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QUESTIONS & LIES

CITY COUNSELOR


Part of the 2018 Cedar Commissions at the Cedar Cultural Center with support from the Jerome Foundation. The views in this booklet are those of the author, unless otherwise noted. Agree or disagree, wanna talk about it? Email me at City.Counselor@gmail.com.


MULL IT OVER

A cancer, thought to be in remission, rebounds. We witness the rebirth of a culture that has defined our periods of national shame. It’s not Trump alone, but Trumpism, the worst aspects of American bravado and rugged masculine individualism. “Grab her by the pussy”—openly admit the crimes you commit as a show of dominance. “Blood coming out of her wherever”—degrade your opponents, especially through their identity. “Very fine people on both sides”— scapegoat minorities to embolden your base. It’s easy to get lost in all of the unconscionable things Trump and his cronies have said with no accountability. Step on a single nail and it’ll go through your foot; step on a bed of nails and you’ll be three inches taller. If a few do knick you, play it off as a crucifixion and you’ll be fine. Trump’s disdain for women, people of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ people shares a common thread: the belief that the white American man should be the center of the world. It’s a pervasive ideology that has defined America since some white guy named a continent full of indigenous people after some other white guy. It’s the culture of Fox News, the NRA, and the megachurch—preach “family values” while tearing apart another’s family. White Jesus with a gun!


No matter what he has said, done, or signed, some 30% of our country is unwavering in their support for Trump. That so much of the country shares this delusion is no accident— it is the fruit of decades of reactionary organizing. Fox News: “Most Watched, Most Trusted.” InfoWars and Breitbart, formerly the scary fringe, are treated as mainstream. The ruling party stays in power through voter suppression, yet has no interest in running the government. This is the highway that took Trump straight to the White House. They hoped to solidify a mainstream conservative majority; instead, they created a system that rewards the most radicalized anti-government Republicans and drives moderates off the gerrymandered map. They thought they could harness the fool, but the fool harnessed them. We find ourselves with districts algorithmically programmed to entrench single-party rule, an electoral college weighted heavily in favor of conservative areas, and a court system run by conservative appointees. We have almost no recourse, and the recourse we do have is so, so, so painfully slow. But it is still moving forward. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments for cases about partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin and Maryland, with a decision expected in the coming months. They’ve already struck down some of the most egregious voter suppression laws. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, our one glowing hope of slow, radiant justice delivers indictments like the wished-for gifts they are. When I feel like I’m losing my mind between anger and inability, these bright spots on the horizon are like guiding


You never hide your tracks You make it almost easy to believe That you won’t get away Oooh, get away You never quite became the master of What you’re selling, yet you’ll Get away with it Get away You claim to know it all You claim to have done it all You brag about your impending downfall You say you’ll power through You say you will be vindicated You’ll get away with it Get away


Great Great Great Great

is is is is

not not not not

good good good good

Mull it over, mull it over, mull it over You never hold your tongue You say whatever’s Running through your mind And you won’t let it go Ever let it go You never feel you get the credit That you are due, but you Deny it when you do Great it not good Great is not good Great is not good Great is not good


lights. God, I hope that Mueller fells this house of cards. Mueller. Mull. Mull it over, singing to remind myself of the ongoing legal process. Painfully slow is better than painfully still. â—?


WOUNDS with Mitra Jalali Nelson

In the last few weeks, Americans have heard more about immigration than most have in years. It’s ironic to see the government shut its doors over the issue, considering Congressional inaction on the subject since Senators Durbin and Hatch first introduced the DREAM Act in the summer of 2001—not to mention the failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2010. What’s happening now in Congress and in the White House seems unusually cruel, yet it is a continuation of hundreds of years of shameful racial policy inseparable from American history. And that should deepen our resolve to repair the lives ruined by one of the most broken, inhumane parts of our government. In that absence of legislative solutions for undocumented children, the global refugee crisis, and legal immigration backlogs stretching into the 1990s, the president has assumed a level of authority that should concern anyone opposed to single-person rule. Trump’s appointees determine how immigration applications are processed, how our borders are monitored, and how our broken laws are enforced. In addition to what amounts to a modern round-up apparatus, Donald Trump’s America First administration has carried


out a silent administrative war to limit legal immigration.They have succeeded with devastating effect. He began by issuing executive orders that all but eliminated immigration and tourism from several Muslim majority countries—issuing repeated iterations of his Muslim Ban until opposition lost focus. He ended legal status for over a million people: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that allowed people who were brought here as children without documentation to stay and work in the US legally. Temporary Protected Status, which allows people from countries experiencing a catastrophe to stay and work in the US. Most of these individuals have called the US home for a decade or more. He eliminated hundreds of staff who run our immigration system, including at embassies and in our domestic immigration agencies, causing a backlog that has more than doubled the wait times for most applications. He appointed anti-immigration advocates to key leadership positions in US Citizenship and Immigration Services, including even the position tasked with investigating civil rights abuses by immigration officials. Throughout these policy and personnel changes, his appointees provided little to no guidance on how to implement orders coming from the White House. Mere hours before the government shutdown, State Department officials had received no guidance about how a shutdown would impact their operation or what services would still be available to the public.


