Building up to the release of my book Defund Fear on February 2, this is the first of a series of 6 posts in which I outline recommendations—in fact, demands—for how the new administration can prioritize the safety and security of people in America.
2021: a new year, a new President, a fresh start, a new mandate.
When Joe Biden is sworn in as President, it will not be true to say that the guardrails of democracy held. It would be truer to say that the underlying fissures in our frail democracy were widely exposed. Our democratic process has been designed to protect the rights of the few, from the electoral college to the composition of the senate and ongoing gerrymandering across so many states. Only the historic efforts of Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other communities of color secured victory for President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. We had their back. Starting January 22, we insist that they’ve got ours.
Since our nation’s founding, public safety has entailed the scapegoating and dehumanization of people identified as threats—mostly black, brown, Native, and poor folks. That’s fear-based profiling. The Architects of Anxiety establish an Us and Them, then systematically undermine the Them, promising this will achieve well-being and safety for the Us. Their four-part Framework of Fear relies on deprivation, suspicion, punishment, and isolation. It doesn’t keep us safe. In my forthcoming book Defund Fear I present a vision for care-based safety, which focuses on accountability for harms done, healing, and investments in communities. A Culture of Care replaces deprivation with resources, suspicion with relationships, punishment with accountability, & isolation with participation. In this series, I take on each of these four shifts in turn, spelling out what government needs to do to make them happen.
The threats we face today are undeniably the result of choices made over decades by politicians from both sides of the aisle and the interests who fund them. Their choices maintained the “Framework of Fear” while obscuring the real harms being done by greedy corporations, by institutions and a culture of white supremacy and patriarchy, by a climate thrown out of whack by unaccountable resource use. Their choices resulted in a massive shift away from a social safety net and toward a punishment dragnet, resulting in entire families and communities being caught in cycles of poverty, violence and incarceration.
On January 21, 2021, we will still be the nation with four percent of the world’s population and 25% of its prisoners. A nation that produces 25% of the world’s carbon emissions. A nation that has treated people and the planet as disposable. It should not shock us that this nation has 25% of the world’s covid-19 deaths. All of that cannot be laid at the feet of any one man, no matter how dastardly. It is our collective responsibility. We have failed to create a country that keeps us safe.
Everything we need is available and at hand: the ideas, the (reallocated) funds, the energy in our communities. We just need Washington to step up.
Defund Fear is a call to actively create the conditions that make safety and security possible.
Defund Fear is available for pre-order now, and will be out in bookstores starting February 2, 2021. Twelve days after the Inauguration. Pre-orders really help the book succeed and are greatly appreciated.