The Oversight of Imagination; and, The Next Willy Wonka
Senator Grassley is holding the Flaunter-in-Chief hostage over several departmental appointments until he coughs up some damn good reasons for firing Inspectors General willy-nilly as regularly as he lies.
There was an op-ed piece about that very bad habit today called “Why Does Trump Lie?” by Michael Tomasky.
“On the morning of June 4, he tweeted: “[Robert] Mueller should have never been appointed, although he did prove that I must be the most honest man in America!”
I’m stammering. That’s hard to do that to me.
“As of May 29, the most honest man in America had uttered 19,127 false or misleading claims in his 1,226 days in office, according to Glenn Kessler of The Post, who has been tracking them since Day 1. That’s 15.6 falsehoods a day, or roughly one per waking hour, every hour, every day. That puts him on track to hit 20,000 lies by Wednesday, July 29; by Nov. 3, at this pace, he’ll be north of 22,000 — but of course that period will constitute the heat of the campaign, when the frequency seems likely to increase.”
Mr. Tomasky asserts, in a political way, that the Pinocchio-in-Chief lies because he has no truck for any consequences. That could be. Or oversight. That definitely is.
He says, “Mr. Trump’s lies are different. Not just in quantity, but also in quality. He lies for a different purpose than every other president — yes, even, I would argue, Richard Nixon, the biggest presidential prevaricator until Mr. Trump came along.
“What is that difference? In a nutshell, it is this: Our democracy has, to use a word that former Vice President Joe Biden employed in his powerful June 2 speech in Philadelphia, certain guardrails that, as Mr. Biden put it, ‘have helped make possible this nation’s path to a more perfect union, a union that constantly requires reform and rededication.’ Every president before Mr. Trump has been mindful of those guardrails. When they lied, they lied out of respect for those guardrails. Mr. Trump lies to crush those guardrails into scrap metal.”
A heap of scrap metal — that’s a devastating description of the beautiful checks-and-balances system so brilliantly conceived by our well-meaning, if misguided at times, Founders. I actually think he lies because he doesn’t know how not to lie. It’s knee-jerk, automatic. The poor boy never suffered so much as one consequence for any choice in his life, so why should he expect there to be consequences as an adult? If, perchance, there are, he lies, bluffs, bullies, and fires his way out of them. Sad for him, but tragic for the rest of us.
Sound bites are seductive, aren’t they? They attempt to say a whole lot with a whole little. Here are two trending ones, Black Lives Matter. No argument from me there. Here’s another, Defund the Police. The press, social media, and commentators all over the planet have rushed to find out what those second three words mean.
Charlie Warzel is an Opinion writer at large for The New York Times. “An argument about Twitter — or any part of the internet — as ‘real life’ is frequently an argument about what voices ‘matter’ in our national conversation. Not just which arguments are in the bounds of acceptable public discourse, but also which ideas are considered as legitimate for mass adoption. It is a conversation about the politics of the possible. That conversation has many gatekeepers — politicians, the press, institutions of all kinds. And frequently they lack creativity.”
The politics of the possible captured my imagination this morning. Is that the place we’re in right now? Could it be?
“Of course, for tens of thousands marching in the streets waving #DefundThePolice signs, the phrase is not a dog whistle; it’s a bullhorn. It is, like Medicare for All, a call for a complete reimagining of what they see as a corrupt, broken system. The argument is, quite literally, to defund the police and build a healthier public safety system from scratch while investing that money in other adjacent community-support resources. The slogan — just like Black Lives Matter — is blunt. Its intentions are clear: Imagine a world without the police state.”
The Letters to the Editor are illuminating, as always. Here’s one from Mark Magiera in San Francisco. “Over the past two weeks, as I’ve been listening to, and reading about, defunding police departments, it occurred to me that maybe it’s time to bring the word ‘peace’ back into policing. That’s what my father considered his job to be — keeping the peace.”
Is that an idea whose time has come? Wouldn’t that be grand?
Here’s another, this one from professor emeritus at the U.C. Berkeley School of Law Malcolm M. Feeley in Berkeley, California. “The late Herman Goldstein, the author of ‘Problem-Oriented Policing,’ found that the police are almost exclusively recruited for and trained to fight crime, but in fact they spend very little time doing this. They spend most of their time solving problems: advising victims of crime, helping people in distress, sorting out arguments, breaking up fights, managing crowds and the like.
“His simple but profound message: These are crucial services and integrally related to dealing with crime, so recruit people who want to undertake these activities, and then train them accordingly. His ideas call for a social services rather than military model.”
Now we’re talkin’. That totally works for me.
A former city budget manager, Subir Mukerjee weighed in from Olympia, Washington. “The citizens of Minneapolis do not envision a city without police officers. Rather, their goal is to see a reformed public safety system, where policing is a part of a comprehensive public safety strategy that includes addressing the causes of societal problems.
“So instead of just funding a traditional police force to quell and respond to every situation that comes up, there needs to be funding of police departments as part of a public safety system that includes increased funding for mental health professionals, schools, affordable housing and economic opportunities for the disenfranchised and people of color. This won’t be easy to achieve, and will require courage and leadership of local elected officials and administrators.”
Nicholas Kristof never shies away from the rough subject of the moment. “[W]e invest $100 billion annually in policing across the nation, and the system just isn’t working. It’s often racist and neither effective nor equitable, disproportionately failing black Americans but also letting down white Americans. One of my (white) high school classmates in Oregon lost a son to a police shooting two years ago; Kelly desperately needed drug treatment, not six bullets.”