BETTER KNOW YOUR IGNORANCE: A QUIZ ON IMMIGRATION 1. How much does it cost to apply for permanent residence? ! ! !

a. $1,140 b. $85 c. $750

2. How long, on average, does it take for an immigration matter to be legally resolved in the Bloomington immigration court? ! ! !

a. 47 days b. 648 days c. 321 days

3. In order to arrive here this year, when would a US citizen have had to file a petition to bring their unmarried adult daughter from Mexico? ! ! !

a. May 1996 b. September 2015 c. February 2007

4. True or false: Deportations have risen under President Trump. 5. True or false: Immigrants, whether documented or undocumented, pay all taxes that US. citizens pay. ANSWERS: 1. a. 2. b. 3. a. 4. False. 5. True.


Broken arm Broken nose Broken trust Broken hope Broken arm Broken nose Broken hearts Broken home


A worm in an apple A snake in the grass A bump on the freeway But he won’t let it pass The records they keep They questions they ask She knew it could happen But she thought it would last You can’t ice the wound When ICE is the wound


He also installed new screening requirements—“extreme vetting” purportedly to keep us safe from terrorists. One of its casualties is Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, a Bush-era program instituted after shortages of military translators contributed to missed opportunities to thwart 9/11. It allows non-citizens living in the US to join the military and obtain citizenship after a few years. Trump has ordered thousands of dollars and many months of additional background checks for each enlistee to cause them to time out and be denied entry. Without status, they are then subject to deportation to countries who know they’ve attempted to join our military—punishing patriots with imprisonment or death. Our country demands everything of people who risk their lives to defend it—and then throws their lives away. Trump’s administration has beefed up arrests and detentions, codifying in memo that nearly every immigrant is a target. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has held thousands of undocumented people for over a year, without the government having any plan to deport them or release them—something that is currently the subject of a Supreme Court case on habeas corpus grounds. Observers will tell you that deportations under Trump have decreased, but this is only because our immigration legal system is bursting at the seams under the pressure of so many new, complex cases. ICE tears apart families to keep individuals in indefinite detention —devoted parents, employees, public servants, pregnant teens, community leaders. No matter how


much progressives and conservatives alike traffick in respectability narratives, everyone imprisoned by ICE deserves the American promise of due process. No one deserves the violence of the immigration enforcement complex. On a recent failed attempt to deport 92 people to Somalia, ICE left the detainees shackled in a plane on a Senegal tarmac for over 24 hours without adequate food and without use of a bathroom. Eventually, the plane returned to the US and all detainees are still in ICE custody. Many of them reported being beaten by ICE officers while in shackles, and a judge in Florida indefinitely stayed their deportation while these human rights abuses could be investigated. They are still in custody, with the very people who abused them, while they wait for the bumbling, capricious legal system to lurch forward...or sideways or backwards. Friends and family noted that the detainees had received numerous threats against their life, leading ICE to cancel their attempt for their own safety. ICE claims they couldn’t carry out the deportation due to fuel and staff shortages. However, once in Senegal, they chose to fly all the way back to the US (4,366 miles) instead of to Djibouti as planned (3,830 miles). I usually don’t promote unsubstantiated claims, but something doesn’t add up in ICE’s official narrative. ICE’s operations aren’t cheap either—billions annually, with human costs still more untold. ICE flies detainees across the country from one holding facility to another for no clear reason, but with the impact of destroying their ability to


A plane on a runway A game we can’t win A threat from the outside Or the terror within? The borders we keep The borders we cross The borders within us The reason we’re lost


