When Repression Is A Good Thing
After over a year of sustained battle, my little backyard is approaching weed free status. Bindweed, bishops’ weed, buttercups and shotweed were well established, along with stinky Herb Robert, sneaky sweet woodruff, and several rampageous mints. For the first ten months, I thought I would never be able to plant into the ground, because every time I turned around, another batch of weed beasts would pop back up. Last winter, I spread a bale of bedding straw thickly over each cleared area, which helped open the soil so I could get more roots out. This spring, a friend who roasts and grinds coffee commercially brought me piles of sturdy burlap coffee sacks which, laid out two and three layers thick, made an almost impenetrable weed barrier. Slowly but surely, relentlessly digging out any sprout that dared to reappear, I started getting a grip on the insurgent weed attacks. Repressive behavior? Yes indeed. But unless a clean sweep is made, nothing better can happen here.
So is repression always so awful? When I think about the horrible violent hateful acts we’re seeing daily now, I’m thinking a little constructive repression and emotional retraining might be in order. But could that actually change the way haters feel? As I weed, I often think about the ways in which Black, Indigenous and people of Color have been treated like human (or sometimes sub-human) weeds. I started to say “historically treated”, but clearly, such inhumane treatment continues. A few days ago, I read a YES Magazine article by Kevin A. Young called History Shows That Sustained, Disruptive Protests Work.
Here’s the link, if you want to read it too:
As I relentlessly ripped out yet another web of bindweed roots intertwined with an elderly Oregon grape, I thought hmmm, here I am, disrupting entrenched, embedded and invasive colonialists. My sustained, disruptive protest work is definitely changing up a long standing, poorly managed and unworkable situation. Coming back inside to drink some water and check on the news (a bad habit I’m trying to modify), my satisfaction melted into aching over the ongoing, savage police brutality and public brutality aimed at peaceful protesters. Over police targeting of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Over more than 50 car attacks on public protesters. Over innocent children locked in cages. Over relentless ecological destruction. Over economic sabotage of everyone but the kleptocrats. Over the almost incredibly inept mishandling of the covid19 pandemic. And most of all, over the baffling fact that the entire country isn’t outraged over what’s happening to us. How can anyone NOT be deeply disturbed right now?
Pressuring Big Money
Though everyone isn’t bothered by the onslaught of the unforgivable, that may not stop the momentum of the protests. In his YES article, Kevin Young reminds us that swaying a majority isn’t the only key to enormous social change, and quotes MLK’s remark, “I don’t think in a social revolution you can always retain support of the moderates.” Young also points out that what really broke open the gates barring integration was the combination of boycotts and walkouts that put significant financial pressure on local businesses and local governments. Voting with our wallets remains a powerful way to push for social change; repressive? Yes, and consumer boycotts are successfully putting pressure on Amazon, Cadbury, Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, L’Oreal, Nestle, the NRA, Shell Oil, Walmart, Wendy’s, Whole Foods… The Lakota People’s Law Project (LPLP) is calling for a boycott of Starbucks because of its partnership with Nestlé, and even people who can’t imagine life without coffee are seeking other sources. Wow, right?
Though most of these companies are resisting with all their massive might, cracks are appearing and the enthusiastic consumer pushback is having a positive effect on numerous corporations. Repression? Maybe, but in a good cause, and it looks like it’s working. Just this week, thanks to building pressure from Indigenous people backed by millions of protesters, FedEx told its franchise, the Washington Redskins, to pick a new name or be banned from their home in FedEx Field. Wow again! Indeed, here’s an impressive list of corporations that are changing direction in response to the Black Lives Matter protests:
Adidas, Airbnb, Bank of America, Ben and Jerry’s, Comcast, CVS, Google, HBO, IBM, Microsoft, the New York Times, NASCAR, Netflix, Nike, PepsiCo, PwC, Quaker Oats, Twitter, Sephora, Square, Vox Media, Walgreens, Walmart and more, all pledging to change. That’s pretty impressive, and that list was made in late June. In the last two weeks, even more strides have been made in legal decisions like a Federal judge ruling that the DAPL pipeline must be permanently shut down by August 5, 2020, a decision leading to the cancellation of several other huge pipeline projects. Who else was pleasantly shocked by the recent Supreme Court decision on Eastern Oklahoma still being treaty land?
Moral Compass Reset
I’m praying that American is undergoing a radical reset of our collective moral compass, which has been knocked sadly askew by the magnetic attractions of raw power and big money. I’ve been fascinated to observe that local and national calls to defund police departments or redirect police funding and activities into community support for mental and emotional health and physical wellbeing are not meeting with massive pushback from the middle class. Seeing so much violence play out in seemingly endless video captures, even privileged, bubble-wrapped White people are no longer able to ignore, overlook, or deny rampant racism.
A few weeks ago, a handful of high school students asked to join the online meetings of the Inclusion Study Group at our local Senior Center. Our discussions are increasingly lively and rewarding, and I’m thrilled that even more students are asking to join. Last Friday, we talked about our responses to a statement from our local Suquamish Tribe about racism and police actions which we all read ahead of time. Participants of all ages acknowledged that we were unaware of at least some of the historic mistreatment and abuses, and we decided to read the original tribal treaty together before our next meeting. After the conversation, there was enthusiastic agreement about meeting more often and finding a way to continue into the autumn even if our local schools figure out how to open safely. Onward, right?