‘Our security must become a relationship to the whole, omitting nothing.’
“My life is based on pain, passion, and purpose”
“…it is about the soul of our democracy.”
Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a sharecropper’s son who rose to become the powerful chairman of a House committee, has died at age 68. Cummings was a formidable orator who passionately advocated for the poor.
Elijah Cummings was the heart and soul of our caucus, a dignified leader with a voice that could move mountains. He was our moral and ethical North Star. Now we will be guided by his powerful memory and incomparable legacy. Rest In Peace, my friend. -Rep. Adam Schiff, CA
“Chairman Cummings stood tallest and most resolute when our country needed him the most.” -President Barack Obama
“There was no stronger advocate and no better friend than Elijah Cummings. I am heartbroken for his wonderful family and staff—please pray for them. I will miss him dearly.” Rep. Mark Meadows, NC
Democracy is supposed to be a system of ruling ‘by the people, for the people’, but representative democracy (democracy as it is practised in most of the west) actively and repeatedly keeps ‘the people’ out of the decision-making process.
Journalist Patrick Chalmers, an expert on political structures, looks to Athens – the birthplace of this modern, failing system – to find a better solution in citizens’ assemblies.
An Athenian remedy: the rise, fall and possible rebirth of democracy
Aside from clashes between police and protestors, Athenians that summer held people’s assemblies, mass gatherings of strangers talking together in public spaces. These assemblies were what first brought Sagris to Syntagma Square with her mother Tatiana Skanatovits, an actress and assembly organiser. Daily meetings in front of parliament saw people tell their stories of crisis, debate alternatives, and decide on assembly actions.
The economic crisis triggered a well-documented political crisis, the irony of which is not lost on those from the country that gave the world democracy
“If we are talking about democracy, I believe that right now I’m not living in a democratic regime, so I don’t see why I should participate in a process like this,” he said the day before the ballot. “It hurts me deep in the soul to say that, but after 30 years I will not vote.”
For Aristotle, whether states were oligarchic or democratic was deeply ingrained in their ways of working – the politics of structure itself. He believed that cities that chose their office holders, jurors and judges by lottery were democratic and that those using elections were oligarchic – that’s Greek for government of, by, and for the few.
Citizens’ assemblies are happening everywhere from Australia to Canada, Bolivia to France.
The need to build trust and broad interest are also key. After decades of political apathy and the erosion of trust in elected representatives, citizens need faith in their own capacity to shape policy. And that of their peers. Knowing what examples of self-governance have worked, and how, certainly helps.
by Anne Bokma
The following is an excerpt from ‘My Year of Living Spiritually’ by Anne Bokma, published by Douglas & McIntyre.
The boomer generation is creating a death boom. Five thousand of us die every day in the U.S. In Canada, 235,000 people over age 60 die every year. Most of us want to die at home, in our sleep or surrounded by loved ones, but about 75 percent of us will die in a hospital or long-term care setting, often hooked up to feeding tubes and ventilators, tended to by strangers. We are watching our aging parents die this way, and we don’t like it one bit. Just as our demographic had an outsized influence on the civil and equal rights movements, we’re now at the forefront of a death acceptance movement that’s transforming the topic of dying from taboo to a normal part of life. We’re seeing the rise of death cafes, green cemeteries, home burials and legislation for medically assisted dying. Death is our last great spiritual experience. We want it to be meaningful, and we want as much control over it as possible.
Death Over Dinner is another initiative. Participants are encouraged to gather friends and family to break bread and talk about what constitutes a good death—and a good life. Death Over Dinner was founded five years ago by entrepreneur Michael Hebb, and since then 200,000 dinners have been hosted in 30 countries. “The way we die in Western society is broken,” Hebb said in an interview with the Guardian. “I had a hunch that open conversation about our end-of-life wishes could be the most impactful thing we could do to heal that system and to heal the way we die. We are death-illiterate, and when we don’t discuss death, we are not empowered to make decisions.”
As a death doula, Rochelle Martin teaches people how to become comfortable with death. And as an emergency room nurse, she’s had a lot more experience with death than any of the guests around my dining room table. Our dinner has a Last Supper feel: twelve of us are gathered together and the menu includes fish, loaves of bread and plenty of wine. There’s lots of laughter, despite the seriousness of the topic, and a certain lightheartedness too—I’ve ordered a cake in the shape of a tombstone from a local bakery and placed a plastic skull at each place setting with the guest’s name written in Magic Marker on the forehead. Six tea lights glow in the black candelabra that serves as the centrepiece. In Eucharistic fashion, we eat and we remember. Martin facilitates the discussion, encouraging us to go around the table and share a significant death we’ve experienced.
In a 2017 letter he wrote to the New York Review of Books, Wendell Berry called an article’s characterization of the “southernization” of rural Americans — presumably making them sexist, racist, and increasingly uneducated — as “provincial, uninformed, and irresponsible.” Instead of continuing to ignore their plight, Berry suggests, we ought to acknowledge the plundering of these rural regions by their urban neighbors. “Rural America is a colony,” Berry wrote, “and its economy is a colonial economy.”
The writer and activist Michael Pollan — who was greatly influenced by Berry — suggests that Berry remains a singular sort of truth-teller.