BETTER KNOW A POLITICIAN: SHERIFF RICH STANEK Stanek has served as Hennepin County Sheriff since 2007. Before assuming that role, he served four terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives and two years as the Minnesota Commissioner of Public Safety. Stanek is elected independently of the Hennepin County Commission and is tasked with many standard law enforcement duties, as well as managing the county jail where all individuals arrested in Minneapolis and a number of surrounding suburbs are held. But that’s not Stanek’s real legacy. His tenure as Public Safety Commissioner ended in April 2004 when it came to light that he had screamed racial slurs while a police officer. In 2007, he used $30,000 of public funds to create a video claiming credit for rescue efforts surrounding the I-35W bridge collapse, earning criticism from the Minneapolis Mayor and Police Department. In 2010, he was sued for unjustly arresting political dissidents. In 2016, he sent deputies and equipment to Standing Rock, aiding the armed opposition to protestors. Stanek has managed to win re-election in the heavily democratic Hennepin County three separate times. He is on the ballot again this fall.


mount an effective legal defense. Here in the Twin Cities, ICE hopes to pay county or private jails for space to house 600 additional detainees—directly linking ICE to the tradition of for-profit incarceration in our country. The average length of an immigration legal matter takes over 600 days to be resolved in our local immigration court. Most detainees spend that time in federal custody because directives from ICE leadership eliminated the use of prosecutorial discretion. Our very own Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek works hand-in-hand with ICE, turning over individuals who haven’t been found guilty of a crime but are swept into the deportation dragnet through minor interactions like a light rail ticket check, a broken tail light, or just being Black, Asian or Brown in law enforcement’s presence. Even though Minneapolis is a so-called Sanctuary City (meaning Minneapolis police officers do not ask anyone about their immigration status nor do they honor ICE’s requests to turn over people in their custody), our city ordinances on the subject are moot because we contract all jail services to Sheriff Stanek. Once our city police turn someone over to the sheriff, they are immediately asked about their country of origin, and are then put on the phone with ICE without explanation that it speaking with them isn’t required. Stanek is not required to do this, and in fact, most police and sheriff departments choose not to aid ICE so because it renders them liable for errors ICE makes, like mistaken identity, unjust detention, and more. Stanek gets around the legal liability by not directly turning individuals over to ICE, but


rather notifying ICE exactly when they plan to release someone. ICE then swoops in and arrests the person right outside our county jailhouse. As Sheriff, Stanek is not subject to oversight in the same way that we supervise the Minneapolis Police Chief (appointed by the mayor) or the Minnesota Commissioner of Public Safety (appointed by the governor). He is elected independently of the Hennepin County Commission, who have essentially no power over the his activities. Unable to force him to stop, county leaders have instead approved $250,000 for the legal defense of immigrants in Stanek’s custody, as well as $25,000 to ensure all immigrants are notified that they don’t need to answer his unjustified questions about their country of origin. And lest this fade from the public memory—let’s remember that previous administrations from both parties have made life hell for undocumented people. Let’s remember that we all live on stolen land. Let’s remember that colonizers subjected indigenous and Black people to lethal violence as the cost of our nationhood. Let’s remember whose descendants now dare to breathe a word about family, country, or God. Let’s declare that borders are violence, and stand in the tradition of disobedience to immoral and broken laws. ●


COMMANDER TANTRUM

“Be logical,” he said, lingering on the second word like a Vulcan asserting his religion. “He—she—was raised as a boy, which means that his—her—personality was treated like a male’s no matter how he—she—feels.” He fumbled with a few additional talking points straight from the religious right’s playbook. He’s a good person, I kept reminding myself. He just needs to learn some of the basics. Then he said it: It’s now easier to be trans or queer than to be straight and cis. Like most opposition to equality, his was based on the feeling that freedom for others would only come at the expense of his own. Don’t get me wrong—my life is a lot easier than a lot of straight cis people’s lives. I have a meaningful job, a beautiful home, a solid artistic practice, and a group of family and friends who are so supportive that I can barely believe they’re real. But none of that is because I’m queer.  Some people are quick to point out what being queer provides, but never seem to see what it costs. I imagine him sitting at the bus stop like I did last week, overhearing a cruel conversation about a woman discovering her lover’s indiscretions. I flip the script in my mind to


You want me to Listen to you, then please Say something new Don’t misconstrue Logical blight Your hate ignited, what Sources I cite Would calm your needless fight? You want me To explicate, it’s Not complicated You can’t see You’ve been debunked Because you haven’t Sought the answers On your own


You say there’s too few to Impose a big change on you You’re scared for what you Think it means for you Omneity perceived Safety is razed By your demanding yet Unrecognizing gaze You feel need To quality when She is a woman Don’t ask me To justify your Misogyny She is a woman.


