not police, for people experiencing homelessness
  9. Integrated crisis centers
  10. Trained civilians for property offenses

Alex S. Vitale, 10 Ways To Reduce Our Reliance On Policing And Make Our Communities Safer For Everyone⩘ , The Appeal, Jul 20, 2020

Black Print

Press room of the Richmond Planet newspaper, Richmond, Virginia, 1899
Press room of the Richmond Planet newspaper, Richmond, Virginia, 1899.
Photo from Library of Congress⩘ 

Excellent article about the growth of Black printing and publishing in the U.S. and the women and men who made it happen. From the first pamphlets and books in the late 1700s to the first newspapers in the 1800s to publications with widespread circulation in the 1900s, it is a rich and courageous story.

Black print culture, then, is considerably more than the sum of its extant printed artifacts. It is the complex and unfathomably rich interplay of all its parts, and a reflection of a people, determined, proud, and unwavering in their conviction that Black lives matter.

Black Print⩘ , I Love Typography, July 11, 2020

Thank you, moms!

The Wall of Moms
Art by Xochilt Ruvalcaba, Instagram:

This is amazing: a bunch of moms is taking to the streets of Portland every night to stand between the unidentifiable attacking federal militarized agents and the Black Lives Matter protestors in an effort to protect the protestors.

#wallofmoms is a PDX-based network of womxn and non-binary mother-identifying folx dedicated to supporting the current civil rights movement to end police brutality by defending and supporting BLM protesters on the front line and online.

Thank you, moms!

The Wall of Moms⩘ 
Related: 'Wall of Moms' face down federal officers in Portland⩘ , Reuters Pictures, July 23, 2020

We're all just normal people who think what's happening is wrong

Video by Zane Sparling, @PDXzane
Video by Zane Sparling, @PDXzane⩘ 

A Navy veteran wanted to ask federal officers "Why are you not honoring your oath to the Constitution?" Apparently those officers considered that a crime because as Christopher David stood stoically, wearing his U.S. Naval Academy gear to identify himself as a U.S. Navy veteran, he was viciously beaten with a baton (resulting in two fractured bones in his hand) and repeatedly sprayed with chemical irritant by unidentifiable federal officers.

Watch Sparling's video of the attack on Christopher⩘ .

"It's just us normal people out there," he said. "There were a whole group of pregnant moms standing out there linking arms and they got gassed. You hear people like [President] Trump say it's just a bunch of wacko fringe people in liberal cities who are out there, but no way. We're all just normal people who think what's happening is wrong."

Reported by Zane Sparling: Article: Portland protester describes beating by federal officers⩘ , Portland Tribune, Jul 19 2020; Video: @PDXzane⩘ 
[1] A Navy vet asked federal officers in Portland to remember their oaths. Then they broke his hand.⩘ , Washington Post, Jul 20, 2020
[2] Navy veteran says he was beaten 'like a punching bag' in Portland⩘ , Reuters, Jul 20, 2020
[3] A Navy veteran says he was beaten and pepper sprayed by authorities while attending his first protest in Portland⩘ ,, Jul 20, 2020
See also: Heather Cox Richardson, July 20, 2020⩘ , Letters from an American

Representative John Lewis

"You must be able and prepared to give until you cannot give any more. We must use our time and our space on this little planet that we call Earth to make a lasting contribution, to leave it a little better than we found it, and now that need is greater than ever before."

"Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Do not become bitter or hostile. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. We will find a way to make a way out of no way."

– Representative John Lewis, February 21, 1940 - July 17, 2020

The woman who swims with sharks

Cristina Zenato has a special relationship with sharks. She has been diving at one site with one family of sharks in the Bahamas for twenty years. The video⩘  showing her gently being with the sharks is a beautiful glimpse into another way of being.

I love that there is a busy silence. It is the most peaceful and calming moment of my day. My babies are Caribbean Reef Sharks.

There is a total disconnect from humans to sharks. We can swim in the ocean with sharks in a way that you can never walk around on the snow with a polar bear following you. We have to make that connection with the sharks, understanding they're way, way less dangerous than many creatures out there. We must change our ways because we need to protect the oceans and we need to protect the sharks. And when you reach that message, then you have a victory.

Perspective: Sharks kill an average of only 10 people per year. People kill around 100,000,000 sharks per year 1. People also kill approximately 425,000 people per year, topped only by mosquitoes, which kill about 725,000 people per year 2. By the way, that furry creature wagging its tail and chasing the sticks you throw … they kill an average of 30 people per year. Think about that the next time you step into a backyard to play with one without wearing your chainmail suit!

Video: The woman who swims with sharks⩘ , BBC

Freedom House Ambulance Service

Freedom House Ambulance Service
Photo credit: University of Pittsburgh, Freedom House paramedics with ambulance.

From 99% Invisible: the inspiring story of the creation of the world's first ambulance service, an all-Black paramedic operation in Pittsburgh during the late 1960s and early 1970s. It's also a tragic story, because this amazing and pioneering service that birthed the EMT and paramedic professions that save so many lives across our country and around the world was destroyed by racism.

