Sunday, December 31, 2017

Our Solidarity was the Solution: Looking back on 2017: Rise and Resisting for Two Decades in NYC

Arrested four times, hiking through France, it was a hell of a year. "Protesters outside the Senate Budget Committee hearing room as GOP leaders try to persuade reluctant senators to support a sweeping tax package on Capitol Hill in November.
Solidarity was expanding everywhere, even when i was the first to get out of jail.
Everyone needs support.  Arrests number three, two and one, top and bottom. 

I moved to New York in September of 1997. Sure, I had been around, visiting between grad school and college, following a girl up Vassar for a year in 1990, drinking at Max Fish on Ludlow, coming into the city in the 1970's, driving through a sea of cars on Houston and Canal Streets.  But 1997, was the year, I made the love affair official. And with the exception of a month or few abroad, a fall and spring semester in 2007 there, I have been here. 

My twentieth year in the city was the most abundant in years.  I saw more music, acted up, rising, resisting, traveling and teaching as much as possible, navigating a most savage of times. 

On the one hand, most of the things i have fought for as an activist for two decades - a stronger public sector union, health and social welfare programs, and a clean environment - have all taken significant hits. But no one is out for the count, none of us. 

Writing about the healthcare protests in DC, my friend TW Collins referreded to Dorris Lessing, who wrote,“Very few people really care about freedom, about liberty, about the truth, very few. Very few people have guts, the kind of guts on which a real democracy has to depend. Without people with that sort of guts a free society dies or cannot be born.”   Here is to those who have the "guts" Collins concluded. This year, a few of my heros, those with a lot of these guts, shuffled off.  There were Erica Garner, James Knill, Tom Petty, Charles Shively, and Gilbert Baker.  Each went in their own ways; one could argue both Garner and Baker died of broken hearts.  May they rest in power.  The last time I saw Gilbert was at a Rise and Resist meeting in January. 

Gilbert Baker at a Rise and Resist Meeting at the Center, January 2017, casually dressed
as a member of a concentration camp, adorned with the pink star that
he thought so drab, ever aware of the meaning of symbols. It was the last time I'd ever see this quiet hero. I left the meetingearly.  He stayed, seemingly knowing what was at stake.

 With their spirits in mind, here is the story of the year of a year of activism, hiking, teaching, making friends, renewing friendships, watching some go, and others come my way as we fought our way through the first year of presidency the majority of the voters had not wanted.

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Making new friends at the Trump inauguration. 