imagine his persecution: “She cheated on me. With. A. Cis. Man. I can’t get over how foul and disgusting that is.” A bystander chips in: “Did she take it missionary or doggy style?” Another quips, “It doesn’t matter, a filthy hetero is a filthy hetero. All that shit is disgusting.” We don’t have a single slur for cisgender or heterosexual people, so I’m struggling to get the feeling right. How is he going to know that this stranger means hetero in a bad way? What’s the opposite of fag, fairy, the rest that I don’t want to print? My friend waits for them to notice him, notice he’s straight. Will he be another name on this year’s record-breaking list of anti-straight violence? And then I’m back in the conversation again, listening to him talk about raising his young daughter to transcend gendered expectations. “I don’t want her to feel like she ever has to be something just because she’s a woman.” I respond, “So what you’re saying is that the way a baby’s genitals look at birth shouldn’t determine how society treats them?” He fumbled again. I asked him what he’s read about the subject that have given him such strong feelings. He hadn’t read anything. I sighed. Yet again, straining to alleviate ignorance in the face of adamant bluster. His fears weren’t borne out of genuine concern, but rather his own comfort with the status quo. As long as he could maintain a veneer of feminism and progressivism, he needn’t actually practice those virtues. After all, who knows what women or queers need better than a logical man? ●


YEAH, SOMETIMES

The politically conscious individual has two demons on their shoulder: nihilistic pessimism and false absolution. The former is a manifestation of our worst fears about the work we do—It’s never going to have an impact, so why does it matter if I try? The latter is its corollary, a lie we tell ourselves that undercuts our obligation to the world—I didn’t cause this mess, so it’s not my responsibility to fix it. It’s hard to find solace in work that is so complex, frustrating, and gradual. And that makes it all the more important to try. Right? ●


Yeah, sometimes I think that Not much will ever change Yeah, sometimes I think It’s not really worth it Yeah, sometimes I think It’s all broke beyond repair Yeah, sometimes I know It’s a drop in the bucket


But what else can I do? What else can I do?


SLOW BURN

My phone buzzed with an alert that the high today would be in the upper 60s, unusual for the week of Thanksgiving. I was reading an article about the wildfires blazing in California and the Rockies, witnessing the Michael Bay imagery of flames ripping around an interstate streaming with cars. The sky in Minnesota was a hazy yellow from the smoke, a glow that underscored the lack of autumnal nostalgia I normally feel around the holidays. It’s still summer. Even after getting a degree in environmental studies, the scale of climate change evades me. I can’t grasp the immense system at play in both cause and effect. I fall back on the same simplified talking points—global warming makes weather more irregular and powerful; glaciers melting causes sea level rise; the climate simply changes. The cause feels easier to name—carbon dioxide comes from burning fossil fuels. Compressed dinosaurs and tropical forests, a gift from our 4.5-billion-year-old planet to subsidize the development of modern civilization. To subsidize my laziness and comfort. But that comfort is usually short-lived, as we are in no shortage of reminders of planetary destabilization. Droughts


domestically and internationally are upending food systems that feed millions of people. Entire cities are disappearing into the ocean—sea level rise, erosion from human development, and intensified tropical storms. The Great Barrier Reef has all but died while polar bears starve on shockingly green hills. It makes me think of their newlytemperate home when my own can’t seem to remember how to make it winter until the Polar Vortex deforms into my backyard. And just as quickly, my faith that we have any chance to fix this evaporates like seawater into Maria. Yes, we are replacing coal-fired power plants at unprecedented rates. Yes, solar and wind are some of the cheapest forms of electricity. But I open my door to see a street lined with cars, which cause a quarter of carbon emissions. I bite into an apple and remember that the food I eat causes another quarter of those emissions. (Oh, plus the methane it creates when decomposing in a landfill if I don’t throw it in a compost bin.) (Which reminds me, did I mention how all that CO2 is making plants significantly less healthy, too?) I exhale and remember that I’m a standalone CO2 factory, too, converting our atmospheric oxygen into global warming with every breath. I can almost start to accept climate disaster as humanity’s inevitability: we were born to emit carbon. We would always get to this point, and perhaps we would also fail to get past it. We struggle to recognize how our past has limited our future. We are Walter Benjamin’s Angel of History:


It's still summer in November And it’s burning in my brain Whether you believe it Doesn’t supercede that it’s changing It's still summer, I'm still asking: When will we learn? Will we learn? Will we change? Will we grow? Will we do? Like the angel looking backward (What falls to feet in shards) Weighed by follies never solved (Not by suture or by salve) Sedimentation, immobilization (Turning truth to tar) It's an obligation, see the correlation (You can't hide the science)


