Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Is this the Sound of Settling?

I come to you from a plane headed to Minneapolis, the town that changed my life.

I suppose quite a few towns have changed my life: Los Angeles, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Copenhagen, and of course, San Francisco.  But Minneapolis is special, in a way that's both saddening and amazing.  I guess, in 60s counter-culture terms, I was radicalized by my experiences there: I went from lukewarm earth-loving ikea shopper to a person much more serious, more fierce, and less starry-eyed.  I suppose in some ways, I became hardened.  In other ways, I was cracked open, my more vulnerable parts exposed.  I don't know how I feel about it, necessarily: talking to my brother the other day, who identifies as Centralist-Democrat, I realized that even his analytical, pragmatic approach to current affairs is more optimistic than my own beliefs -- me, who was so often in the past called "unrealistic" and "idealistic."  Parts of my heart and psyche seem to wither when I think about the world, the people, the hope for the future.  The forces of death and exploitation feel too powerful and unyielding, and I can be sent into a whirlwind of apathetic despair from an experience as simple and unassuming as watching the woman two rows over from me board the plane carrying nothing to occupy her for four hours other than her handbag and an issue of Marie Claire.  

(Alright, now that I've gone into all of that, I will confess that in recent days, there has been some breast tenderness and other signs of cyclical hormonal fluctuations that may indicate that all of this delving into apathetic despair is not only about my feelings about current affairs.  'Nuff said).

Anyway, back to Minneapolis -- or really, St. Paul, where Jason and I were attacked and arrested nearly two years ago.  The lawyers have lawyered, the judge has done some preliminary judging, and it's time to make a choice: settle or go to trial.  To be clear, the criminal charges against the two of us were dropped or never filed, respectively, and this is our civil suit.  Police brutality has as of late oft been topic of conversation in my community: in Oakland, near where I live, an officer who shot a unarmed man in the back was recently convicted of a mere "involuntary manslaughter charge," and less than two weeks later, another man was shot and killed by police in the exact same neighborhood.   Tomorrow, at the settlement conference, I'll engage in my own little process of justice and injustice around police brutality, and it weighs heavily with me.

On the one hand, I do not want to go to trial.  Period.  I don't want to do it.  I don't want to be questioned, perhaps even blasted, by the defense's lawyers who (ironically enough) are being paid for by none other than AIG, the notorious powerhouse of money, corruption, and immorality.  I don't want to have my character attacked.  I don't want to listen to the cops lie about that day -- which they will.  I don't want to cry in front of them -- which I will.  I guess the truth is that I'm not as hardened as all that stuff at the beginning of this post suggests.  And, by goddess, I don't want to watch any more slow-motion footage of Jason being tazered.

On the other hand is the issue of justice.  One of my mentors wrote to me the other day and said, "It’s important not just for you and Jason, and for justice, but as a deterrent to keep them from doing that same thing to others."  There's a part of me that believes that, that feels like there's something about integrity and justice to go through the entire process and not let them have one iota of "settling" or "compromise."   Yet there are other parts of me that believe that it doesn't really matter, that in light of the fact that when they murdered Oscar Grant in the Oakland Bart Station and had nothing more than a slap on the wrist happen, some payout and a small article on page two of the paper isn't going to make much of a difference.  Focusing the lens even smaller, the issue becomes whether or not the trial might affect and raise the awareness of the officers involved in the actual incident (rather than the institution as a whole) -- but I've seen too many smug smiles on the faces of police officers, too many arrogant swaggers, heard too many condescending speeches, to have much hope of that.  Widening out, the fact that any payout that comes will be paid out of the coffers of a corporate supergiant (that was bailed out by a government invested in two wars around the world) that has a penchant for parties and spa-dates that cost more than my suit is likely to garner in even the most abundant of possible outcomes does not inspire me to believe that it means much in the larger fight against the powers-that-be.  

Which brings me down, I suppose, to the question of my own personal gains or losses.  This lawsuit has been long and arduous -- the endless discovery stage, the depositions, the faxing, the phone calls, everything.  I've already invested a lot of time and lifeforce energy into it, and I'm not simply going to roll over and accept whatever Arrogance, Ineptitude, & Greed decides to parcel out to me.  There is an opportunity here to divert some tiny amount of their power (aka resources) into something good -- an intentional communal living situation with Jason, perhaps, or a baby, or a my business as a budding herbalist.  But how much more energy do I want to pour into that possibility?  And how much more energy will be required before its all done, first with my suit, and then later, with Jason's?

Alright, that's enough from me for now.  Funny, now that I've gotten some of these thoughts out, none of which were really uplifting, I feel a bit better.  Perhaps somewhat more clear.  Well, wish me luck tomorrow, blogosphere!  I'll let you know how it goes.


  1. Rivka: This is one of your best posts yet, if not THE best! I'll have more to say later on, but I just want to let you know I'm going to be spreading this one far and wide.

    Love, Mom

  2. I know the answer since I saw it on facebook; but my heart and prayers go out to you two.

    Solidarity and blessed be!