At a city council meeting, Safar presented data showing that as many as 1,200 people a year had been dying needlessly while in the care of other emergency services. Freedom House paramedics, by contrast, had saved 200 lives in the first year alone. Doctors and medical directors from around the country flocked to Pittsburgh. Freedom House medics were invited to conferences as far away as Germany. Everyone wanted to see what they were doing and learn how they could copy it.

We should pay tribute to Freedom House Ambulance Service for making it possible for all of us to dial 911 for any medical emergency we may experience.

99% Invisible: Freedom House Ambulance Service⩘ 

Related videos:
Freedom House Ambulance Service – The First Paramedic and EMT Service⩘ 
Freedom House Feature Documentary Trailer⩘ 

This town of 170,000 replaced some cops with medics and mental health workers. It's worked for over 30 years

Excellent article about CAHOOTS⩘ , the Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets program in Eugene, Oregon. It's showcases how one community has created a way to shift the responses for some kinds of incidents—for example, mental health crises, homelessness, substance abuse, and threats of suicide—from police to a team of nurses or EMTs paired with a crisis responder trained in behavioral health.

The article makes clear that this isn't an easy, one-size-fits-all solution, but also that there is a possible way forward.

This town of 170,000 replaced some cops with medics and mental health workers. It's worked for over 30 years⩘ , by Scottie Andrew, CNN, July 5, 2020

Black Lives Matter: one of the finest examples of patriotism in modern America

Excerpt from an analyis piece by John Blake, CNN, July 4, 2020: Our country is in chaos. But it's a great time to be an American⩘ 

On July 9, 1776, a rowdy group of American colonists banded together at a political rally in New York City and did something that today would be called "badass."

They had just been treated to a public reading of the Declaration of Independence, which Congress had officially adopted less than a week earlier. After hearing calls to "dissolve the political bands" of tyranny, they marched to a public park that featured a statue of King George III, Britain's ruler, and knocked the 4,000-pound statue off its 15-foot pedestal.

The head of the statue was then decapitated and perched on top of a spike, and much of the rest was melted down to make 42,000 musket balls for American soldiers.

The historian Erika Doss thought of that scene recently while watching protesters toppling statues of Confederate heroes. Doss, who recounts the 1776 episode in her book, "Memorial Mania," sees a parallel between the colonists who fought against Great Britain and protesters who rail against Confederate monuments today.

"They're patriots," says Doss, an American studies professor at the University of Notre Dame, of today's protesters. "They're looking at the symbols and these visual and martial emblems and icons in their midst and they're saying this doesn't stand for who we are today."

Our country is in chaos. But it's a great time to be an American⩘ 

These are true patriots

Excerpts from an opinion piece by Senator Tammy Duckworth,⩘ 

Marching and chanting, grieving and kneeling, countless Americans have braved tear gas and rubber bullets over the past six weeks to send an unequivocal message to their elected leaders: that they will not stand idly by as racial injustice continues to tear at our country.

. . .

America has always been full of complications and contradictions. We're a deeply flawed country, but what makes us unique is that we're a deeply hopeful one, too. Hopeful that, with a little effort, we'll one day live up to the promises made in our founding doctrine. That coming together in the streets can make a real difference. That we can learn from yesterday's sins to bring about a better tomorrow.

So on this Fourth of July, let's remember that fighting back against injustice isn't just the right thing to do, it's the most American act imaginable. Our nation was founded by a group of patriots who refused to blindly follow their leader—and 244 Independence Days later, it's only by continuing to speak truth to power that, someday soon, we may all live free in that more perfect union envisioned by our founders.

Senator Tammy Duckworth, These are true patriots⩘ ,, July 3, 2020

Catastrophic failure of leadership

U.S.A. presidential leadership during the pandemic crisis
Image of United States of America presidential leadership during the pandemic crisis

During the course of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic so far—and it appears likely that we are early in what will be a long and terrible experience—two articles have struck me most strongly:

The final sentence of the article by Fallows, his imagining of the NTSB accident report about this catastrophic failure, is utterly devastating.

Followup: This New York Times article from July 18, 2020 underscores the catastrophic failure of leadership: Inside Trump's Failure: The Rush to Abandon Leadership Role on the Virus⩘ 

My Body Is a Confederate Monument

Caroline Randall Williams

What is a monument but a standing memory? An artifact to make tangible the truth of the past. My body and blood are a tangible truth of the South and its past. The black people I come from were owned by the white people I come from. The white people I come from fought and died for their Lost Cause. And I ask you now, who dares to tell me to celebrate them? Who dares to ask me to accept their mounted pedestals?

You cannot dismiss me as someone who doesn't understand. You cannot say it wasn't my family members who fought and died. My blackness does not put me on the other side of anything. It puts me squarely at the heart of the debate. I don't just come from the South. I come from Confederates. I've got rebel-gray blue blood coursing my veins. My great-grandfather Will was raised with the knowledge that Edmund Pettus was his father. Pettus, the storied Confederate general, the grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, the man for whom Selma's Bloody Sunday Bridge is named. So I am not an outsider who makes these demands. I am a great-great-granddaughter.

