Thursday, May 22, 2008

And who is responsible?

Just tucking this in, in these busy days, until I have more time to write with more grace and detail. It's a letter sent to the local newspaper today. Of course here in my region I signed my usual name--which is not, dear friends, the one you know me by. A group of women from all the ends of my county have now met one another, and we are talking. And we are talking to lawyers and officials as well. But in the middle of our talks and our statement-recording and in the moments between D.'s constant pragmatic works of mercy (water, trips to the court, papers gotten and restored) I was thinking on the question of responsibility. No one here says they are. I had a revelation, and in this letter I tried to share it.

Dear Editor

When my friend took me to see his former home, he’d been out of jail a couple days.

I had heard from his girlfriend her story of the harsh awakening, the men with guns, and the threats of arrest for her as well, as he was cuffed and marched down the hill.

Not much remained now at the homesite.

My friend is the son of a veteran. Locally employeed, hardworking. Anyone would be proud of him.

Wasn’t much I could say there, looking out over the hillside, hearing the ravens call.

The day of the homesite raid I watched two young women who were walking on the side of the road at different times, one with her pups, one with a backpack. I watched the five or six police cars careen to a screeching halt, endangering the cars behind them. I watched the crowd of officers surround the small woman, take her photo, question her.

Later she’d tell me they said if they saw her again she’d be arrested.

I stood as the second woman, walking to her place of employment, was questioned by two officers, told if she was found sleeping outside, if she was found anywhere, she’d be arrested.

She asked questions. The officers had “no time for this”.

I asked questions—why, who, why now.

“You’ll have to step away, step back”.

I asked another question. The perhaps well meaning peace officer said, “This is none of your business”.

And I said, “Yes, it is.”

It is my business. Phoning many agencies, talking with the police in person and by phone, I have been told who they thought responsible.

Responsible for threats to the young kids with their dogs, traveling from SF to Portland for a folk fest.

Responsible for rousting people sleeping where they can, when they have no money and they can walk no longer.

Responsible for the little fawn and white puppy blasted with a spray of mace or pepperspray. “He came out of the bushes too fast”.

Responsible for promoting an atmosphere of “you aren’t welcome here”.

Who is responsible? Oh I’ve been told by “official sources” that it’s Public Health, Mental Health, CDF, the Chamber of Commerce, the State of California, the Board of Supervisiors, or, simply, “people” who are “fed up”. Agencies I have contacted, tracking down the sheriff reports, uniformly express shock and say things like “not us”.

So, obviously, none of the above are responsible.

Who is? I know. It’s me. I confess. And—you know, it’s you too. Because the final line was “it’s the community”.

And that’s me, and you, and your neighbor, and the nice young woman with the little puppy, and the kid down the road.

This stuff—what we are responsible for, what I am responsible for—it’s going to keep happening. The arrests, the hounding, the loss of property and the loss of civil liberties and the loss of our compassion, just as long as people with guns can claim “The Community wants this”.

Hatred, fear, misunderstanding.

I don’t want this, but as I said, I’m responsible. How about you?

In this life we are all transients. Life itself goes by in a flash of a moment. We are like dust whirled in the wind.

And we are all longing for home, our true home, our true community. That’s in love and justice, for everyone, even the least amongst us.

Sincerely, jarvenpa

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Blogger graceonline said...

Thank you for caring so very much. I know how futile it can feel, going from agency to agency, asking the questions again and again, writing letters to the editor. All that time, energy, love, passion spent, and did anyone listen? Passing the buck and naming vague "community" reasons for actions--designed to make it difficult to challenge, designed to make you give up. Thank you for not giving up. Thank you for taking care of the people where you live, for making a stand, and for saying, "Not my community, not me." I pray for continued strength for you.

4:48 PM, May 26, 2008  

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