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 person’s side.
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.