Caroline Randall Williams, You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument⩘ , The New York Times, June 26, 2020

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

A thought-provoking white privilege paper by Peggy McIntosh, 1989.

I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white privilege. I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was "meant" to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those conditions which I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can see, my African American co-workers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and line of work cannot count on most of these conditions.

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One factor seems clear about all of the interlocking oppressions. They take both active forms, which we can see, and embedded forms, which as a member of the dominant group one is taught not to see. In my class and place, I did not see myself as a racist because I was taught to recognize racism only in individual acts of meanness by members of my group, never in invisible systems conferring unsought racial dominance on my group from birth.

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy MaIntosh⩘ 

Related video: How Studying Privilege Systems Can Strengthen Compassion by Peggy McIntosh⩘ , at TEDxTimberlaneSchools, 2012. In this video, she speaks about the myth of meritocracy and the metaphor of white privilege as a bank account that she was given:

I didn't ask for it and I can't be blamed for it, but I can decide to put it in the service of weakening the system of white privilege. That is my energy, that is my financial commitment, that is my daily life, and it has been transformative to use my bank account of white privilege to weaken the system of white privilege.… It has been transformative to use the power I did not know—I was never taught—that I have in the service of kinder, fairer, and more compassionate life for everyone.

What is owed

If true justice and equality are ever to be achieved in the United States, the country must finally take seriously what it owes black Americans.

An excellent longform piece that presents a crystal clear argument for reparations by Nikole Hannah-Jones, The New York Times Magazine⩘ , June 26, 2020

No one can predict whether this uprising will lead to lasting change. History does not bode well. But there does seem to be a widespread acceptance of the most obvious action we could take toward equality in a nation built on the espoused ideals of inalienable, universal rights: pass reforms and laws that ensure that black people cannot be killed by armed agents of the state without consequence.

But on its own, this cannot bring justice to America. If we are truly at the precipice of a transformative moment, the most tragic of outcomes would be that the demand be too timid and the resolution too small. If we are indeed serious about creating a more just society, we must go much further than that. We must get to the root of it.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

The difference between the lived experience of black Americans and white Americans when it comes to wealth—along the entire spectrum of income from the poorest to the richest—can be described as nothing other than a chasm. According to research published this year by scholars at Duke University and Northwestern University that doesn't even take into account the yet-unknown financial wreckage of Covid-19, the average black family with children holds just one cent of wealth for every dollar that the average white family with children holds.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Slavery's demise provided this nation the chance for redemption. Out of the ashes of sectarian strife, we could have birthed a new country, one that recognized the humanity and natural rights of those who helped forge this country, one that attempted to atone and provide redress for the unspeakable atrocities committed against black people in the name of profit. We could have finally, 100 years after the Revolution, embraced its founding ideals.

And, oh so briefly, during the period known as Reconstruction, we moved toward that goal. The historian Eric Foner refers to these 12 years after the Civil War as this nation's second founding, because it is here that America began to redeem the grave sin of slavery. Congress passed amendments abolishing human bondage, enshrining equal protection before the law in the Constitution and guaranteeing black men the right to vote. This nation witnessed its first period of biracial governance as the formerly enslaved were elected to public offices at all levels of government. For a fleeting moment, a few white men listened to the pleas of black people who had fought for the Union and helped deliver its victory. Land in this country has always meant wealth and, more important, independence. Millions of black people, liberated with not a cent to their name, desperately wanted property so they could work, support themselves and be left alone. Black people implored federal officials to take the land confiscated from enslavers who had taken up arms against their own country and grant it to those who worked it for generations. They were asking to, as the historian Robin D.G. Kelley puts it, "inherit the earth they had turned into wealth for idle white people."

In January 1865, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman issued Special Field Order 15, providing for the distribution of hundreds of thousands of acres of former Confederate land issued in 40-acre tracts to newly freed people along coastal South Carolina and Georgia. But just four months later, in April, Lincoln was assassinated. Andrew Johnson, the racist, pro-Southern vice president who took over, immediately reneged upon this promise of 40 acres, overturning Sherman's order. Most white Americans felt that black Americans should be grateful for their freedom, that the bloody Civil War had absolved any debt. The government confiscated the land from the few formerly enslaved families who had started to eke out a life away from the white whip and gave it back to the traitors. And with that, the only real effort this nation ever made to compensate black Americans for 250 years of chattel slavery ended.

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At least 6,500 black people were lynched from the end of the Civil War to 1950, an average of nearly two a week for nine decades. Nearly five black people, on average, have been killed a week by law enforcement since 2015.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

And yet most Americans are in an almost pathological denial about the depth of black financial struggle. That 2019 Yale University study, called "The Misperception of Racial Economic Inequality," found that Americans believe that black households hold $90 in wealth for every $100 held by white households. The actual amount is $10.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Reparations are not about punishing white Americans, and white Americans are not the ones who would pay for them. It does not matter if your ancestors engaged in slavery or if you just immigrated here two weeks ago. Reparations are a societal obligation in a nation where our Constitution sanctioned slavery, Congress passed laws protecting it and our federal government initiated, condoned and practiced legal racial segregation and discrimination against black Americans until half a century ago. And so it is the federal government that pays.

