Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I'm beginning to wonder what in the world the political establishment in this city could possibly be thinking of when it won't concentrate any attention to the question of who will be representing the District of Columbia at the DC National Convention.  Who will be the face, the heart and most importantly the voice of the citizens of DC - we who face second-class citizenship that is in today's world the moral equivalent of 3/5th a citizen.  Why isn't all of our luxuriant media going over candidates with a fine-tooth comb, culling out the duds and holding the earnest, capable ones up for public review and some words of encouragement?  Does it make any difference?  Heck yes, it makes more difference for us than it does for any other voting jurisdiction in the good old USA!

We need to be represented not by folk who come to the convention to partee, partee, partee, but by people who will have spent months researching every single legal thing they could possibly come up with to gain the attention of every single delegate to that convention of to the essential unjustness of a two-tier level of citizenship. Was it unjust that my husband and thousands of other DC residents like him served loyally in Viet Nam despite not having any elected representative able vote in his and my name on the rightness or wrongness of that war?  Yes - it WAS unjust.  It WAS unfair.  Is it equally unjust to have my military-serving son-in-law, along with my daughter and baby grandchild posted in a place of danger (the capital of a country in the Middle East) when my congressional delegate has no means of voting on what the American response should be to events in that country or any other tinderbox in that region?  Unjust!  Unfair!

The unique patch of land known as the District, is home to over half a million people who are de facto  subjects, not citizens.  There is at least one state with fewer people in it, and most people don't question their residents' right to be represented. I  do. We all should.   The idea of a democracy is all or nothing  They've got it all, and we have close to nothing.

Why is this still happening?  Because it's convenient to have a whipping boy.  Because it's useful to be able to divert attention from the dreadful actions of their own pigheaded politicians by pointing out the sorry state of ours.  Every politician wants some place to point at, some place other than his/her own constituency to hold up as the epitome of everything wrong.  It's safe - heck, it's fun to throw curses at the District and its citizens. It happens every day.   We are not allowed to be seen as citizens because the shameful awfulness of some of our political class - the people who claim to speak for us  - is, in fact, no better and no worse then the bozos who represent our detractors, but they are bozos who have votes to cast, and we don't.  Their votes shield them;  we have no defense.

Residents of DC! (I will not call you citizens because I don't think you are) Come out and vote on Saturday. It's important to do this. Vote for people who aren't slick, for people who aren't being subsidized by folk you wouldn't want to meet in a DC alley at night. Come on out and vote for people who will work hard, who will support Obama not just in DC but in the surrounding states where the vote really counts, people who want all of us to be living in an urban area that takes good care of its residents and who will work to make that happen, people who are prepared to make that happen, in a place that sooner rather than later can be respected because it will have achieved the same rights as the capitals of almost every other major country in the world –– at least the ones that truly deserve to be called democracies. Unlike this one.  We Americans have a blind eye to our deficiencies - and lack of voting representation is a deficiency that has blinded our otherwise democratic country.  We can change that.  Elect people who will work to make that happen.  

Saturday, January 28, 2012

On Attending a Trial for Attempted Murder

I've been attending an attempted murder trial this week. Hmm, you say, she must have been a juror. Not. Wish it were that simple. For the last 35 or so years, I've been the godmother to a family that used to live on my block before it became fancied up. It started out simply because our kids played together. One day the youngest, who couldn't have been more than five, told me that his mother had died that day. Shocked, I ran over to see what I could do, and what that turned out to be – to arrange the funeral - turned into a lifelong commitment. I think I've been very blessed.

Without going into details, one of the children of the godchildren was marked by a gang for execution after a fistfight. He was shot three times in the head - and survived. Three other people, standing nearby in the wrong place at the wrong time, were also shot, if not as drastically. What strikes me most about the trial is the placidity even triviality in the enumeration of other crimes that these young men have committed. Of course, the criminal justice system deals with that sort of thing every day, and can't help but be a little tired, a little bored by it all. The officials do their work, but there is no - dare I say majesty? - in the recounting of how lives came close to being cut short.  

