Sleepytown Wakes Up. Sounds like a cute movie with hobbits, doesn’t it?

Well, the town we live in, Brooklyn, MI, has been sleepytown to me for a while. Yet I just found out, we had a Black Lives Matter demonstration this past Saturday.

Brooklyn’s small. It’s probably 90% + white. I don’t know for sure, because I barely spend any time there. I didn’t know about the protest, though I would have joined it if I had. Hats off to Taylor Gritzmaker, the organizer. (She is not one of the women featured in the photo below, which I swiped from the paper. There was no photo credit attached, but the paper is the Brooklyn Exponent, in Brooklyn, MI, not NY. Obvi.)

sleepytown wakes up
Photo from The Brooklyn (MI) Exponent, June 23, 2020

How I Found Out

I have proven myself to be an indifferent citizen pretty much everywhere I’ve lived. I rarely know my neighbors, I had to look up my state rep when I was marooned in Peru, and I spend next to no time in town other than an occasional pop-in to the local Country Market—a smaller chain, but a chain despite its rustic name—to pick up half and half and the odd bottle of wine. (Though not to be drunk at the same time—I may be lazy, but I’m not stark raving bonkers.)

This admission embarrasses me, as is right and proper. I should know my neighbors, right? I mean, I kinda know a few of them. Steve’s been here forever, so he knows everyone. He’s better about making the rounds, and when I take my walks, purely to get steps in and listen to podcasts, I stop and talk to people because I’m not a complete antisocial dick. But I am not part of the village that it takes to get shit done. And for all I squawnk off about politics, I have done little other than to vote and make some calls to my rep on occasion. Steve and I once had lunch with our state rep—not to DC, but to Michigan—about fracking, which he supported at the time. I had zero feeling that any further conversation would have any effect whatsoever. Fortunately, the fracking in our town appears to have died a quiet death. (I’m not having much luck googling it, but we haven’t seen the big waste trucks go by in many a year. Phew.)

What Someone Wrote

But thanks to Steve, I have finally started paying attention to the local paper. The other night, he showed me an editorial that appeared to be written in high dudgeon entitled “Defund police? Sometimes it seems that common sense is dead.”

Here it is, absent a first paragraph that says the writer is glad that the protests near us, in Jackson, have been peaceful:

“Those who are protesting around the country are attempting to change the world, or at least the world’s system, and cleanse it of injustice. They use words like ‘systemic racism,’ in hopes of identifying, targeting, and eliminating racism that is entrenched in our institutions.

“This, in our eyes, is noble and well-intentioned, but will invariably fall short. We live in the real world. While we should seek fairness in our legal system, legislating morality is as tricky as legislating thought.

“Though seeking a truly just society is noble, one idea that is being bandied about with hopes of accomplishing it is to de-fund police departments, which is a knee-jerk reaction to solving a complex problem. We understand the logic of striving for police departments and officers that are fair and impartial. We should accept nothing less.

“One analogy we embrace is how the airlines are always intolerant of bad pilots. Bad pilots get fired. The same standard should be held for police. Not everyone is cut out to be a police officer, and unfortunately, there are some power-hungry people who gravitate to the job. They need to be diligently weeded out in a zero “bad cop” policy that is overseen by those in the profession, certainly not with quotas set forth by politicians and ideals set forth by the thought police.

“We believe that most policemen and women serve valiantly, but, like airplane pilots, there is no room for tolerating the bad ones. As for the idea of eliminating police departments, the very thought is ridiculous. The simple reality is that as long as there are bad people, there will be a need for police officers. The paradox is that as long as there are bad people, there will occasionally be a bad cop that needs to find a new line of work.

“We are grateful for the vast majority of our policemen and women, who are willing to put their lives on the line, and run to trouble instead of away from it in service to their fellow man. To all the police out there, know this: You are appreciated.

“In the end, the idea of de-funding police departments in search of fairness is nothing more than folly, and is tantamount to cutting off an entire leg because of an ingrown toenail.