Reparations would go to any person who has documentation that he or she identified as a black person for at least 10 years before the beginning of any reparations process and can trace at least one ancestor back to American slavery. Reparations should include a commitment to vigorously enforcing existing civil rights prohibitions against housing, educational and employment discrimination, as well as targeted investments in government-constructed segregated black communities and the segregated schools that serve a disproportionate number of black children. But critically, reparations must include individual cash payments to descendants of the enslaved in order to close the wealth gap.

What is owed⩘ 

Our monuments are representations of myth, not fact

James Baldwin in Our monuments are representations of myth, not fact

Ken Burns talks about one of his earliest films, "The Statue of Liberty" from 1985, featuring excerpts of writer James Baldwin pondering the question: "What is liberty?" and, quoting the Declaration, We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, observes, "And the moment I do that, I'm in trouble again, because obviously I was not included in that pronouncement." that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, and among these rights are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness "Ah, what is liberty?"

Burns reflects:

Our monuments, even those as revered as the Statue of Liberty, are representations of myth, not fact. And as we consider what role monuments play in our culture, it's the history, not the mythology, that we must remember.

Baldwin goes on:

Liberty is the individual passion or will to be free. But this passion, this will is always contradicted by the necessities of the state, everywhere, for as long as we've heard of mankind, as long as we've heard of states. I don't know if it will be like that forever. For a black American, for a black inhabitant of this country, the Statue of Liberty is simply a very bitter joke, meaning nothing to us.

Our monuments are representations of myth, not fact⩘ 

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man

Emmanuel Acho, Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man

This is essential.

Welcome to the first of hopefully many episodes of Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.
   In the midst of all this chaos in our world, so many of y'all have reached out to me, and by y'all, I mean white people have reached out to me asking, "How can I help? How can I join in? How can I stand with you?"
   So I've created this for you because in order to stand with us, and people that look like me, you have to be educated on issues that pertain to me, and fully educated so that you can feel the full level of pain, so that you can have full understanding.
   I fervently believe that if the white person is your problem, only the white person can be your solution, and so this is made for you, my white brothers and sisters, to increase your level of understanding so that you can increase your level of compassion and lead ultimately to change.
   So consider this a safe space to answer so many questions that I've seen from y'all.

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man with Emmanuel Acho⩘ 
Introductory episode⩘ 

Juneteenth and the Meaning of Freedom

A good essay to reflect upon by Jelani Cobb.

There's a paradox inherent in the fact that emancipation is celebrated primarily among African-Americans, and that the celebration is rooted in a perception of slavery as something that happened to black people, rather than something that the country committed. The paradox rests on the presumption that the arrival of freedom should be greeted with gratitude, instead of with self-reflection about what allowed it to be deprived in the first place. Emancipation is a marker of progress for white Americans, not black ones.

Jelani Cobb, Juneteenth and the Meaning of Freedom⩘ , The New Yorker, June 19, 2020.

Dark Waters

Wilbur Tennant (played by Bill Camp) in the film Dark Waters

Powerful, powerful film.

Can a film about a chemical with a name like Perfluorooctanoic acid⩘  (PFOA) be riveting? When the story is driven forward by a farmer like Wilbur Tennant (played by Bill Camp) and a lawyer like Robert Bilott (played by Mark Ruffalo), absolutely!

Can a film about a rural farmer and a big city lawyer be terrifying? I was at times white knuckled and holding my breath!

How do the assholes who run companies like Dupont stand looking at themselves in their mirrors? Want to know how corrupt our state and federal government are? A disgustingly dishonorable company like Dupont is still in business while the honorable farmer they killed lies six feet under. Shameful!

Then, when the film had finished, I got even more terrified as I started thinking about all times I've eaten food cooked with Teflon pans; walked on carpet, sat on upholstery, or worn garments treated with Scotchgard; or watched a movie while munching on popcorn out of microwaved popcorn bag. Holy shit!

Dark Waters Official Film Site⩘ 

The Camden Policing Model

In this episode of Stay Tuned with Preet, former New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram talks with Camden, New Jersey Police Chief J. Scott Thompson about the work he has been doing to transform the Camden police force from warriors to guardians of the community. It is a transformation that is in progress, but already has provided significant benefits to the community, showing that it is possible for the model of policing that is so broken in many jurisdictions across our country to be scrapped in order to make way for building something different and better.

Full episode: The Camden Policing Model⩘ 

The city that disbanded its police force

Still frame from BBC video The city that disbanded its police force

"Camden, New Jersey, created a brand new police force to forge better ties with its residents.

"Their aim was for the police to be guardians, not warriors of their community.

The city used to have one of the highest crime rates in the United States but now, eight years later, it is seeing its lowest crime rate in 50 years."

The city that disbanded its police force⩘ , The BBC's Nada Tawfik reports, June 18, 2020

These are the ordinary things they were doing when they were killed by police

By AJ Willingham, CNN, June 16, 2020.

