In June of 2020 and beyond, I changed most of my online
usernames to Defund the Police. I like that little extra way to nag people for
justice. It’s still my Design Home handle and the name of my home Wifi—I never
think about it. At the time that I was making this silly little stand, not only
was the nation rising up against the killings of George Floyd and Brionna Taylor,
but Philadelphia was slashing the budget of city arts programs to give MORE
money to the police. (One of whom, two years ago yesterday, aimed their car at
two of my friends while they were crossing the street during a protest. AIMED A
POLICE CAR AT THEM.)
Lots of people, even on the left, are now saying that “defund
the police” is an unhelpful phrase we should distance ourselves from, but I disagree.
What if, when there’s a problem, we called someone who could actually fix it,
instead of someone(s) trained to respond with dominance and force.
My artsy brain pictures a rainbow of cars, not just
police cars, gently caring for our city and helping those in need. A soothing
light blue car for a therapist, soft pink for social workers, green for
wildlife and parks. To care for LGBTQ citizens’ needs, a progress-flag emblazoned
fleet. Need to safeguard a particularly nasty pothole or a construction site?
No need to bring a gun, just an expert in a cheerful orange car. Purple for
clergy-of-choice. Delicious strawberry red for nutrition care. Inviting peach
for housing. Silver for elder services.
This is an idealistic picture, but defaulting to
calling the police in every urgent situation isn’t working and it is causing
lots of harm, including to police. Granted, not everybody (Really nobody
besides my BFF and my liberal family members) knows about my rainbow-of-cars
idea, but it really bothers me that the phrase “defund the police” feels so
threatening to people.
I was so creeped out when I got this message from
Insight Timer, where I’d named myself Defund Police (With the tagline of Abolish
ICE, plus a bunch of festive emojis) that my tummy did a flip and I started to
think about how to restructure my whole meditation routine.
The idea that redistributing TAXPAYER MONEY to less murdery
organizations would be seen as “offensive or profane” filled me with facing-the-void type dread. Not really conductive to a nice Yoga Nidra at bedtime.
I think this message from Viv means that some fellow
human, in the course of logging on to meditate, was so jarred by the phrase
that they decided to report it to Insight Timer. And the app, or at least this
one particular person, took this petty, small-minded, fragile, repressive
Admittedly, I have plenty of unethical apps. Somehow
all my music ended up living on Joe Rogan-infested Spotify. As long as there
are nieces and nephews, I will have Bannon-collaborating facebook in my life.
But a meditation app somehow seems like it should know better, like it should
have access to the better angels of our nature instead of feeling virtuous
while propping up a violent system.
Meditation is such an intimate act. I love falling asleep
to kind words or a chakra clearing at the end of a long day—it’s one of the
deepest and most intimate parts of my relationship to myself. Just as I wouldn’t
date someone who is apolitical or a Trump supporter, I’m not going to meditate
with “someone” who feels offended and threatened at the tiniest suggestion, the
tiniest little two-word nudge at structural change.