Be The Politics You Want To See in The World
I don’t think anybody’s more or less political than anybody else. To suggest otherwise is, it seems to me, a rhetorical trick for keeping people catastrophically unaware of their own moral power. And yet, there is such a thing as becoming politicized. Becoming politicized means realizing that, while you weren’t thinking about “politics,” politics was thinking about you. I think a lot of people who look like me have experienced this realization anew (or perhaps for the first time) over the last few days & years.
Anyway, that’s Justin Jones in the photo. I’ve been following him around & studying & learning from him for awhile now. He’s what Maya Angelou refers to as a practicing Christian. He’s also an artisan of moral seriousness, an author, & a candidate for the Tennessee state legislature. I’ve watched him respond compassionately to false accusers in courtrooms, extend breathtaking courtesy to anxious state troopers, & successfully urge state senators to back down from passing legislation that would permit killing protesters with cars.
Requesting an audience with Governor Bill Lee to discuss policy violence & then waiting outside the Tennessee State Capitol for two months in persistent hope of a meeting led to the targeting of his person & numerous trumped up criminal charges. After wasting money & resources trying to crush Justin’s spirit & the resolve of The People’s Plaza, Bill Lee criminalized overnight peaceful assemblies on state property, debasing himself & disgracing our beautiful state.
Justin, meanwhile, keeps right on walking, talking, loving, getting into #GoodTrouble. He also wrote about his experiences with Vanderbilt University Press: The People’s Plaza: Sixty-Two Days Of Nonviolent Resistance. Local Nashville author Ann Patchett says Justin’s “a true leader…the most noble of humans” & that “We are lucky to have him among us.” This is obvious to any unarmed person who listens to him.
Councilwoman Zulfat Suara, the first Muslim to be elected to the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, the first Muslim woman elected in the State of Tennessee and the first Nigerian woman elected to any office in the United States, believes Justin is "continuing the legacy of the Civil Rights heroes of our past."
Congressman John Lewis referred to the Civil Rights movement as "the nonviolent movement of America." By putting it that way, he invited us to see that it's continuing. Shall we see it that way? I think we should see it that way. Doing so is one way of conceiving ourselves as actors, rather than victims, of history. Let's see it that way. Let’s access our own moral power as often as possible.
As Margaret Atwood tells us, “A word after a word after a word is power.” I learned this by watching Justin and others involved in the direct action of the People’s Plaza: The prophetic task is to publicly dramatize the moral unseriousness that’s otherwise normalized, excused, masked, & (therefore) funded. We become what we fund.
So…read up on the People’s Plaza. Research Justin, amplify his witness, & consider becoming a part of his campaign as well as the larger one, here and there and already underway and among us, of Beloved Community. Everyone’s invited to it. Be the politics you want to see in the world.