"Sleeping. Driving. Standing outside of an apartment building. These are some of the last things some black Americans were doing before they were approached by police for one reason or another. For all of them, the encounter ended in death. "

Read every word of this article⩘ . Take the time to let yourself fully absorb what each person was doing when they were killed by the police. This. Can't. Happen. Anymore. Black Lives Matter.

AJ Willingham, These are the ordinary things they were doing when they were killed by police⩘ , CNN, June 16, 2020

Isn't that public safety?

When I first heard the slogan, "Defund the police," I didn't get it. Because policing across the country is broken, I do understand and support ideas like demilitarizing the police, but defunding? That sounded crazy. At the same time, intelligent and passionate people are calling for it, so I started reading to try to figure it out.

Fund real public safety

Now I understand that for at least some, it means funding real public safety by shifting resources from police to programs that provide socially beneficial services, which should have the effect of reducing the footprint of the police and, hopefully, will reduce some of the overly aggressive and, all too often, even deadly responses. For example, instead of giving the work of dealing with a mental health crises to the police, shift that work, and the funding it requires, to first responders with the training to actually deal with a mental health crisis in a positive way.

As Representative Ayanna Pressley said in a recent interview⩘ , "We cannot allow the narrative of the defund movement to be co-opted. What we're talking about is the investment of community."

This seems like a crucial step that needs to be taken in order to achieve the essential task of really reforming the police. In some, if not many or most jurisdictions, there may need to be a dismantling of the current policing system, replacing it with a new system built fresh from the ground up, as appears to be happening in Minneapolis right now, where the city council voted unanimously to begin just such a process.

There is a set of flyers available that helped me understand this better: Alternatives to Policing Flyers⩘ . Here's a sampling of four of them.

Isn't that public safety? Sleeping on benches  Isn't that public safety? Brake lights
Isn't that public safety? Gun violence  Isn't that public safety? Mental Health Crisis

Note: The posters were created a couple years ago. The site includes an Explainer⩘  as well as a document with the text of all the flyers. In the Explainer, the creator says: "For transparency I had my information here but truly I don't want people directed to my page. What I would really love is for people to click the links below [in the Explainer⩘ ], learn, and follow these brilliant organizations doing the work on the ground, which I will continue to do as well. Thank you."

Alternatives to Policing Flyers⩘ 

How to reform American police, according to experts

In 2016, Vox Senior Correspondent German Lopez "spoke to nine veteran policing and criminal justice experts across the country, with a focus on the big question: How should police and lawmakers address complaints of racial bias while making sure communities are effectively policed for crime?"

On Jun 1, 2020, he revisited the question: "In a testament to how little things have changed, all eight of their recommendations stand up today—and none have been implemented at a national scale."

It's a insightful article, taking a deeper look of each of the eight recommendations:

  1. Police need to apologize for centuries of abuse
  2. Police should be trained to address their racial biases
  3. Police should avoid situations that lead them to use force
  4. Officers must be held accountable in a very transparent way
  5. On-the-job incentives for police officers need to change
  6. We need higher standards—and better pay—for police
  7. Police need to focus on the few people in communities causing chaos and violence
  8. We need better data to evaluate police and crime

German Lopez, How to reform American police, according to experts⩘ , Vox, Jun 1, 2020

Engage in the long, faithful work

Engage in the long, faithful work by Morgan Harper Nichols

Engage in the long, faithful work.
Surrender the need of striving
to be the best or always right
and focus instead on leaning into Light,
that reveals all things.
All that is good
and all that stands to be corrected,
and redirected.

And as you lean into Light,
be gentle with the word "darkness."
For more than it merely means wrong or bad,
it is also the color of a full, starless night sky,
and actual bodies
of human beings
who have been overlooked
too many times.

Many, many words
hold more than one meaning.

Language on "light" and "dark" may have its place,
and this is also true,
this very language has been used to say,
"You are a threat. I am not. I am worth more than you."
It takes kindness to understand this, for
even though kindness is a beautiful word.
it does not mean that nothing gets disrupted.
Sometimes a way of thinking must be interrupted
in order for kindness to truly thrive.

For as sure as kindness
leans into what is good,
it also speaks about what isn't right.
It is compassionate and gentle
when long histories are pulled from mourning into morning.

Engage in the long, faithful work
of awakening
with your heart and mind open to the possibility
that things are more complex than they once seemed.

And as hard as it is to hold all of this,
you are still free to dream:
you do not have to be who you used to be.
You do not have to think the way you used to think.
You are free to take hopeful, thoughtful action
in pursuit of better things.

So here's to new beginnings,
knowing it is impossible to ignore the long history,
opening up to the mystery
that grace still finds you here.

And grace is unmerited favor
but it might not always look the way you want it to.
It will invite you out in the open
and it will also reveal what has been broken.
You might have to unlearn the way you thought things would be.
You might find that being undone
is the best way to move on, humbly, mindfully, wholly.

For how liberating it is
to pursue wholeness over perfection,
finding that grace is more than a beautiful word,
but a daily act of being undone, an awakening, a direction.