The day of Donald Trump’s inauguration, I met my friends with Rise and Resist and ACT UP at West 13th Street, and got on the bus to DC at midnight, driving into the night. I mostly slept on the way there, dozing in and out, thinking about the fifteen or sixteen trips to jail over the past eighteen years since I have been involved with non-violent direct action. These expressive actions were always a useful means for a hyperactive emotional kid to act up and do something with that well of emotion bubbling inside. They were ways to scream when my friends were getting sick or the city was bulldozing community spaces or restricting civil liberties or unions or starting wars or police were beating people, whatever the issue was. Civil disobedience opens a delicious form of defiance and expression. It’s always been an outlet for emotion and communication. Hopefully it could be one again. As my friend Savitri D once wrote: “The shared experience of being arrested can be powerful, also weirdly intimate.” Doing so, people usually find a lot of common ground as solidarity expands, lasting through time.
Riding through the night I was getting more and more excited about the weekend. I would not be wandering aimlessly. I would be going straight at the darkness. The sun was nowhere to be seen when we arrived in DC at 5 am. The city was filled with people in red “Make America Great Again” hats. These were not urbanites. Mostly men, white men, and a few women, the line to get inside the inauguration was filled with them, all white. I was supposed to meet Tim Murphy, a New York writer, whose work I adore. He’s written about drug use and HIV in the past, AIDS protests I’ve taken part in, etc. For the inauguration, he seemed to move into the mindset of one of the Trump supporters New Yorkers seem to know very little about. We made our way inside and through security for the inauguration ceremonies at the United States Capitol. Tickets were easy to come by. Few wanted to actually attend. By 6:45 am we’d made our way past security. We’d have to stand there for five hours before the magic moment when we’d seek to disrupt the inauguration, without getting found out first. I kept blowing the cover.
“Benjamin!” Tim scolded me when I told him about us talking about his book at my Marxist reading group.
“Look around you.”
Looking, I saw a sea of red hats and white people, not a person of color in sight.
We found our standing room only spot by 7 am, meeting up with Jacques and Jackie and Yougourthen. Tim stayed in character, chatting with Trump supporters for hours.
 “Things that happened in the past do not matter,” Tim declared.
“It’s been dark for eight years,” one of his new friends replied, shaking their head.
“I think he’s liking this too much,” I whispered to Jacques, of the Yes Men. “Like Ed Meese condemning the porno he’s documenting. He’s getting Stockholm syndrome.” Murphy was at it for hours.
The crowd was getting more and more excited as the jumbotron showed Trump’s limo making its way to the Capitol.
“He’s coming! He’s coming!” a woman to my right cheered, looking at the image of the limo making its way to the ceremony, in a scene reminiscent of Triumph of the Will.
“USA USA USA!” the crowd screamed.
“It would sound better in the original German,” I moaned to Jacques.
By 11:30 am, dignitaries were being introduced. Bill and Hillary, even Jimmy Carter received boos.
“You guys can’t boo Jimmy Carter!” I followed. Most agreed.  
Things only got worse when the minority leader Chuck Schumer read a civil war soldier’s letter to his wife.
“Boo!!!” “Sit Down!” “Get off!!!” “You’re killing me!” the Trump supporters screamed, sounding boorish. “Drain the swamp!”   
A hushed silence filled the air as the president elect begin his oath of office.
And screams filled the air.
“Inept illegit” we bellowed as Trump began his oath of office.
“Not my president!”
“You elected a fascist!!!!” Tim screamed.
A commotion ensued. I was worried we were going to get beaten up. There were thousands of them there. One man put his hand around my neck. And another grabbed the whistle I was blowing.
We kept screaming, along with about ten others planted throughout the crowd. And all the world saw the images of us being beaten. And the police started to pull us out. I was more than happy to oblige, walking with the policeman.
“Thanks for being cool about it,” the policeman told me.
“No problem. You guys have your hands full today,” I told the policeman.
Charles King of Housing Works, who trained me in civil disobedience always said be good to your arresting officers, making friends if you can. One of his arresting officers at the ACT UP Stop the Church action in 1989 invited him out on a date. Charles demurred. But he later regretted it.
People all over the inauguration had acted up in union, one woman declaring “pussy grabber,” another man stayed when the police did not come and the crowd took him down, strangling him.
The police escorted us out of the inauguration, confiscating our tickets but not sending us to jail, where I thought we’d at least spend the night.
Adrenaline was oozing out of my ears. But it felt ok. I was glad I had taken part in the big action. It was better than staying home, more empowering. I spent the rest of the day navigating between tear gas, police, and anarchists in the streets.  It was eerie walking the streets, watching police and anarchists clash, liberals and Trumpheads go to loggerheads, as the Trump crew took control of the helm, erasing language about climate change and reproductive autonomy from White House websites. 