You You You You

can't can't can't can't

You You You You You You You You

hide hide hide hide

the the the the

science science science science

(internally: can't hide the science can't hide the science can't hide the science can't hide the science can't hide the science can't hide the science can't hide the science can't hide the science )

Slow burn

Quick flame

Concern

Restraint


His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call Angelus Novus (New Angel), a progress. 1920 monoprint by Paul Klee. Sometimes, in those brief shining moments of optimism, the immensity seems less great than the imperative to overcome it. A majority of humans believe in the necessity to end our addiction to carbon. Even fossil fuel companies have incorporated climate change into their long-term planning We have the science on our side—when are we going to act in scale? ●


WING BEATS WIND

When Congress passed their tax reform bill in December, Americans were still in the dark: the most significant tax reform in decades, moving over $1.5 trillion dollars from middle and low income Americans to corporations and the excessively wealthy, passed in the dead of night with no public input. Most Members of Congress had no idea what was in the bill until the media began exhumation in the days following its passage. It doesn’t matter much now -- we’re stuck with these changes for the foreseeable future. Map and mark your gold. Give ‘em what you’re told. That politicians would pass the most unpopular piece of legislation in recent memory without the usual spate of hearings, amendments, and debates is unsurprising: it’s harder to recognize ugliness in the dark. That they would pass such a drastic restructuring of wealth is also unsurprising: politicians will deliver what their donors demand. What I cannot understand is why the already-excessivelywealthy push so hard to stack the already-stacked-decks in their favor even more. How shriveled is your morality to demand an extra million bucks when millions of children


Is it nature Or are we deciding To let the dragon have it And we won’t bother fighting? Map and mark your gold Give ‘em what you’re told Listen to the wing beat wind tonight Is it nature Or are we apprising A method to this mindset That is bent on depriving? Does he hold you dear? Is it so sincere? Is this what you wanted from the wing tonight?


Is it nurture Or have we revised it? A moral combination written to justify it Tap into reserves Give what he deserves Focus on the droppings From the wing tonight (No we’re never giving up the fight) You can’t take it all (Never ever giving up the fight)


don’t have health insurance, let alone food? How unconscionable your business model to demand a bonus for executives while paying employees a starvation wage? Like a dragon terrorizing a village, the wealthy bleed our society like livestock. It’s only a matter of time before the village starts fighting back. �


Mean wings Beat a harsh wind Tonight In the middle of the night We’ve got a curse That we fumble through violence We do it to each other while the Dragon is flying He’s the one that reigns He’s the one that drains Yet we’re the ones who listen For the wing tonight


WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR

There are a lot of people who would never say Make America Great Again, yet buy into the same mythology that underlies that slogan: Those who were opposed to renaming a lake to its indigenous origin, Bde Maka Ska. Those who refuse to send their kids to school in the city because, “The schools just aren't good anymore.� Those who say they support LGBTQ people, but agree with religious radicals who want to legalize the right to discriminate against us. Those who think it would be fun to take a trip back to the 60s, the 50s, the 20s and revel in a past that was simpler, cooler, easier. Easier for whom? Great according to whom? These mythologies allow people to see their life in terms of efforts and earnings instead of privileges and circumstances. It allows people to see our national history as a triumph of humanity, rather than centuries of violent systematic racism, gendered oppression and disenfranchisement. It allows the constant cover-up that has become the standard high school history book: workers instead of slaves, heritage instead of hate. To anyone who was granted civil or human rights in recent decades, the meaning of Make America Great Again is clear. Your days are numbered.


We used to hope that the internet would usher in a golden age of knowledge and civic involvement. Instead, we have a terrifying mix of 1984-style surveillance and omnipresence coupled with Brave New World-style information overload that renders everything meaningless. What good is the news when it only tells you what you want to hear? â—?


There’s no “again” If it never was to begin THERE’S NO “AGAIN” IF IT NEVER WAS TO BEGIN Milk your fantasy Until it gives you What you want to feel What you tell yourself Isn’t mine to say What you think of me Doesn’t matter, anyway What you tell to others -— Does it stir? What you say is fact Sounds more like...


