Seattle Leans A Little Left

Moderate Democrats are splitting with more radical leftists on Seattle’s plans to give misdemeanor suspects a pass for crimes committed to meet a basic need.

Jason Rantz, right wing radio host tells a precautionary story. Seattle CM called police she defunded to report crime she is effectively legalizing.

I guess I’m a moderate Democrat since I find the proposed legislation problematic for the reasons Rantz explains. However, since we already imprison a larger proportion of citizens than any other country, we know Rantz’s solution of locking up more people will do nothing to reduce crime or improve Seattleites’ quality of life. Because criminals aren’t rational. They don’t plan on being caught, and therefore, don’t ponder the odds of going to prison.

We also now know we can’t afford our prison population if we want balanced state budgets. I wish I could direct a larger proportion of my city, county, and state sales taxes to mental health and substance abuse treatment.

That still leaves the question of what to do with all the criminals of sound mind who commit property crimes and other misdemeanors. On that, I’ll defer to experts to propose smarter, more viable alternatives to prison.

Intentional Silence

An interesting tension is building between two profound changes.

The first change is the privileging of marginalized people’s voices in debates about contemporary issues like policing, systemic racism, capitalism, and criminal justice. Increasingly, this means silencing whites, especially wealthy, heterosexual males so that people of color, gender atypical people, heterosexuals, and the poor can be empowered in ways they’ve long been denied. This phenomenon is completely understandable if you know the history of policing, systemic racism, capitalism, and criminal justice in the (dis)United States.

Despite knowing the history and understanding that impulse, some caution is in order, because in its most extreme form, a strict privileging of marginal voices can become a reverse silencing which is antithetical to a vibrant democracy. It’s understandable why people who have been silenced all their lives want to do whatever is necessary to finally “have the floor”, but completely silencing any particular group’s voices is not a viable long-term strategy for strengthening the common good.

The second, more recent change, is the notion that “silence is violence”, an idea that informs this essay by Mark Fraser, a Caribbean-Canadian hockey player. This is the idea that not speaking up about injustice makes one complicit in it. Here Fraser applauds “white peers” for speaking up:

“I cannot recall a time in my life when I have cried for a week straight. I cannot recall a time when I have been on such a roller coaster of emotions. But out of everything I’ve read or heard this week, what has hit me the hardest and has made me shed the most tears is seeing my white peers stand up and say, ‘This isn’t right.’

I cannot express the deep, deep emotion that is stirred up inside me seeing people who have only ever known white privilege stand up and join our cause. This is a moment in history that we should all want to look back on and think we contributed to forward progress in fighting against systemic racism.

. . . . The majority have to speak up and stand up for us.”

Fraser’s perspective contradicts the first trend, and in doing so, illustrates pluralism’s complexity. The take-away is that diverse thinking is even greater within ethnic groups than between them. Expecting people of color, or African-Americans more specifically, to think and act the same way because of similar skin pigmentation is among the most oppressive things of all.

It’s great that Fraser is finding strength in his white friends’ words of support, but many people of color spent the week getting even more angry as high profile whites in entertainment, sports, business, politics, and other industries made ignorant, insensitive comments that they then quickly apologized for in desperate attempts to salvage their personal brands.

If they had only uttered Fraser’s three words, “This isn’t right,” maybe things would’ve been different. But they were not nearly that succinct. And the more they wrote and talked, the worse things got. It was a week-long argument for intentional silence.

Maybe it’s time for people of my complexion, who share aspects of my privileged background, to consciously stop writing and talking. To press pause. Different than a forced silence, I’m advocating for a voluntary one marked by active listening.

And a week, or a month, or a year, after a change in administrations, let our first words form questions. About what it was like to be George Floyd or Breonna Taylor or Ahmaud Arbery. Or what it is like to be Marques Brownlee or Mark Fraser.

Then maybe, we will rise above our differences, find commonalities, and begin building a more just and better future.

ap_20155577134993_2500Stringer/Sputnik via AP.

 

 

 

Netflix’s “Unbelievable”

Rumors of Netflix’s possible demise are premature. This eight episode mini-series about a serial rapist is truly outstanding. I wasn’t sure I was up for it and almost bailed after the very dark first thirty minutes, but indoor cycling season has started, and I’m glad I stuck with it.

Merritt Weaver and Toni Collette are a dynamic duo. Weaver’s steely minded, workaholic detective is especially impressive.

More important than any particular person’s contribution is the powerful illustration of how victims of sexual abuse can easily be traumatized a second time by uncaring, calloused, hyper-skeptical police.

The miniseries excels at what I try to get my first year writers to do, tell a subtle, nuanced, and complex story particularly in how it portrays men. Given the topic, it would’ve been easy to paint the majority of men in the story with a broad, decidedly negative brush.

But to their credit, the writers resisted that impulse. Instead, the rapist’s evil is detailed in the larger context of several caring and likable men including the female detectives’ male partners, along with good guy FBI agents, police, an intern, and others.

Also, the pacing is perfect and the whole tragic story, which sadly is based on a true story, seems imminently believable. Almost like you’re watching a documentary.

Unbelievable is more proof that this is the Golden Age of television. Tonight, the eighth and final episode. Hoping against hope for some semblance of justice for the victims.