            In the weeks after Trump’s election, we—a collective we—poured into the streets—immigrants, Muslims, students, women, people of color, LGBT activists—and it seemed all of New York. Saturday February 4, 2017, LGBT communities converged at the Stonewall Monument in solidarity with Muslim, Latino, refugee, and immigrant communities being targeted by the Trump administration. On the way to Sheridan Square, I passed thousands with signs, declaring, “Stronger Together,” “Gays Support Muslims,” and my favorite, “Never Underestimate the Power of a Faggot with a Tambourine.” Solidarity seemed to be expanding everywhere. The courts pushed back against the immigration ban. My city of friends was working. Every time I come to an event like this, I feel like I live in a city of friends, with people I have known for two solid decades popping up everywhere, people I have acted up with, gone to jail with, ridden bikes with, prayed at Judson Memorial Church with throughout my years here. This is where the democracy of the streets matters. Rather than throw up our hands in despair, we all tapped into a collective spirit of do-it-yourself action, connecting all of our stories and ambitions, forming a collective community capable of igniting democracy from the bottom. This DIY spirit helped us find a route to fashion a better world, building alternatives that support mutual aid, green space, social welfare programs, community gardens, bike lanes, wind power, expressions of care and creativity, within a public commons of our own creation.
              Each week, something we cared about was taking a hit.  The president was attacking immigrants so we flooded into the streets at JFK airport.  He was attacking the Paris Climate Accord so we pushed back.  And people stood up.  Michael Bloomberg and Jerry Brown argued the US would maintain its commitment to the accord, despite inaction on a federal level.  The president pushed back, restricting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Many of my students are part of the DACA program. They come to class early, while taking care of parents, working extra jobs and doing internships. Still, they keep it together.  The president said he would give congress six months to fix the problem.  Given its been decades that the immigration problem has gone on, it was hard to imagine a solution forthcoming.  Tears welled up in my students' eyes talking about the problem, the uncertainty of wondering if they really were going to be sent back, expelled to places unknown, their parents had brought them from.  The cruelty of the president was astounding.

This fall, we heard that the Supreme Court case of Janus v. AFSCME is on the docket.
As Elizabeth Warren wrote:

Powerful interests invested vast sums of money into confirming judges who will tilt our courts in favor of billionaires and big businesses. When the Republicans stole a Supreme Court seat from President Obama and forced Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch through the Senate, they knew their investment would pay off. Today it has. The Supreme Court has announced that it will consider Janus v. AFSCME, a case that could defund unions for teachers, police officers, firefighters, and postal workers. The Republican-appointed majority is poised to deal the knock-out blow to public sector unions, tilting the playing field even further in favor of corporations, and making it that much harder for workers to join together and stand up for themselves.

This is a direct assault on labor, workers, and by extension higher education.

 So we responded and and pushed back.  

This writer at Writers Resist: #Louder Togerher 
 C.S. Muncy Fear and trembling before inauguration. 

Over the year, many of us debated what was the best approach to coping with what looked like a fascist president at the helm.  Some organized with Rise and Resist and its ACT UP roots.  They noted ACT UP was there in crises of the past.   Inclusive and direct action based, its model was needed in the current moment.  Some resented the credit Rise and Resist got for its work and the credit it got for bringing so many people into organizing. 

Others supported Antifa and their approach to taking on the new ascendant fascism.  The solution is certainly not clear. I lost friends over some of of these debates.  Some thought the first amendment should be curtailed in the face of hate speech or opinions we disliked.  Others thought, its more important to highlight voices we care for and support them instead of opposing anyone.   Over the year, I saw elements of a left authoritarian thinking, opposed to different ideas, favoring a vanguardist approach, opposed to debate.  Sadly, there are times when the left feels as stiltifying as the right. 
The solution to a democracy deficit is more debate, not less.  

She was referring to those opposed to right wing speakers trying to shut down events or venues where right wing speakers have been invited.  Sadly, the state has a monopoly on violence.  Max Weber said it. He was right then and is right now.  It does not make it right.  But  the state has a monopoly on force. Each act of violence by the left justifies a crackdown by the right.  "The people preventing Republicans from safely assembling on the streets of Portland may consider themselves fierce opponents of the authoritarianism growing on the American right" writes Peter Beinart. "In truth, however, they are its unlikeliest allies.

I appreciate the need to make racists afraid again.  But I also hope the left can maintain a commitment to a Gandhian repertoire of non-violent civil disobedience.  Violence begets violence James Lawson trained activists during the Civil Rights movement.  When we become violent, we invite more violence. And we become the monsters we oppose. How we get there counts. The politics of everyday struggle count.  How we play the game counts. I still believe we can change the tides of history by maintaining a commitment to non-violence. It has worked in the past.  It worked this year. And I will believe it will work again.