What What What What What What What What What What What What

you you you you you you you you you you you you

want want want want want want want want want want want want

to to to to to to to to to to to to

hear hear hear hear hear hear hear hear hear hear hear hear


FUCKING GUNS

The morning after a gunman killed 58 people and wounded 489 others in Las Vegas, I sat at my piano attempting to find something insightful to say. The media cycle had began its waves of victim identification and crime scene investigation, the Hot Takes of Who Did It & Why. The flurry of Thoughts and Prayers arrived, along with their corollary not to “politicize tragedy.” The thing about tragedy is that it stops being tragedy when you continue to let it happen. Every other major cause of death in the United States is the subject of massive public investment, research, and intervention. You know how traffic deaths continue to increase every year? No, you don’t—because the government requires automotive safety measures that make cars safer year after year, even with more and more drivers on the road. You know how millions of people die from food poisoning every year? You don’t because we established a federal office that promulgates food safety standards and sends out national health alerts if an outbreak is discovered. We have similar stories for countless communicable illnesses, occupational hazards, environmental threats, natural disasters, and more. We invest heavily in every major cause of death—except gun violence. For some reason (the


NRA), we won’t even allow the federal government to research ways to reduce gun violence that don’t restrict access to guns. But just because the federal government won’t research this epidemic doesn’t mean that others aren’t. A couple of weeks after this shooting, the New York Times published a wideranging study of mass shootings all over the globe. No matter where the shootings took place, or even the self-professed motivations of the gunman, only one data point correlated: gun ownership. It’s shockingly simple, almost too obvious to name. We have so many mass shootings because we have so many guns. Too many fucking guns. There are dozens of other ways we could reduce gun violence —universal background checks, restricted access for domestic abusers, mandatory training, and more. But maybe that won’t even do anything while we’re swimming in a gun for every human in the US. Do we really need that many guns? ● A graph showing the number of vehicle miles traveled (ascending line) and number of deaths per billion miles traveled (descending line) each year since 1921.


It's not an inevitability Instead: predictability Where was it this time? How many this time? (Too many, too much) I don't want your thoughts and prayers I don't want a good guy with a gun It's still a gun I don't want to need protection I don't want a good guy If there’s still a smoking gun I don't want to read the news today (No, no, no no) Though it will find me some other way (It always does) Wo was it this time? How young were they this time? (Too many, too much)


It's not an inevitability (Say it again) It's not an inevitability Say it again, say it again Say it again, say it again, say it: Too many, too much Too many, too much I don't want your thoughts and prayers I don't want a good guy with a gun It's still a smoking gun I don't want to need protection I don't want a good guy It's still a fucking gun!


BETTER KNOW AN ART: PHOENIX RISING Karen Sontag Sattel and James Brenner This sculpture sits between the Hennepin County Government Center and Minneapolis City Hall. According to the artist: “A 1992 gun collection program in Hennepin County brought in 6,109 guns in six days. The guns were melted down to create the sculpture, a literal interpretation of the mythical phoenix that rises from the ashes.� Most recently, the city of Minneapolis bought back more than 150 guns for over $25,000. The buyback was ended early when organizers ran out of money due to high demand.


All I want is fewer guns (DUH!) All I want is fewer guns (DUH!) No No No No No

more more more more more

guns guns guns guns guns


DON’T ASK

I can’t remember the last time I saw a Republican Congressman at an event open to the public that wasn’t a debate or fundraiser. I can’t remember the last time one pushed for more public involvement, for more public oversight, for more public input. Why, with complete control over the federal government and 26 states, are they so shy? Obviously they got something the public wants, so why do they hide? Like my parents told me: don’t ask a question if you already know the answer. An elected official who refuses to be accountable to his community is not inspired by moral devotion or upstanding character—he is inspired by power. An elected official who passes monumental legislation behind closed doors in the dark of night is not inspired by service—he is inspired by self-preservation. Would we accept such ambivalence from a lover? Why do we expect less from the people who have a material impact on our lives than from a player who won’t text us back? Why are we less demanding when the stakes are so much higher? He


should ask how we feel about what he’s doing. He should tell us what he’s done and be accountable if we disagree. He should be making an effort. ●


He doesn’t ask because he Doesn’t want to know more He doesn’t ask because he Doesn’t care about you He doesn’t ask because he Doesn’t think you could say no He became a fine invention But are you prepared For the work that Tools do? Excavation Demands Reclamation


Do you Do you Do you notice the effort? Do you Do you see him making it, too? Do you? Do you? Is he Is he Is he making an effort?


AMENDMENTS

We worship the constitution as though it is a deity—an infallible arrangement of principles unaffected by technological, moral, or philosophical evolution. We assume its eternal presence the same way we accept the constant motion of time: something to count on precisely because it is so unchanging. The constitution’s inertia must be why no one seems to know that we are on the verge of the first constitutional convention since our current document was written in 1787. So far, all 27 amendments have taken the same path—twothirds of both houses of Congress proposed it, and threequarters of the states ratified its addition to our constitution. That’s how we ended legal slavery, outlawed and re-legalized alcohol, began directly electing senators, and expanded access to voting (which, by the way, is still not a constitutional right). But Article V of the constitution spells out another method —two-thirds of the state legislatures can call for a constitutional convention, allowing for debate and revision everything in the document. This includes not only the 27 amendments, but the constitution itself.