– Morgan Harper Nichols

Instagram: morganharpernichols⩘ 
Via: Boing Boing⩘ 

The Liberation of RNA

Photo of C. Brandon Ogbunu by David DelPoio

C. Brandon Ogbunu⩘ , an evolutionary systems biologist and Assistant Professor at Brown University in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University, shares a story that unlocks some deep truths and insights in The Liberation of RNA⩘  Radiolab episode, which aired June 13, 2020. C. Brandon Ogbunu's interview with Jad Abumrad is wrapped around a live story he told for the The StoryCollider⩘  podcast, which aired December 6, 2019.

Both the original story and the Radiolab episode are powerful listens.

America, Racism & Patterns of Change

An excellent conversation that brings together one of my favorite podcasters, Preet Bharara of Stay Tuned with Preet⩘  and one of my favorite historians, Heather Cox Richardson of Letters from an American⩘ . A very insightful discussion.

America, Racism & Patterns of Change⩘ 

The ultimate measure

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Nina, a stunningly beautiful podcast

Tracie Hunt⩘ , a reporter for Radiolab, shares a stunningly beautiful story about the intersection of art and protest, centered on a performance by Nina Simone on April 7, 1968, three days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and set in the context of the sounds of today's protests.

It's a short podcast, but packs a large emotional punch. Listening to it left me awestruck and crying.

Full podcast: Nina⩘ 

The American Nightmare

Excerpts from an article by Ibram X. Kendi.

… there is something wrong with society, something dangerous and deathly about racist policy, and black people are experiencing the American nightmare.

Americans should be asking: Why are so many unarmed black people being killed by police while armed white people are simply arrested? Why are officials addressing violent crime in poorer neighborhoods by adding more police instead of more jobs? Why are black (and Latino) people during this pandemic less likely to be working from home; less likely to be insured; more likely to live in trauma-care deserts, lacking access to advanced emergency care; and more likely to live in polluted neighborhoods? The answer is what the Frederick Hoffmans of today refuse to believe: racism.

There are only two choices: racist or anti-racist.

The American Nightmare⩘  by Ibram X. Kendi, The Atlantic, June 1, 2020.

Something else Ibram X. Kendi has said that I want to remember:

"The heartbeat of antiracism is self-reflection, recognition, admission and fundamentally self-critique… A racist when charged with with racism will say, 'I'm not a racist,' no matter what they said or did. An antiracist would be willing to confess and recognize what they just said or did was, in fact, racist."
Ibram X. Kendi Author of How to Be an Antiracist

We all committed our lives to the idea that is America

General Mark A. Milley, current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote the following memorandum to all branches of the U.S. military on June 2, 2020.

SUBJECT: Message to the Joint Force

1. Every member of the U.S. military swears an oath to support and defend the Constitution and values embedded within it. This document is founded on the essential principle that all men and women are born free and equal, and should be treated with respect and dignity. It also gives Americans the right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. We in uniform—all branches, all components, and all ranks—remain committed to our national values and principles embedded in the Constitution.

2. During the current crisis, the National Guard is operating under the authority of state governors to protect lives and property, preserve peace, and ensure public safety.

3. As members of the Joint Force—comprised of all races, colors, and creeds—you embody the ideals of our Constitution. Please remind all of our troops and leaders that we will uphold the values of our nation, and operate consistent with national laws and our own high standards of conduct at all times.

Handwritten addition to the memo: We all committed our lives to the idea that is America—we will stay true to that oath and the American people.

Mark A. Milley
General, U.S. Army

Listening to more black voices: One time i got pulled over

On June 2, 2020, Karlous Miller @KarlousM posted a tweet sharing an experience with the police⩘ . Hundreds of people have posted their own experiences in reply. Here's the original post by @KarlousM and a sampling of the many replies. It's worth it to take the time to read through them.

Karlous Miller @KarlousM
One time i got pulled over, the cop said i wasn't speeding but "it looked like i was about to pick up speed." I still don't know what the fuck that looks like 'TIL this day.

Ole Hawkster @mister_hawk
Got pulled over for going the speed limit. Told me most ppl go 5 over and me going the speed limit was suspicious…obeying the law was suspicious

Dréa @TackyJackie_
I got pulled over at gun point in my friend's neighborhood because "there had been a lot of robberies in the neighborhood" she said "I live here I haven't heard a thing." Neither cop apologized.. just young & black in America…

M.T.. @Tanica
I had a gun pulled on me in front of my home after it was robbed. Cop thought i committed the crime…i was also in my military uniform.

csb, mba @taluvshoes69
Simply living while black.

Karlous Miller @KarlousM, One time i got pulled over⩘ 

Listening to Black Voices

This conversation between parents and their children broke my heart.

Still shot from the video How to Deal with the Police

Dad: We actually have a line that we do at our house. We practice this thing. What is it?
Daughter: I'm Ariel Sky Williams. I'm eight years old. I'm unarmed and I have nothing that will hurt you.
Dad: It's just kind of a thing that we practice at our house.

Black Parents Explain How to Deal with the Police⩘ , Feb 6, 2017, from the series Parents Explain by Cut

This article helped me to better understand the privilege I have that many of our citizens don't.

For those of you reading this who may not be black, or perhaps Latino, this is my chance to tell you that a substantial portion of your fellow citizens in the United States of America have little expectation of being treated fairly by the law or receiving justice. It's possible this will come as a surprise to you. But to a very real extent, you have grown up in a different country than I have.