Is there room for the creative passion of anarchism to merge with movements to prefigure a better world - most certainly.  But there has to be room to disagree and collaborate on the ground, as anarchists and peacenics, liberals and radicals have always done, when not fighting too much with each other.  There has to be room for a united front. There just has to be. Our solidarity will be our solution.

Over the year, many did bring those ideas into the conversation, expanding on the lessons of a diversity of tactics debate we hashed out during the global justice movement, bringing it into our current moment, allowing a thousand flowers to bloom, not just ideas we support.   In the years to come, I do hope we can learn to broaden the tent of the left back into that united front opposed to the fascist right, supporting, instead of undermining each other.  I hope we can work on inviting and including, because most certainly when we don't include people, they turn elsewhere as happened in the 2016 election debacle. 

And in a lot of circles this did happen. 

As the year went on, I ran into people I have not seen in years in activism.  Kate Barnhart and I got arrested three times together.  (Well, the cops forgot to process one of her arrests.  But thats another story. I had not seen Jay Walker since 1998. And we went to DC together to get arrested, talking like old school chums.  Austin Horse decided to join me the night before one of the DC trips, taking a bust with me in honor of a fellow bike messenger who had no insurance and died.  The heros were everywhere. Jennifer Flynn, Jaron Benjamin, Paul Davis helped organize the DC healthcare actions in ways that were inviting and compelling for everyone involved.

Mark Milano, an old ACT UP veteran, organized the cough-in at Trump Hotel and the DC actions. He said as a person living with AIDS, the actions helped give his life meaning.  He said the struggle gives his existence, his very being a sense of meaning. 

We need everyone out there doing all sorts of organizing.  With this in mind, we also need to respect the different ways people contribute.  Some people make calls and others put their bodies on the lines. Some resist with direct action. Others take part in permitted actions. In July activists around the country, including Housing Works, ACT UP, National ADAPT, Rise and Resist, disability activists, liberals, and even a few anarchists put all their skills together to stop the bills to kill the Affordable Care Act.

My friend LA Kauffman, whose lovely book Direct Action was finally published after a 25 year wait, posted a note congratulating them.

"Wow, let's hear it for the heroes who won this health-care fight and showed not only that resistance works, but HOW it works. I'm thinking of the disabled people from National ADAPT who were the first to put their bodies on the line to block these hateful bills, and who took bold action time and time again. I'm thinking of the people with HIV and the people who rely on Medicaid, organized through CPD ActionHousing Works Inc.Rise and Resist, and other groups, who lobbied and sat in over and over again to fight for all of us. This was a battle led and won by the most vulnerable among us: disabled people, queer folks, HIV+ folks. One key organizer told me she estimates that women made up 70% of those on the frontlines -- and a great many of the men who joined them were either gay or HIV+ or disabled or all of the above. They got on buses in the middle of the night, put their bodies directly right in the way of a government hellbent on depriving us of basic care, endured miserable hours in police custody, and then returned to do it all again. All the phone calls and all the local protests around the country played a big and crucial part, too, but direct action set the tone and led the way. I am in awe of all who fought so hard, and so grateful."

The organizing serves as a useful testament to the ongoing utility of a diversity of tactics. There is no one right way to respond to the crazy position we find ourselves in.  But with a democracy deficit, a little more democratic engagement does not hurt.  There are zillions of ways to engage and support each other.  We need people butting their bodies on the line, picketing, making phone calls, keeping their sense of humor and pranking.  We need ACT UP and ANTIFA.  

Fall 2017, I went to DC four times to beat back the repeal and replace movement against healthcare.  We beat back Graham Cassidy healthcare bill, disrupting the hearing for the bill before Senators pulled their support.  I'll never forget walking through DC seeing all those healthcare and disability activists, many in wheelchairs waiting to have their say. Sitting to join them as we clogged the halls of congress, forcing the representatives to see those who depend on healthcare, to talk with us, or crawl over our bodies. 