Constitutional experts highlight that the only precedent for a constitutional convention is the original convention in 1787. You will recall that prior to that convention, what is now the US was governed by the Articles of Confederation. Convention delegates wrote an entirely new framework for government, including Article VII, which set the rules for ratification of the constitution itself. There is no reason that a contemporary convention wouldn’t be able to re-write Article VII and change the process for ratification that suits the level of control they currently have in state legislatures. The groups pushing for a constitutional convention have focused on a few specific issues—a balanced budget amendment (to prevent Congress from deficit spending), Congressional term limits, and unspecified restrictions of federal power. However, even the late Justice Antonin Scalia agreed that a calling a convention is like opening Pandora’s Box. There is no way to control what issues are up for debate, or that any piece of our constitution remain intact. Contentious issues like the right to an abortion and the legalization of same sex marriage would almost certainly be on the table. As of late 2017, roughly 28 states have called for a constitutional convention. Republicans control 32 state legislatures, and are only a handful of legislative seats nationwide from controlling the 34 legislatures required to call the convention. Many right-leaning groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council are pushing it as a topline priority. Although Minnesota has not formally


Two states To change They rule We complain Blank slate No shame They plan We stumble


Power Collectors and Takers Endangered Decision-Makers Neighbor’s going hungry and You wanna cut her ends? BUG OUT Sounds like a heavy lift Watch how the power shifts When would-be leaders Go and give up and quit This old imperfect pact The National Contract Don’t let the wealthy decide The aspects to be left intact Gangstas in politics Out to get yours quick Plotting endless nights Stars, Stripes and Sideswipes


adopted a resolution calling for a convention, a dozen legislators introduced have introduced one and are lobbying for its passage. The constitution isn’t perfect. There are many rights we hold dear which are not guaranteed within it—the right to vote, the right to privacy, and so much more. But that should not encourage wishful, delusional thinking about the existential threat a constitutional convention poses. Throughout our history, the mere threat of a convention was enough to spur Congress to act. That is not something we can count on anymore. This is not a fight we can risk losing, because the rules of the fight itself is on the table. ●


AGENCY

As hopeless as the current situation seems, we must remember how we got here in the first place: elections and legislation. These are the tools that will allow us to reassert our vision for the communities we want to have. Here are a few ways you can make your voice heard—follow the link at the end of the article for a full digital collection of resources about the issues discussed in this zine, and the ideas discussed below. If you have questions that are unanswered here, email City.Counselor@gmail.com. Vote. In November, Minnesotans will vote for the 10 federal officials who represent us in Congress. Both US Senators, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, are on the ballot. Smith is running for the remaining two years of Al Franken’s former seat, while Klobuchar is running for a full six-year term. All eight US Representatives are on the ballot. Minnesotans will be electing four state offices—Governor, Attorney General (the state’s top lawyer), Secretary of State (who administers elections and keeps records), and State Auditor (who keeps the government’s operations in line). All 134 state representatives are on the ballot, as well. Currently, all statewide offices are held by Democrats, while the state Legislature is controlled by Republicans.


Residents of the Twin Cities will vote for county officials— the least-known government that has the largest impact on our lives. County Commissioner, Sheriff, and County Attorney control the ground-level implementation of federal policies like immigration, public benefits, and family services. Dozens of cities around the state will also be electing mayors, council members, school board members, and more. Casting a ballot can feel inconsequential, or worse—like you’re betraying your values. There is an obvious remedy for that: help better people get on the ballot. Get involved in choosing who gets on the ballot in the first place. Earlier this week, Minnesotans started the process for endorsing candidates for all of these offices at their precinct caucuses. Neighbors gathered to elect delegates to the first round of party conventions in March. At those conventions, delegates will endorse candidates for state legislative races and elect delegates to the state and congressional district conventions in April and May. Those delegates will endorse candidates for the US House. Finally, at the state convention in June, delegates will endorse candidates for US Senator, Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, and Auditor. Party politics can feel futile and frustrating. But not getting involved only cedes more control to people who don’t share our values. Refusing to participate is not a protest—it’s a handout to your opponents. Be mad. Get involved.