As Khalil Gibran Muhammad, author of The Condemnation of Blackness⩘ , puts it, "White people, by and large, do not know what it is like to be occupied by a police force. They don't understand it because it is not the type of policing they experience. Because they are treated like individuals, they believe that if 'I am not breaking the law, I will never be abused.'"

We are not criminals because we are black. Nor are we somehow the only people in America who don't want to live in safe neighborhoods. Yet many of us cannot fundamentally trust the people who are charged with keeping us and our communities safe.

Yes, Black America Fears the Police. Here's Why.⩘  By Nikole Hannah-Jones, ProPublica, March 4, 2015.

Thanks to Jason Kottke for helping me to hear these black voices and many more: Listening to Black Voices Amid Murder, Violence, Protest, and Pandemic⩘ , posted by Jason Kottke, KOTTKE.ORG, May 29, 2020.

A day in the ER battling COVID-19

Still image from A day in the ER battling COVID-19 video

A powerful, partially animated video by Emergency Room doctor, Dr. Craig Spencer. He shares his experience battling the coronavirus pandemic by showing us what a single day in the ER is like, including the emotional pain of the doctors and nurses as they hold the hand of their dying patients, sharing their final moments via video conference with the heartbroken families forced to remain at home, unable to be with their loved ones at the end: "This isn't what we do."

He also compares this current pandemic to his previous experience as a member of Doctors Without Borders dealing with the Ebola outbreak: "I survived Ebola; I fear COVID-19."

Dr. Craig Spencer

We were too late to stop this virus. Full stop.
But we can slow its spread.
Stay inside.
Social distancing is the only thing that will save us now.

At this moment of global crisis, we need global solidarity.

Dr. Craig Spencer, Director of Global Health in Emergency Medicine, Columbia University

YouTube: A day in the ER battling COVID-19⩘ , May 24, 2020.

COVID-19 – A voice of reason

Dr. John Campbell

Dr. John Campbell, a retired Nurse Teacher and A and E nurse based in England, has been uploading videos once or twice daily about the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, since January 2020. I've been watching them since a friend told me about them in mid-February and find them to be one of the best sources of information about the pandemic. Each day he clearly shares what is happening and the implications. He also patiently explains many related topics, helping decipher complex medical information in a manner that makes it accessible to a layman like me.

Dr. Campbell is a treasure. I'm incredibly grateful for what he is doing.

YouTube: Dr. John Campbell⩘ 

Professor Heather Cox Richardson

Letters from an American

Letters from an American (continued) …

I started reading Professor Cox Richardson's daily letters last year, and wrote about them at that time: Professor Heather Cox Richardson: Letters from an American⩘ . I've continued to read them daily and have find that they help me tremendously to understand the constitutional crisis we are facing, as well as its historical context (Richardson is a Professor of History at Boston College⩘ ).

I found today's letter particularly important as it answered very well a key question she has been hearing from readers of her letters.

A lot of folks have been asking me lately if America has ever been in such a crisis before and, if so, what people in the past did to save democracy.

To read her answer, see her letter dated February 22, 2020⩘ .

Letters from an American⩘ 

Hubble's first gift of 2020

Hubble Space Telescope image of galaxy: Heic2002
Image credit: NASA, ESA, and B. Holwerda (University of Louisville)

"Galaxy UGC 2885 may be the largest known in the local universe. It is 2.5 times wider than our Milky Way and contains 10 times as many stars."

"Researchers are still seeking to understand what led to the galaxy's monstrous size. 'It's as big as you can make a disk galaxy without hitting anything else in space.'"

Higher res version of this photo >
Hubble Surveys Gigantic Galaxy⩘ , Jan 6, 2020

The Big One podcast

The Big One podcast banner

This podcast recently caught my attention because I've been involved in emergency preparedness volunteer work ever since we got hit by a flood here in 2013. Earthquakes aren't a big risk in our area, but I thought it might be interesting to hear their approach to talking about preparedness, so figured I'd listen to one or two episodes. Then I found myself totally captivated by the breadth and depth of their reporting as well as by the vivid passion with which they share the story. As the listener, you are there on the scene experiencing the disaster unfold in real time, interwoven with the stories of people who have been involved in actual disasters, as well as scientists, experts, politicians, engineers, and first responders, all sharing their insights and experiences. I ended up listening raptly to the entire series.

While the information they share is focused on The Big One, the earthquake that will hit the San Andreas Fault at any time (it's overdue based on the historical frequency), they talk with survivors of other disasters as well, including hurricanes and fires, so the story applies to just about everyone, and most of the preparedness tips they share at the end of each episode will be valuable to anyone listening.

I also appreciated that they discussed disasters and preparedness with scientists and other experts who understand the risks and what is needed to meet and survive them. Many of us tend to get a bit complacent, so it can be challenging to find the motivation to take even the most rudimentary steps to prepare for disasters. It can help to understand both how valuable being prepared can be and how simple the basic preparedness steps are.