In “The Civil Rights Act of 2020,” Opinion columnist Charles M. Blow is bold.
“There are images of police officers joining protesters in dancing the Cupid shuffle, taking knees and hugging little girls.
“There have been images of members of Congress donning kente cloth stoles, Joe Biden taking a knee and Mitt Romney marching with protesters.
“There have been images of a rainbow of races and ethnicities marching through streets with Black Lives Matter posters held high, of them kneeling in moments of silence, of defaced and beheaded statues.”
Images are good.
Images are necessary.
Images begin what so desperately needs beginning.
But images, as Mr. Blow, unequivocally states, are not change. “All of these are feel-good gestures that cost nothing and shift no power. They create no justice and provide no equity.”
Mr. Kristof, “That’s the idea behind ‘Defund the Police’ as most conceive it — not to eliminate every police officer but to reimagine ways to make us safe that don’t necessarily involve traditional law enforcement. This conversation is long overdue.”
“James Forman Jr., a Yale law professor who wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book, ‘Locking Up Our Own,’ shares concerns about the phrase but is also thrilled at the discussions it has provoked about alternative ways to achieve public safety. ‘I cannot tell you how excited I am about this reimagining conversation,’ he said.”
“Ali H. Mokdad, a health specialist at the University of Washington, argues that racism is more dangerous than the coronavirus, because eventually there will be a vaccine for the virus. And in tackling racism, he says, there are many lessons from public health research.
“‘Defund the police for certain services and move them to social work,’ he advised. He suggested that domestic violence, youth offenders, alcoholism, addiction, mental illness and homelessness would often be better handled by social workers or other non-police professionals.”
Mr. Kristof concludes, “After decades of incremental reforms, anti-racism activists are fundamentally correct about the overuse and overmilitarization of policing in America. Something is wrong when three million American students are in schools that have a police officer but not a nurse.
“Yes, I still want someone to pick up when I call 911. But whatever terminology we use, it’s long past time to reimagine policing in America.”
Do you hear the refrain? Again and again. Reimagine. Reimagine. Reimagine.
Who better to help us than the Paragon of Imagination himself? Willy Wonka, the candyman of candymen. If you think I am being whimsical, think again.
If you wonder whether I invoke Mr. Wonka in the spirit of punishing wrong-doing, I say, once again, think again. Oompa-loompas, notwithstanding.
Mr. Blow yet again, “But, these bills, [proposed by congressional Democrats and congressional Republicans] if they pass as conceived, would basically punish the system’s soldiers without altering the system itself. These bills would make the officers the fall guy for their bad behavior while doing little to condemn or even address the savagery and voraciousness of the system that required their service.”
Ambassador Wonka wanted a world where punishment wasn’t necessary, where children and their grown-ups naturally wanted to be good. He closed his factory to preserve its very goodness inside.
We cannot close the nation, and we must defund the police to change the punishment model upon which their work has become based. To punish is to debase.
Can you imagine a world wherein punishment was never an option? In any circumstance? Do you have any idea what that would do to our planet?
Here are just a few ideas off the top of my head: Lawyers would be in the business of reconciliation of differences. The prison system would fade away for lack of attention. Digital monitoring would dissolve along with the prisons. Parole and its monitoring would be a dim memory. The underclass caste of our citizenry would be mentored upon their return to society, and eventually, the caste system too would be gone. Think of the workers this would free up to work on climate change!
This is just with the reimagining of ONE concept: punishment.
Mr. Blow is one hundred percent right. “We need more than performative symbols of solidarity. We need more than narrow, chaste legislation.”
Mr. Blow calls for real justice. “That is what real justice looks like: equal access to possibility, success and safety. … “[W]e need nothing short of a new civil rights act, the Civil Rights Act of 2020. At this point, politicians are still playing safe, being risk-averse while calling it radical. They want the appearance of substantial action while leaving the substance of society untouched. They want to appear responsive without taking full responsibility.”
Taking full responsibility means addressing this social addiction to punishment. The roots of the word are Greek and they mean pain. Pain. That’s what punishment brings into our precious homeland. To what purpose?
Some illusory notion that causing others pain makes their victims feel ‘better’? I beg to differ. What the desire to inflict financial and social pain on others does is keep us all in the addiction to pain.
Sadly, Mr. Blow concludes, “But just remember: These are not necessarily rogue officers. They are instruments of the system and manifestations of society.
“They are violent to black people because America is violent to black people. They oppress because America oppresses.
“The police didn’t give birth to American violence and inhumanity. America’s violence and inhumanity gave birth to them.”
Mr. Blow never shirks in his duty as a journalist to write the truth as he sees it. Those last two sentences are a damning pronouncement for these United States of America, but they are the truth.
One of the most magical things, Beloved, about imagination is that there is no cost to it except your time, your care, your focus.
Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley wrote the Willy Wonka Anthem, known in musical circles as “Pure Imagination.” The song is an outrageous invitation.
“Come with me / and you’ll be / in a world of pure imagination /
Take a look / and you’ll see / into your imagination.”
This is what is called for now. No more, no less. Pure imagination. Your imagination.
As Mr. Wonka so deftly reminds us, “We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams.” Reimagining public safety is surely at this point a mandate. I’ll let the candyman have the last word: “Wanna change the world? [Snap] There’s nothing to it.”
Dr. Susan Corso is a metaphysician and medical intuitive with a private counseling practice for more than 35 years. She has written too many books to list here. Her website is www.susancorso.com
© Dr. Susan Corso 2020 All rights reserved.