Arrest number two in DC with healthcare activists. 
I had to go back to DC to pay my fine the next week. So mom and I made a day of it, driving all day long, paying my fine, and visiting the Viet Nam memorial.

A month later, we were back fighting the tax bill which gutted the ACA healthcare mandate, taking 13 million people off healthcare.  We bird dogged the representatives going into the hearing. But none seemed at all interested in talking.  The waves of actions continued throughout December. The Republicans had not passed one bill all year long, despite control of congress. They were desperate.  But so were we.  So were the disability activists pushing for access, defending the ADA, and their rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  

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Arrested trying to stop the rich from stealing from the poor in dc. the tax bill is the most regressive piece of legislation of my lifetime.  Photo by Timothy Luceford.   As Jennifer Flynn Walker wrote: "It's another day in Trump's America so we are shutting down another murderous hearing. CPD ActionHousing Works Inc."

Die in and arrests at the rotunda! by Winnie Wong.
Kill the bill, don't kill us
— with Ivy Arce atUnited States Capitol,
Bottom Hamming it up with code pink. 

my daughter posted the picture below with the words, my dad.
After three amazing trips to DC to push back the healthcare repeal and replace actions and the GOP tax scam, the tax bill was still moving.  And the GOP was desperate to to pass something. The bill passed a few days before Christmas.    Yet every person who voted for it is going to have to defend their votes against regular people, against teachers and people with disabilities, against the middle class who lost their deductions in their bill, favoring of tax cuts for the one percent at the expense of everyone else. 

Ady Barkan taking a bust. 

As my friend  Claire Ullman wrote on December 20th, 

 I am grieving for all the good government programs we are losing. I can’t get Ady Barkan out of my mind - he is just one person but to lose this fight on top of his terrible diagnosis is too horrible, and he has come to symbolize for me all that is at stake and the tremendous effort so many brave people have made. We will make the Republicans pay for this, but for now we must concentrate on caring for those who will be hurt the worst.
Throughout the actions, solidarity was expanding everywhere. Thank you to AlanTimothy Lunceford-Stevens for all his leadership on this. He was there supporting us action after action in DC, welcoming us out of jail. Note the plastic bag, holding my belongings, I was holding. “America has no idea what is about to hit them with this bill,” noted Tim, who has combated HIV and cancer for years now. He depends on just the sort of public health insurance being gutted by this bill. “Americans who have their parents live with them, who get Meals on Wheels a few day a week, they are going to lose that funding. They are not thinking about that.” We’ll see it in block grants for healthcare, cuts to entitlements, money for transportation, schools, etc..."

TW CollinsThis is What Democracy Looks Like! Die-in, Russell Senate Office Building — withElizabeth DeutschHarrie FarrowMeghan July and23 others at Russell Senate Office Building.
The mass civil disobedience actions in DC were some of the most powerful of my lifetime. The disability activists lead the way. 

After the December 21st CD at the Rotunda in DC, my friend, Jenson Larrimore was arrested in  his wheelchair. He wrote: "They arrested literally EVERYONE before they got to me. All the cameras and witnesses were left and I thought ‘what will be the impact?’ And I’m glad I did cause I got nabbed the next day outside Collins’s offices and I can only hope that it meant something to someone out there... This action was a lot harder on me physically than I let anybody know. Because this wasn’t about me, or any individual one of us. I did this for all of us, all Americans, most especially for the future of our country, our society, and how we will continue to view and treat the poor, the vulnerable and the ones who need a helping hand."

After the action, Larrimore suggested our small gesture of resistance had to be part of a movement against greed.  It had to be and it would be. 

Throughout the year, wefought back hard, finding new forms of solidarity in the streets and in the struggle, supporting each other in ways we somehow forgot to during the Obama years. Faced with the ascendant right, our solidarity was our solution this year. It will be next year. 