For people working on preparedness, it's also helpful to understand just how motivation works for communicating about a challenge like this. They share a fascinating and heartfelt segment featuring USGS social scientist Dr. Sara McBride talking about the failures of communication before the devastating Christ Church earthquake in New Zealand, and the steps that can be taken to communicate more effectively. It's not about scaring people, it's about honest conversations and telling stories.

Know that if you make it through … which you probably will … this is going to be a hard journey for you, this is going to be tough. But if you work with the people around you—your community, your friends, your family, your neighbors—you're eventually going to come on the other side of this. This is going to be something that will happen for a long time.… If you're more prepared, you're going to suffer less. That's really what it is. If you have food, if you have water, if you have your emergency supplies, you're going to limit the amount of unnecessary suffering that you have to face during those early days of response.

A few months after the series concluded, an earthquake hit southern California centered in Ridgecrest, a remote area near Death Valley. It wasn't The Big One, but it was a big one (or rather, a series of big ones, including three main shocks of magnitudes 6.4, 5.4, and 7.1 that, as remote as they were, were felt by 30 million people). So they made an extra episode to talk to people who experienced it. Really underscored what they had shared during the regular episodes.

Some of their simple tips:

Enthralling music by Andy Claussen. Amazing sound design by Arwen Nicks and Valentino Rivera.

I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to experience this excellent podcast.

The Big One podcast⩘ . From KPCC by host and science reporter Jacob Margolis, lead producer Misha Euceph, executive producer Arwen Champion Nicks, assistant producer Mary Knopf, and Megan Garvey, editor.

Tell Them, I Am podcast

Tell Them, I Am podcast banner

This series of stories, which was presented one each weekday during Ramadan 2019, is such a gift. The stories are incredibly diverse, but one thread runs through all of them: they are full of heart.

Tell Them, I Am is a show about the small moments that define who we are and who we are not. The stories are universal; the voices are all Muslim.

Several of the stories touched me particularly deeply. I had to simply stop and reflect for awhile as Reza Aslan shared the story of when he was a seven-year-old living in Tehran during the chaotic final months before the Shah fled the country. One day, his best friend, with whom he had been joyfully playing chess every day, didn't show up. When he finally found his friend and asked him why he hadn't shown up for their game, his friend said, "I'm not going to play a game in which the purpose is to sacrifice the pawns to save a king." Such wisdom!

Often I find myself feeling somewhat discouraged these days. What a gift to come across these 23 stories, most of which left me feeling encouraged and grateful. The story that touched my heart the most is the final one. Akbar Ahmed, an American-Pakistani academic, author, poet, playwright, filmmaker and former diplomat shares the story of when he was four and his family found themselves fleeing India to the newly created Pakistan on a treacherous train journey. During this traumatic upheaval, more than a million people, on both sides, were killed.

It's only now in hindsight, when I look back and I say, "Oh my God, that is the experience I lived through." The same experience I had, my Hindi colleague had in reverse, which means her family was escaping from Pakistan to India, and the same sort of tension, same sort of problems of logistics—how to do you get out, what do you take with you, who do you trust—all those same issues she faced, and she was also a young girl then.

When I was doing my PhD in London at SOAS [School of Oriental and African Studies], I met her and at that time I hadn't met very many Indians, and when we became friends, we began to swap stories and joke about each other's cultures, and she said, "You know that we were told that if you ever see a snake and a Muslim, you actually kill the Muslim first because the Muslim is more dangerous, more venomous than the snake." And I smiled, and she said, "Why are you smiling?" Because, I said, I've heard exactly the same story, except in my story it was the Sikh or the Hindu or whatever. And we both smiled and realized our experiences were like a mirror. Now when human relations break down to that level, these stories assume a far greater importance, they're magnified, they're inflated, and they, in a sense, personify the behavior of the other, and that is very dangerous.

The ideas I had, the images I had from the discussion of my class fellows, from the people I met, about Hindus and Sikhs were very negative. So I had to overcome that, in fact, to understand who these people were, why they hated us, why we hated them. And that is when I met my Indian friend, many years later in London, where I really began to understand that these people were very much like us and, in a sense, experienced exactly what we had experienced.

So when I became adult and I understood some of these different permutations and combinations of human relations, I began to get very involved in what's called interfaith understanding, interfaith dialogue. And I began to ask questions and I began to see the people I meet are very friendly, very normal, they're just like us, they're just like me. So what keeps them away from me is my lack of understanding or my own prejudice or my own ignorance.…

Let me quote you the great example of my dear friend Professor Judea Pearl. His only son [Daniel Pearl] was killed in the most brutal way in Karachi. And when I heard about this incident straight after 9/11, I was horrified. And once Judea and I began the series of dialogues, very public dialogues to promote Jewish-Muslim understanding, this question was constantly asked of him; they would say, "How can you be promoting dialogue and friendship and companionship with the people, with the culture that killed your son?" And he would answer this way: "My revenge is to have a better understanding and to reach out and build bridges."

Tell Them, I Am podcast⩘ . From KPCC by host and producer Misha Euceph, executive producer and editor Arwen Champion Nicks, lead producer Mary Knauf, and producer James Kim.

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