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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The universality of fear ...

Came to terms with this just before becoming fully awake this morning. I'll no longer concern myself with re-locating. It was in that split second of clarity that I knew that the fear that I'm feeling has by now become my constant state of being. It attaches itself momentarily to the sound of sirens as the refineries set off their monthly test blasts promptly at eleven o'clock on the first Wednesday; it surfaces again when the traffic helicopters fly low overhead. It's now become my "normal." It has little to do with this beleaguered city. It may have more to do with Washington, D.C., and with the machinations of K Street, or, New York and the board rooms of Wall Street. I don't know. What I do know is that it has less to do with where I am than with what I'm feeling.

Those feelings were strong earlier this week as I watched CSPAN's coverage of the Rep. John Conyers forum on the Downing Memo -- with 32 Democrats squeezing in and out of that tiny room in a Washington basement -- looking impotent and defiant in the face of the most frightening display of power by the administration yet seen. For the first time I found myself able to understand the frailty of the Progressive side of the political equation. I felt it again the next day when Durbin apologized for his remarks instead of holding to his truths under the barrage of Republican criticism. My fears have more to do with lack of empowerment than of finding myself in the crossfire of a gang-related gun fight. Such a fear is far less likely to be realized.

Last night the Richmond city council chamber was crowded with 600 community people in a room meant to hold 200, maybe, in response to the news that they might be proclaiming a State of Emergency in light of the string of violent deaths experienced over the past two weeks. To my surprise and pleasure -- the vote was to not do so, but to look for other ways to respond to what has become a truly frightening climate of terror for many families.

What we have forgotten is the fact that this was surely predictable in light of the budget cuts that removed all services to young people in this town, leaving them with few supervised activities and little hope except for escape into military service and the killing fields of the Middle East. Controlling gun possession has proven to be impossible given the persistent idiocy of the NRA. With the proliferation of illegal drugs rampant and most funds for programs now buried in police budgets instead of recreation departments, what did we expect? We left young black youth with no alternatives other than the armed services or prison. We'd forgotten how dangerous it is to leave the young with high energy and intiative but no hope for a viable future. Left to their own devices, they've created a world of their own; one that mimicked ours, but with fewer safeguards or sense of morality; since ours have become invisible of late -- with the signposts buried behind caveats and false diplomacy; lies, murder, and mayhem without cause. What on earth did we expect?

The fears that have taken up permanent space in my psyche attached to the local body count, but even when I woke this morning with a sense that we'd reached the other side in the Richmond crisis -- the disembodied fear was and is still present.

Find myself wondering if we're all not feeling it -- as if we've hit some tipping point with triggers now touching off panic at the slightest provocation? It has to do with the sense that the nation (the world?) is out of control and that we're all players in the coming self-inflicted nuclear destruction -- be it worldwide catastrophes from global warming, weapons of mass destruction, avian flu, or, being slain on the streets of Richmond. Maybe we'll simply die of over- consumption of breaking news headlines! Dead is dead.

Maybe all I need by way of coping mechanisms is to not give the media access to my panic buttons. No easy task, but my sanity may be dependent upon doing just that.

There is no safe place on the planet to run to. Moving back to Berkeley will accomplish nothing. I'm precisely where I need to be -- and where I want to be at this point in my life. There's work to be done -- more things are possible here -- ways to make a difference in my own life and in the lives of those around me.

I'll drive in to look over the bulletin boards around town to see if there's some place where I can volunteer to work with kids in some way that's meaningful. I know that it's not children that I'm fearful of. Maybe they're fearful, too. It might be important to learn if that's true... .

Nowhere to hide ... .

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