“If city fathers in Minneapolis decide to go for-ward with defunding their police department, we wish them well. We, along with the rest of the country, will watch with interest as they attempt to control murderers, rapists and thieves without the benefit of trained professionals.

“Sometimes, it seems, common sense is dead.”

Oh, FFS

The smugness of that still pisses me off as I copy it (and sadly have to reformat it) from the paper, which is only available as a PDF online to subscribers. This is a person who puts “systemic racism” in quotation marks, but leaves “thought police” out of them.

So in response, I had to smooth my dander back down and be a tad bit academic. But I’ll be damned if they didn’t print the whole damn thing.

My Response

“The Exponent’s recent editorial on defunding the police (June 9, 2020) appears to be operating off of a common misconception of what the phrase actually means. 

“Defunding is not the same as abolishing a police department. For instance, New York City has what is considered one of the more aggressive plans for defunding. Three separate plans propose cutting just 1/6 of its budget—from 6 billion by 1 billion dollars, leaving 5 billion. Even for a city as huge and complex as New York, that should be more than sufficient.

“In our sleepy town of Brooklyn, it can be difficult to imagine what citizens, particularly African-American ones, face in huge urban centers. But across the country, in cities and towns of all sizes, police are currently the only option for many, many issues which would be better served by other trained professionals. That’s an important idea behind defunding: the ability to divert money, not all, but some, to first responders who can assist with non-criminal issues.

“It’s documented that over half the calls received at 911—some studies show as many as 80%—are made because someone is concerned about a person with mental health issues, drug abuse, or who is homeless, but who, more often not, is not committing any type of crime. These are the types of calls that can often end badly.

“For citizens across the country to have access to trained interventionists when crimes are not committed frees the police to respond to the wave of murders, rapes, and thievery that the writer claims will be on the rise.  If you google the organization CAHOOTS in Eugene, OR, you can learn about a mobile, community-based crisis intervention program that employs first responders who aren’t cops, who address situations where individuals need help but are not committing crimes. It’s been so successful, it’s been used as a model for many other cities in the U.S.

“I also find it odd that the writer says how tricky it is to ‘legislate morality’ in the same column that says there are ‘some power-hungry people’ who ‘should be diligently weeded out in a zero “bad cop” policy.’ How is this proposed zero-tolerance policy not legislating morality? The law exists to be fair, and morality is a part of fairness.

“People are losing their lives because of bad policing all around us; the common thread tends to be that those killed are black, and I have to take issue with the writer’s putting ‘systemic racism’ in quotation marks as if it’s some sort of debatable construct. Ask an African-American who can’t get a loan for a home or a business, or who doesn’t get a call for a job interview because they have an ‘unusual’ name. Look at statistics on prison populations, and at deaths from COVID-19.

“It is our moral imperative to unite to end the very real problems of systemic racism and police brutality, and to try to understand new ideas before dismissing them. One way to start is to not confuse the word ‘defund’ with ‘abolish.’ In Minneapolis, where there has been talk about abolishing the police, the situation is extreme. But if one reads about the history of police brutality toward African-Americans there, one begins to understand it.

“I, too, wish them a peaceful solution that makes their city, this country, and the world the place Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed about, a dream that is still a long way from being a reality. We have far to go. We can only get there if we work together, and don’t dismiss ideas for radical change simply because we don’t like the sound of a word.”

My Only Regret….

….is that I called Brooklyn “sleepy.” From what I’ve always seen, that appeared to be a good adjective. But I fully admit, I didn’t look very hard.

In the same paper, a letter appeared from a woman condemning our rep for being indifferent to the current moment. Vote him out, she says, in so many words.

Holy shit. Brooklyn’s got lefties. I mean, besides me and Steve.

The Marcus Aurelius Moment* for 25-June, 2020

From Taylor Gritzmaker, that your town is never so small or conservative that you get a pass for going to sleep on the job. Thank you, Taylor.

*In the first part of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman ruler details what various people in his life have taught him. To read the full intro to why I care about Marcus Aurelius, click here.