Get involved in a campaign. If you didn’t caucus, now is a great time to volunteer on a campaign by calling your precinct delegates. Knock on doors and make phone calls. Donate money. (Minnesotans can get a full rebate on the first $50 they donate during a cycle, so you can support someone you believe in without having to fork over your own money.) Talk to your friends, neighbors, and family about voting. Get involved in the process. We have public meeting laws for a reason—so that everyday people can give their input on policy that impacts them. Call your elected officials, attend hearings at city hall and the capitol, and suggest improvements to the bills they’re promoting. Attend their forums and events, and ask questions. Make your voice heard by writing letters to the editor and using the platforms you have to speak up. Build community. Invest in your immediate surroundings by attending your neighborhood organization’s meetings. Build relationships with your neighbors so you can manage conflicts without police intervention. Buy from local businesses as much as you can. Volunteer at nonprofits—as little as one hour every other week can be more helpful than you know. (The online companion to this booklet has a few ideas to get you started.) ●

www.citycounselor.org/agency


Meet !

Band


Catherine Charles (harp) is a punky pretty boy chanteuse who believes in the power of pop! She provides workshops on gender diversity to theatres, churches, and other local organizations. Her debut album, whats a boy like you doin in a place like this, will be released in March 2018. Tyler Croat (alto saxophone) is a musician from St. Cloud. He’s previously appeared on stage with City Counselor at the Seventh Street Entry and also plays in dreamfunk septet Treading North.

Carlisle Evans Peck (vocals) is a singer-songwriter, composer, and pianist based in Minneapolis. When not performing around the Twin Cities, he can be found searching for wildflowers, or teaching kiddos at City of Lakes Waldorf School.


Amy Hager (vocals) is a musician, gardener, teacher, and nanny. She plays keys and trumpet in indiepop bands Fort Wilson Riot and Pornonono.

Jared Hemming (drums) plays in the punky bands like the Florists and Dairyland. He works as a special education assistant for St. Paul Public Schools. He holds in his pain.Â

Hilary James (cello) is a professional cellist and educator. She’s a founder of experimental altclassical group INSIDE VOICE, feminist surf punk band Fiji-13, depression synth pop band Bathtub Cig, and also plays in the indie rock band We Are The Willows.


Antoine Martinneau (bass guitar) is the Executive Director of the Central Neighborhood organization, pushing for housing access and equitable development. He also plays in the afrofuturist trio Moors Blackmon.

Jacob Mullis (vocals) is a musician, landscaper, and philosophy student. He plays keys and guitar and sings in indie-pop bands Fort Wilson Riot, Pornonono, and Solid Gold.

Mariel Oliveira (bassoon) plays with the Minnesota Freedom Band, a local GLBT organization. They also play in local DIY bands The Controversial New ‘Skinny Pill’ and IE. Their hobbies include repairing band instruments and composing pop songs.


Nikki Pfeiffer (vocals) is Devata Daun. She is an electronic music composer, dj, and co-owner of Pytch Records with Ryan Olcott, offering tape and pitch-deviant productions. You can also find Pfeifer performing under the alias Tekk Nikk, making technofunk doing live PA with hardware. Bobby Sanchez (trumpet) has been playing the trumpet since the sixth grade and has a degree in art education. He currently resides in St Louis Park and runs an online eBay store. Sarah Sanchez (tenor saxophone) is a Chicago native living in Minnesota. She currently plays with the Silver Lake Symphonic Winds, a community band out of Columbia Heights. She is involved in local grassroots advocacy professionally and in her free time.Â


Katharine Seggerman (vocals) moved to Minnesota four years ago and has since lent her vocals and drums to indie bands Lunch Duchess, BOYF, and Elle PF. She usually wears a headset microphone for ease of movement, and she is sorry not to have one tonight. Nicky Steves (City Counselor) is a musician, composer, and organizer. They grew up in a large and close family in North Dakota before attending Yale University for Environmental Studies. Since moving to Minneapolis 4.5 years ago, they have been working for an elected official on immigration issues, environmental justice, LGBTQ equity, and the arts. Outside of their professional role, they organize for progressive action through educational events on voting, caucusing, and issue-based advocacy. They are inspired by musicians like Joanna Newsom, Jenny Lewis, Solange, and Anohni, and aim to make music about the emotional impact of bad policy. They released their self-recorded debut EP, Public Record, in January 2017, available wherever you get music.

Questions & Lies  

Questions & Lies is about the emotional toll of the politics of grievance and fear: immigration, climate change, transphobia, wealth hoardin...

Questions & Lies  

Questions & Lies is about the emotional toll of the politics of grievance and fear: immigration, climate change, transphobia, wealth hoardin...

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