We have a lot of fight and joy left. Its up to us now. Lets take this opportunity and create something special together.

As my friend Nikki wrote me at the end of the year:

"... thanks Ben for the work you did going down to DC and being in the streets. It's important. It's inspiring. It reminds me that in the dark times we will be singing about the dark times and that doesn't mean things are ok it just means that there is a light that can't be extinguished."

I met so many great people this year.  And we tried to support each other. My friend Karen Flaherty put it on December 19th after that last bust in DC. 
December 19 at 9:47pmBenjamin Heim Shepard , an activist that I met this year in DC protesting the ACA repeal and replace actions , took this picture yesterday in DC where hundreds of activists joined to protest the GOP tax scam. In his blog he mentioned the joy of being with resistors. Benjamin took this picture after my release from post and forfeit arrest. It is a joy to be free and with like minded and jubilant friends. Thank you Benjamin and all for being there.

Here are a few pictures from this crazy year. of acting up.

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Erik R. McGregor took this picture of us outside Governor Andrew Cuomo's NYC Office on March 13, 2017; to support the Albany Can End Homelessness in New York State campaign, about ten faith and community leaders committed civil disobedience blocking third avenue with banners reading "Cuomo: The Nation is Watching" & "End Record Homelessness & Income Inequality" culminating on arrests made by the NYPD.  This was arrest number one for the year. Solidarity was expanding everywhere. 
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Michael A Tikili took this picture at the ACT UP 30 rally at Union Square last week. Go ACT UP!

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Thanks to Brennan Cavanaugh for this funny shot of us on the Tree Hugger ride april 30th. — with Yana Landowne and Catherine Talese at Le Petit Versailles.
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New Yorkers love Paris. And we condemn the exit from the Paris Accord. March and Rally Foley Square June 1, 2017

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Erik R. McGregor took this picture of me at the DYCD is Trippin' Rally to House 21-24 Homeless Youth DYCD raise the age now! — with Erik R. McGregor in New York, New York.

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Saturday September 9th at Somos 11 Millones: Fight for DACA and ALL Immigrants
 — at Columbus Circle.
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Our lawyer Kate took this picture of garrett wilkinson and I outside the senate offices on Senate office building as we shut down the hearings for the Cassidy Graham ACA repeal bill. — withGarrett Wilkinson.

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The students in my policy class presented on the Volstead Act, the Clinton Crime Bill, The Clear AIR Act, No Child Left Behind, NY Universal Health Care Act, the 'Death with Dignity' bill and so many more. A subtext of the class was the question about what can be done about criminal justice policies that seem to set up youth of color to fail, three strikes laws, mandatory sentencing, etc. "I pray my 13-year-old son will not find himself in solitary," confessed our final presenter. Its great to talk through the messy contours of social welfare and criminal justice policies. Here we all are after the last presentation was completed. We've all learned a lot together this crazy fall. #CityTech students are the best.

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Protest outside the New York Stock Exchange Demanding Congress Stop the Tax Give-Away to Corporations and the Rich — with Benjamin Heim Shepard. Photo by Erik R. McGregor

Outside of activism, t
he highlights of the year were many. 

As for writing, my colleague Mery Diaz and i talked every week, editing the essays for our book about kids and narrative, Narrating Perspectives on Childhood and Adolescence.

My long suffering novel finally found a home, becoming a finalist at the Faulkner Wisdom contest. 

It'll be out next year. 

Brooklyn Tides and Sustainable Urbanism find their way into print.

And two other books, a memoir and a study of friendship and fighting,  are in the works. 

In between it all, 2017 was a year for travel and adventure. 

The year included five trips to DC. 

By Spring break, I made my way out West to Colorado taking in a roller derby tournament, skiing, and hiking in Red Rocks. 

There were roller derby tournaments everywhere, including Philly and Pittsburgh, where the Gotham Girls dominated. 

