This morning as I was preparing for another long day of staring into an endless void of Sacramento’s housing waitlists willing them to winnow away into thin air, a local coffee shop patron asked me if I was going to the City Council meeting held later that evening, to which I of course answered yes. She asks me how I can have any faith in our council ever taking a stand for the oppressed when they are so mean and ignorant to the issues affecting our homeless community. I replied, almost defensively, that our city council member are not mean nor are they ignorant to the perils existing right outside these glass windows.
We’ve all heard of and likely wrestled with the problem of evil. How can we have a God who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent and still have evil exist in the world? I would never say that City Council, or any form of government for that matter, is akin to a deity. But in this particular case, the question fits. If council has the power to overturn cruel laws such as the anti-camping ordinance, they are good-hearted people, and they know of the evil it creates, how can this grave form of injustice still exist?
I belong to a school of though in which we, as a community, have a duty to believe the best in one another. So believing the best in each of my elected officials, while also accessing a logical understanding of the situation at hand, the answer is pretty simple. I believe, and this I told my fellow coffee shop patron, that our council has fallen victim to the ever enticing and even seductive void of indifference. Though we do not mean to, we train our minds to look away from human suffering, how else can we stand to see it? Poverty, oppression, homelessness sitting right outside of these white white walls are all such unwelcome interruptions to our every day lives. Indifference allows us to reduce the anguished to an abstraction. So we tell ourselves, we tell our children, and we tell our community that it is better to do nothing than to do anything at all.
Once a member of council gave me the advice of not being so angry, trying to play a little nicer. But I won’t apologize for disagreeing with indignity too loudly. I wont apologize for treating an unjust society with irreverence and distain. I am unapologetic in my anger. I am an angry, council member. You too, should be angry. We are facing a grave injustice in our own beloved city that cannot be solved by turning a blind eye and playing nice. Covering a gaping wound with a smiley face band-aid has never created change. But anger, my friends, has a long history of smothering injustice. While indifference has a long history of perpetuating suffering.
Eli Wiesel, a holocaust survivor said when asked about former President Rosevelt’s inaction said. “I don't understand. Roosevelt was a good man, with a heart. He understood those who needed help. Why did he let the suffering go on? What happened? Why the indifference, on the highest level, to the suffering of the victims?”
What a tragedy to have your legacy be the actions you never took, the cries you never answered, and the evil you ignored. Let that not be the legacy of Sacramento City leadership. Let us be remembered by the lives we honored rather than the lives we ignored.