Madeline Ostrander (yes, a former Sightline staffer) has a terrific feature story in Seattle Metropolitan magazine, Quiet: A Soldier’s Fight for the Most Silent Place in America. It’s the story of the military’s plan to send newer, more disruptive jet planes over the Hoh and Quinault rain forest of the Olympic Peninsula, and the veterans who thought they’d found a refuge.
If you want to know what the Trump presidency might mean for grassroots activism in the Northwest, please read Jim Brunner, the Seattle Times’ award-winning political reporter. He reports that Senator Doug Ericksen, Trump’s deputy campaign director in Washington, is drawing up a bill “that would allow felony prosecution of protesters who purposely disrupt economic activity, for example by blocking traffic or sitting on railroad tracks.”
Ericksen calls such activity “economic terrorism.” Perhaps related, Ericksen ranks consistently among the top recipients of coal and oil political spending in Washington, and nobody in the legislature accepts more free meals from lobbyists than he does.
Speaking of politics, I’ve been binge reading post-election analyses over the last week, Yet the best piece I’ve encountered was actually written a couple of weeks before the election. It’s George Packer’s story, “Hillary Clinton and the Populist Revolt” at the New Yorker. In it, he describes a culture that I’ve encountered more and more often in my work obstructing fossil fuel infrastructure around the Northwest:
During the Great Recession, I visited many hard-hit small towns, exurbs, rural areas, and old industrial cities, and kept meeting Americans who didn’t match the red-blue scheme. They might be white Southern country people, but they hated corporations and big-box stores as well as the federal government. They might have a law practice, but that didn’t stop them from entertaining apocalyptic visions of armed citizens turning to political violence. They followed the Tea Party, but, in their hostility toward big banks, they sounded a little like Occupy Wall Street, or vice versa. They were loose molecules unattached to party hierarchies—more individualistic than the Democrats, more antibusiness than the Republicans. What united them was a distrust of distant leaders and institutions. They believed that the game was rigged for the powerful and the connected, and that they and their children were screwed.
I’m looking forward to reading You Will Not Have My Hate, which seems unfortunately timely on many levels:
On November 13, 2015, Antoine Leiris’s wife, Hélène Muyal-Leiris, was killed by terrorists while attending a rock concert at the Bataclan Theater in Paris, in the deadliest attack on France since World War II. Three days later, Leiris wrote an open letter addressed directly to his wife’s killers, which he posted on Facebook. He refused to be cowed or to let his seventeen-month-old son’s life be defined by Hélène’s murder. He refused to let the killers have their way: “For as long as he lives, this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom.” Instantly, that short Facebook post caught fire…
And the post eventually gave rise to his book.
Though it nudges boundaries of speculation, this article by the Director of the San Francisco-based advocacy group GrowSF is an insightful exploration of how high housing prices caused by exclusionary zoning may be feeding the urban/rural political divide:
We have chronically under-built housing in and around our booming cities for decades. The effects of this spill out into almost every problem America faces. Culturally, racially, and economically, we have become more physically segregated.
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The future is cities. They offer more economic opportunities. They are more environmentally sound. They force us to become more comfortable with difference. Urban migration is a dominant force of our era. And we have been fighting it tooth and nail.
We must create enough housing to make this urban future available for everyone. Either we stop living in isolation with like-minded neighbors or this country will break. Urban integration is a moral imperative, now more than ever.
Over at the Seattle Transit Blog, Zach Shaner hits on similar themes:
Lest we continue to be bluer islands in a redder sea, it is all the more imperative that our cities be physically as well as socially inclusive. To the extent that we make urban access harder, whether through inadequate transportation or undersupplied housing, we merely concentrate our own privilege and harden the rural/urban divide.
We need more city, and we can’t mourn the size of our membership if we make it hard to join the club. We need to do everything we can to actively roll out the welcome mat, and let cities work their serendipitous magic to shape hearts and minds.
Or in the choice words of The Stranger’s Eli Sanders and Dan Savage:
This is the American city. You are fortunate to be here, inside one of the most powerful machines we have for defeating fascists.