What a crap week. It’s bad enough dealing with a pandemic and all the stress and worry that entails. Then police violence and the murder of George Floyd. Then tear gas and more violence and more death and Minneapolis burning. I don’t have the words.
(Speaking of words, people like to quote Martin Luther King Jr. about non-violence, but he also spoke about riots. Some context on those comments is especially helpful.)
Since I don’t have words, two songs come to mind this week.
Let the People Be Free
The first is a protest song by Jayanthi Kyle called “Hand in Hand.” It was written in 2014 and, because of course, the lyrics are still quite relevant:
The day’s gonna come when I won’t march no more But while my sister ain’t equal & my brother can’t breathe Hand and hand with my family, we will fill these streets …
Mr. Policeman I can’t breathe Lay down your weapons and your badges and listen to me
Jayanthi is also in a chorus group called Give Get Sistet that’s pretty amazing. Nobody is doing performances right now, cuz pandemic, but they’d be an ideal group to bring in right now.
The other song I thought of was Ben Kyle’s “Minneapolis.” The lyrics aren’t nearly as applicable, but the mournful “Oh, Minneapolis” captures about how it felt this morning to see images of the city smoldering.
O Minneapolis, I saw you and Saint Paul kiss Neath the moonlight in a Mississippi mist Never saw a thing as beautiful as this Oh Minneapolis
Rain down, purple rain (I wanna hear the sound) I wanna feel the royal rain on me I wanna feel the holy water running like a holy stream I wanna be baptized in the city in the Mississippi
In the midst of a pandemic, I launched a Kickstarter for a new project. I’m pleasantly surprised to see people responding. We hit the initial goal last week, so the project is happening. Now we’re working on stretch goals to make it even better.
Launching a project like this is always a scary undertaking. You never know if this is a good idea that people will support or if you’re about to crash and burn.
It’s also scary because I’m talking about politics. That can be such a hot-button topic these days. Even when you think it can and should be simpler (in the midst of a global pandemic) it just gets more ridiculous.
But I’m hopeful. The whole point of the project is to find some common ground, to show that we can disagree and still get along.
Politics can be pretty divisive and depressing. What happened to hope? Too often, politics feels like a battleground where we lob accusations back and forth. And that’s not likely to change after November’s presidential election, no matter who wins or loses.
Politics have long been divisive and people will always disagree. But I have hope that we can do better.
So I’m launching a new project. It will be a book of political profiles, titled Better Politics,Please, that will tell encouraging stories of finding common ground.
Yeah, that’s a tall order these days.
But if we want to make civic engagement civil, it starts with we the people. I hope you’ll join me in creating better politics, please.
About three weeks ago I wrote a coronavirus checkin post, trying to capture where things were at “mid-stream, as I called it. Of course that was March 16, and hardly seems “mid-stream” now. That was just the beginning.
This is a weird time. Coronavirus has spread across the world and infections are exploding in the U.S., prompting changes in day-to-day life like I’ve never seen before. I wanted to document a bit of what this is like mid-stream.
Which means it’s probably a little pessimistic. I’m an idealist by nature, but this whole thing has me feeling kind of bleak. Darkness aside, seems important to document the moment, so here goes.
It’s Presidential Primary Day here in Minnesota. I like to capture my thoughts in the moment, because sometimes things change so much and so fast it’s hard to remember what we actually thought.
And sometimes it’s funny to see how wrong we are.
Back in November I shared my thoughts on the Democratic Presidential Primary. Folks have actually voted since then, and everything has changed. Pete Buttigieg dropped out Sunday and Amy Klobuchar dropped out yesterday, making this a simpler race.
When Minnesota became a state in 1858, we failed to give black men the right to vote.
The legislator tried to fix that in 1865. It failed.
So they tried again in 1866. It failed.
So they tried again in 1867. It failed.
They tried once again in 1868, and this time it finally passed.
Two years later it became law across the nation with the ratification of the 15th amendment in 1870.
Progress is slow and full of failure.
So keep trying.
And when you do achieve progress, keep going. Don’t rest on your laurels: Minnesotans like to applaud all our progressive ways, but our disparity between whites and people of color are among the worst in the nation.
(A lesson pulled from a Black Suffrage in Minnesota presentation by Dr. William Green at Dakota County Libraries. Learn more about the passage of black suffrage in Minnesota in this article by Green from the Minnesota Historical Society.)