The 85-year-old writer doesn’t own a TV, computer, or cellphone. If you call the landline at his country home in Port Royal, you won’t reach an answering machine. When he reads this profile, it will be because someone else printed it out. And, if his general approach to life is any indication, he will probably take his time.
It’s virtually impossible to imagine life in the modern world without our technological accessories, but Berry has consistently presented this spartan circumstance as a compelling proposition: An unplugged life, rooted in nature, he has argued, is the key to fulfillment.
He has insisted on individual responsibility: Indeed, Berry contends climate change advocates don’t go far enough and that “the origin of climate change is human laziness” — a view now widely adopted by those who would ban straws and limit their air travel.
If you ask the average person in Kentucky what he or she knows about Berry, those who have heard of him will tell you he’s a poet, or novelist, activist, environmentalist, or farmer. The truth is that Berry is a Renaissance man, skilled at all of it.
Bill McKibben’s environmental activism was spurred after his wife gave him a copy of Berry’s 1979 essay collection Home Economics, which offered ideas on how we can live a simple and grounded life at home. “There’s no writer working in the English language I admire as much,” McKibben says.
For the author Barbara Kingsolver, he’s something more: A fellow Kentuckian whose writings she turned to, she wrote in an email, “after I left home and learned with a shock that the outside world looks down on us.
“Decade after decade, I keep running up against the bigotry of American mainstream culture against Appalachians, farmers, and rural life, and I always come back to Wendell for solace,” she wrote. “Quietly and without bitterness he brings me home to myself, reminding me that all the ‘hillbilly elegies’ in the world can’t touch the strength of our souls or the poetry of our language.”
“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
As I was ushering Marianne into her car, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see a middle-aged white woman, in tears, asking what she could do to help. She wanted me to know that had never been much interested in politics, but that she had voted for Trump for his fresh, bold outlook. Now she was feeling buyers’ remorse—and hopelessness.
That’s why, she said, she had driven an hour from her home in Portland, Maine to hear Marianne speak: She had been drawn to the core message of heart, community, and patriotic bridge-building.
“America at its best,” the woman said, “is both liberal and conservative.”
What a profound observation. In fact, it’s what all Marianne supporters appreciate: a thriving democracy embraces divergent viewpoints.
Encounters like this—along with that framed quote—are what drive me, working on this campaign to continue our effort to co-create our America.
With warm regards—
Hon. Paul Hodes
New Hampshire State Director
Marianne Williamson for President
The Inherent Feminism of Restorative Justice
Unpacking the legal model that puts victims first
By Anna Dorn
Van Wormer explained that restorative justice has a “special relevance to marginalized communities, one of which is women.” Likewise, Walker told me that given pervasive gender bias in our culture, women are at greater risk of being harmed by the adversarial system. Women of color, she explained, are even more vulnerable than white women because the party facing more societal bias is at a greater disadvantage in the adversarial system. “If one party is bigger and stronger than the other, how can a fight between them ever be fair?”
Walker further suggested that restorative justice is inherently feminist. Rather than “paternalistic, autocratic and adversarial,” she wrote, “restorative justice is strength based and respects individuals [including women] as agents of their own lives.” Van Wormer likewise argued that the use of restorative justice is often consistent with feminism, which values empowering women and promoting our voices. Of special relevance to women’s victimization, van Wormer explained, are the following feminist values: reliance on the woman’s personal narrative; acceptance of a holistic, nondichotomized view of reality, including a unification of the personal and political; a focus on choice and options; an understanding of the gendered nature of societal power relations; and an emphasis on personal empowerment and dignity.
Walker further suggested that restorative justice is inherently feminist. Rather than “paternalistic, autocratic and adversarial,” she wrote, “restorative justice is strength based and respects individuals [including women] as agents of their own lives.”
Van Wormer outlined the four restorative justice models most relevant to women: victim-offender conferencing, family group conferencing, healing circles, and community reparations. Victim-offender conferencing brings together parties in which one person has injured another to resolve and, where possible, right the wrong. Unlike mediation, which implies a dispute to be negotiated, restorative conferencing recognizes its participants as victim and offender as opposed to disputants.
“What if the hosts threw their shows over to the beat reporters more often? What if guests who lied weren’t brought on again? What if people who had worked on campaigns couldn’t be brought on to spin the news unmitigated?”
[Jay Rosen is a media critic and journalism professor Studio 20 program at NYU.]
CNN public editor: What actually is CNN?
WHEN I THINK OF CNN—when I watch it, or when I scroll through Twitter, or when I think of what I want to write about it—I think of what Jeff Zucker, CNN president, said in 2017: “The idea that politics is sport is undeniable, and we understood it and approached it that way.”
The contrast now is stark. It’s not that the CNN beat reporters are good and hosts are bad—many of the latter are accomplished journalists, too. It’s just that what is mostly reflected on the screen—especially during prime time—seems to be less news reporting, more punditry, more round tables, more horse race politics, more talking heads, more interviews and interviewees yelling at each other, more that makes the news more confusing for the viewer (or at least for this viewer).
I find myself wrestling with this tension when I write these columns. I know I’m not the only one: Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir went on Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources and expressed frustration that the networks were more focused on politics than on policy, and that, on TV news shows, “it tends to be a game”. (Stelter, to his credit, acknowledged that many viewers agree, and that “the shiny object, the sensationalism, it’s a problem.”)