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Showing posts from January, 2008

Criminalizing Kids

We often talk about a possible future of gestapo-like tactics coming to our shores if things don't change - and quickly. I share those fears and feel the mounting fascism that fuels them.

But today I'm thinking about places in the US where this fear has already come true. I hope everyone is aware of places like T. Don Hutto: America's Family Prison in Texas and the increasing number of privatized prisons being used to house thousands of detained immigrants.

And then, there's the fact that, according to Children's Defense Fund, black boys have a one in three lifetime risk of going to jail, and Latino boys a one in six lifetime risk of the same fate. Of course, for many of these young ones, getting to jail would be better than becoming a victim of the violence they live with every day on the streets. As Bob Herbert pointed out last year, 34 children were killed on the streets of Chicago in less than a year.

So often these days, we live by anecdote. But a situation last…

Enough

Many of you might have already seen the video by Annie Leonard titled The Story of Stuff. If not, I highly recommend it (you can watch the whole thing at the link). She walks us through the extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal of stuff and what its doing to our world in a way that is both informative and engaging. But I'd like to focus on the stage of consumption.



The quote from Victor Lebow really grabbed me:

Our enormously productive economy...demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and using of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption...we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.

It seems that Lebow may have been being more descriptive that prescriptive with that statement, but in either case, I think his words hold true for our culture today. He also hints at the idea that the consumer addiction that is destroying our…

There is a better way

Our local public libraries in this city are on the verge of hiring armed police officers and its not because they want them to have more reading time. These folks are scared of the young people who recently began spending more time in the libraries, primarily to get access to the internet. Our staff have been talking with folks at the libraries about alternatives to this plan, and I'm happy to tell you that the leadership is interested in hearing more.

We provided a training to some of the staff in the library across the street from us and it was well received. They report to us that after resorting to calling the cops at least once a week due to unruly behavior of kids in their library, since the training this summer, they have not called them once. They also told a wonderful story of just one of the changes they made. After the training they realized that many of the problems with young people began while they were waiting in line to get on a computer. With this information, they…

Reflections

For me January is a time of reflection. Not because of New Years, since I'm not one for resolutions, especially those requiring will power - something I don't put much stock in. There are other reasons for this state I'm in today.



One of the prompts for reflection is that I celebrate my anniversary with the non-profit I work for every year this month. And as of today, I've been working with the same organization for 19 years, 17 of those as the Executive Director. I know that's unheard of in this day and age. As I explained to our staff this week, at about 10 years I began to feel those questions about "where am I going with all this." Our culture expects us to want more/bigger/better all the time. But I've been content with what I do professionally. More than that, I feel lucky to get paid to do work that is a passion of mine. Some have to work to sustain themselves and their families. I get to work in a job where I'm contributing to changing the …

Blog Voices This Week 1/13/08

Anyone who has been closely watching the primaries over the last two weeks probably feels like you've been riding a roller-coaster. This time last week everyone was ready to anoint Obama as the next president and the media was full of misogynist platitudes about Clinton. Then came her emotional moment and win in the New Hampshire primary. And now the intersection of race and gender is causing no end of turmoil.

In the middle of all this, I thought it would be interesting to listen to those in our midst who live at that intersection of race and gender every day - women of color. When I visited some of their blogs, I found that a common theme was their reaction to an op-ed in the New York Times last Tuesday by Gloria Steinem titled Women Are Never Front-Runners. In order to set the stage, its probably best to click through and read the whole editorial. But I'll provide a few of her statements that were most commented on by the blogs that I visited.

Gender is probably the most rest…

Blog Voices This Week 1/6/08

I remember back in 1984 when rumors started flying that Walter Mondale might pick a woman to run with him on the democratic ticket. My reaction was to be completely dismissive; a sort of "what's so new about a woman in the back-up role?" kind of thing.

And then I sat and watched as he nominated Geraldine Ferraro...and I cried.



What got released in me that day was something that for 30 years told me that I didn't belong, didn't have a place at the table. I saw myself in Geraldine Ferraro. And all of the sudden I felt included in the scheme of things in a way I never had before.

I saw that same feeling on the faces of African American delegates to the '88 Democratic Convention when Jesse Jackson spoke. And since it had happened to me only 4 years previously, I recognized the look.

I don't want to be alienating to anyone, but the reality is that white heterosexual men in this country don't have a point of reference for this kind of experience. You have grown…