My friends Rob and James I explored Estonia in the Spring, exploring history and a bit of the underground of this space on the front lines of Cold Wars past and present. 

We were away from NYC for much of the summer, leaving in June for France, hanging out with Mom and my brother and our families, spending a few days in Paris before making our way out to Provence, and hiking the way of St Jaques for the next few weeks, as our roving city of friends expanded and expanded.

Finishing the hike, we meandered out to Toulouse, grabbing a train to Vienna, Prague, Krakow, Budapest, and Amsterdam, recalling the what was of WWII and the Cold War, the dark days when those who were different were shipped off into trains, to camps, and their annihilation.  Some still found meaning in their struggles, connecting and supporting others. But many more perished.  Those who survived the war encountered the Soviets and an equally gruesome  slow demise in the gulags of Siberia. History is a cruel bitch, Caroline taught me, recalling the stories of her mom during those days.  But we live in the moment we're cast. 

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On the train from Budapest to Krakow, July 19, 2017

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This was in a rest stop run by a man with lung disease some eight k out of Saint-Come d’Oit. The generosity is everywhere along the trail. — withCaroline Shepard.
So we returned to NYC to sweet summer, wrote, and fell in love with the NYC beaches again. 

I have loved being here all these years, even as I find my way out San Francisco and New Orleans whenever I can as i did this fall, r
esisting the tides of history, ebbing and flowing through them anew. 

There are moments to resist outrageous fortune.  Our system held the bastards back. But it also let 

them win.  Remember, this system let the candidate with less votes take the presidency for the second time in two decades. Its time we push back against the electoral college and take back our democracy. 

2017 was one of those years.  We'll see even more of it in 2018.  

The Reich Report notes:

While we resist Donald Trump, we also need to make sure our democracy doesn't ever again elect a candidate who loses the popular vote. We must abolish the electoral college. Already 10 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws to reform the system, but we need more to join.

Its called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. 

Lets support it in 2017!

We rode the Ferris wheel the first day of 2017.  I look forward to doing it again. As the cycle of the seasons passed.  Over the holidays, we meandered from New York to State College PA to visit my favorite Uncle Bruce, back to Princeton, back to Garrison, to Woodstock, where we hiked and got lost, and met a hedgehog, skiing in subzero temperatures, playing music, talking for hours, before making it back out into NYC for a jazz show at the Blue Note, back to Garrison to continue the history of music conversation we've had all year long.  The music was lovely.  Today we're back in Brooklyn for the last day of the year.  Its glorious to be here.  Thanks for being home for all of us Brooklyn!

The last day of the year I walked out into the cold lovely city and grabbed a train for Judson Memorial Church.  Micah had us throw out memories and resolutions, shredding them, and inviting us to sing about "Simple Gifts."  

I prayed for less bickering and more listening and working together in the year to come. 

Bob Thomason had turned 90.  He told me about his years of coming to Judson and an abiding principle as a man of faith.  

"I wanted to figure out how to think," he told me.  "At Yale Divinity School I took classes with Reinhold Niebuhr's brother.  I'll give you a quote.   'The vantage point from which man judges his insignificance is a rather significant vantage point. This fact has not been lost on the moderns whose modesty before the cosmic immensity was modified considerably by pride in their discovery of this immensity.'  Reading that I  answered the question, could a person have faith and  intelligence.  The answer is yes."

I concur Bob.  As I left Judson he was doing push ups. 

Leaving Judson, I walked Dorris to her house to help clean up her Christmas tree.  She's lived in Waverly Place since 1958.

I told her my daughter was starting a club for activists.  Did she have any advice?

"Pick an issue which you are upset about," she replied, referring back to her days beating back Robert Moses.  She should know it.  

There are a lot of good people out there.  

Its a pleasure to know a few of them.  

They are all a part of my city of friends. 

Here are some of those shots from the last few days of the year, out into the world and back to beloved Brooklyn again. 


Solidarity was expanding everywhere.  Pick an issue and organize around it advised Doris.