I am astounded by one thing - the vastness of the rewards that was offered by the witness protection program to a person whose criminal record was astonishing in its depth, breadth and general frighteningness.  It is understandable that a protection program might be offered in a case if really top-level criminals, otherwise unreachable, could with a high degree of certainty, be convicted as a result of testimony by their underlings.  This, however, isn't what I saw.  There was no high-level ring of criminals who would otherwise have gotten off;  we are talking about ratting on a group of teenage thugs, highly dangerous, indeed, but local, strictly local, and with every chance of of doing serious time for the attempted murders, based on the testimony of a lot of witnesses and some excellent police work.  In return for his testimony, a witness protection program was offered to someone who already had convictions for at least two murders, three armed robberies and a rape - there might have been more charges, but these stand out in my mind.  At well over six feet and weighing in the neighborhood of 275 lbs., we're not talking about the sort of person one might feel safe riding along side in an elevator.  We're talking about a one-person serious crime wave who would be put into witness protection.  God help those around him if he gets put into a new life! I know a bit about witness protection programs, as it happens; I've known two persons, both in that same family, who were witness to and victims of attempted murders.  They needed safety so they could testify; neither had a criminal record of any sort.  The guy on the stand breaks the bank for well-founded terror in his presence; he should never see the outside of a cell, much less government-sponsored freedom among an unsuspecting populace.

Only two people I've heard bring me to my feet by the power of their belief in the law's potential for justice. Two women earned my deep admiration. The first is the mother of the victim. She's going blind, has diabetes, heart conditions and god only knows what else. But what she doesn't have is a thirst for revenge. Not one angry word in her. In addition to caring for her stricken son - his life now permanently ruined by seizures and personality changes - her heart has reached out to take in another child, deserted by his mother, and to raise him well. What a class act! The other woman who totally earned my admiration testified at the trial. She was driving by when the crime occurred right before her eyes. She didn't flee and hide. No, she did her civic duty; she called 911, reported the shooting, and returned into the city to testify about what she saw. Not a lot of people would be so brave, these days. Two fine Americans, doing the right thing as they see it.  God bless them both.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tomorrow, I will stand in quiet stillness
in this beloved land, holding the hands
of those I love. Then we will walk together,
slipping into a swelling multitude of marchers.

Our gathering will signal the start
of what must happen here
if this sacred place is to be remembered
for the glory in what it has asked of those
who sought its freedom
rather than be forgotten for what it has recklessly abandoned.
It is time for public honor to be restored
lest we forget forever the notion of America.

I am no longer willing to be frightened or deceived.
I am done with edging around dread-blackened borders
and circling in tired silence past gated lies.
I want no more seized sacrifice of precious lives
I ask that civic dignity
be entrusted to our citizens
who lay their dreams on hallowed ground,
brilliant dreams wrapped in truth and tied
tightly by persistent, wise fingers.

Our passion must be answered with respect and action.
If it is paid no heed, I dread the consequence

Let us begin with honest words and righteous deeds.
Our Words of State must ring with truth,
honesty must be inked onto our documents,
justice must be written large, and mercy not forgotten.

If we allow trust to binds us once again,
If we finally understand the importance of, the wisdom in
of out of many one,
we will have grand reason to celebrate
a new Day of Interdependence.
I am uncertain that we are ready to undertake this needed salvage
But I am certain that we must if America is to be remembered as a
Place that turned an overarching dream into a vivid, if imperfect reality

    ~  By Susan Meehan (MmeMagpie), WashingtonDC , December 21, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


As I approached my block late yesterday afternoon, I realized it was blocked off.  So was the next street, if not the alley between the two.  Police were all over the place, but the neighborhood itself seemed quieter than usual, even serene.  There were few people walking down the street;  if people were out, they weren't walking or even running  Instead, they were talking quietly in mall group among themselves.  What in the world was going on?

It was the ultimate urban experience; my own micro-neighborhood (i.e., the three vehicular pathways in my neighborhood - Corcoran Street, Que Street and 17th Street) were the subject of a threatened bomb attack, and for this reason the streets had been blocked off.  It seems that some crazed persons had been shouting curse and threats that he had a bomb in his car, which he had apparently abandoned on the 1600 block of 17th Street.  In a nutshell, he threatened to blow up everything that I hold dear.  While I had no fear my home would be going up in flames any time soon - I calculated it was just a little too far away for that to be likely - it certainly did lend a certain piquancy to an otherwise eerily silent hometown scene.

A bombing threat certainly puts matters into a clear, if alarming perspective.  It wasn't that the neighborhood had never before had threats made against it - for good reason, Corcoran Street was commonly known as Stab Alley when i first moved into the area in 1965.  I have seen several gun battles, up close and personal, taking place in real time on or immediately adjacent to my block.  In fact, a bomb went off at the nearby Argentinian Embassy two decades ago, that Embassy being located just across new Hampshire from the alley between Corcoran and Que - known to its inhabitants at Flat Rat Alley. The difference in character between a gunfight and a bombing, especially when one's own immediate neighborhood is the potential scene, is that of anticipation vs. reaction.  

What it does best is to put into sharp outline all the reasons for and against living downtown,  everything that is dear seems dearer, and everything that seems tawdry or tacky becomes tawdry beyond one's ability to bear one minute longer.  Some neighbors seemed either anxious or anticipatory, and the rest seemed somehow frozen in place.  No one seemed willing to accept the concept of a radically-changed neighborhood - and what could produce more change than a bomb?  There were overtones of grandiosity, as people made juicy comparisons with Bomb Threats They Had Known before, or merely imagined.  Possibilities were tossed around like a Soviet Safeway salad, and then subsided.

The talk finally ebbed fully when it became evident that nothing bad was really going to happen. Anticipation had deflated to mere comparison. All they had left for discussion was the results of uniting Diet Coke with Mentos candy, and that paled in comparison, at least it did until the shadows became darker and our Dupont Circle neighborhood retreated to the smartphones, the cell phones, the iPhones, iPads and other momentarily popular means of communications upon which it absolutely depends, to comment ruefully on the passing of one bright shining moment of real fear that had, for once, merely dissolved.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


I knew you when you wrote bad poetry

and didn’t know which fork to use

and wore plaid, flannel shirts

with a slide rule protruding from your pocket.

On the cusp of your currency

we met again

and rushed to share forty years of life

words didn’t come fast enough

as we sought each other’s joys, pains

and marveled at the chance to share once more

our piebald dreams.

Now your face is on every screen

and your words articulate our beliefs

Contenders for public office

proudly wield your opinions

as their implements of campaign war.

People come to me for the favor

of an introduction

desiring to share in celebrity’s hierarchy,

and so, remembering our friendship

I give them the speckled help they seek.

But you have moved on

rushing to interpret today’s breaking news and

guarded by rough crews paid to fend off the unimportant –

those whose claim is old and not for profit –

unmindful that strobe-lit fame may quickly fade.

But old friends still remember fondly

those earlier, golden times

when you wrote bad poetry

and didn’t know which fork to use.

Friday, May 13, 2011

DC Residents: Are We Subjects or Citizens? A Draft Referendum

I think it is shameful that we in the District of Columbia are treated as subjects rather than as citizens.When I read in the Declaration of Independence that, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men. deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," I strongly question the assumption that we residents of the District have given our consent to be treated like subjects.

As quoted, the Declaration of Independence specifically says that government's power is just when it is derived by the consent of the governed. There is no part of the Declaration of Independence more profound, fellow Americans. Our Constitution and all our laws, everything that we hold dear as Americans, all depend on the founding block of the Declaration of Independence. Its words cannot be overlooked. If we in the District are not permitted the same rights as other citizens – and representation has to be the most basic right in a democracy – then we cannot function as full citizens. Where does it say we have given our consent to a form of government under which we struggle without voting representation?

I say we have not consented to our lack of representation, and propose that we undertake a referendum to determine whether that lack of representation is acceptable to us. Two bloody wars - the American Revolution and the Civil War - and several Constitutionalamendments should have settled the overarching question of equality once and for all. But it didn't for us. Is it acceptable to be treated as subjects, not citizens? I think not, and believe that our founding document, the Declaration of Independence speaks on our behalf to this very point. Let us hold a public and official referendum to make clear that we do not consent to being treated unequally. This would give us the basis to demand that our full measure of rights be secured - as citizens of a state. Nothing less. God bless the Declaration of Independence, for it will make our case.

If we get a referendum on consent on the 2012 ballot, it would likely considerably increase turnout at our polls, and would certainly get plenty of national media coverage. And that is what we need. One of the reasons we haven’t been able to get action on voting representation is because most citizens are utterly unaware that we don’t already have it. They are astonished to learn this is not the case, and are angry when they hear of it. (Some actually believe we pay no federal taxes, like Puerto Rico, and assume that is why we don’t have voting representation.) In any case, they are taken aback that Congress can and does change whatever it wants in our municipal budget, paid for by our hard-earned local DC tax money, no matter what we may want to do with it.They know that Congress could not do this elsewhere in the US, and agree that Congress should not be able to do this to us. Finally, other citizens get especially angry when District residents point out that THEIR elected representatives are spending an awful lot of time meddling in our affairs when their time could be better employed working on their own constituents’ problems. So there’s a lot of public education that needs to be done.

One of the most effective ways to educate the public nationwide on this issue would be through the publicity a referendum would engender. There are many ways that such a referendum could be worded; here’s a draft.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men. deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Do you believe that American democracy is founded on the principles outlined above in the Declaration of Independence? Yes No

As a US citizen, do you think that in fact you are governed differently than citizens living in states? Yes No

Do you think that you are being denied rights that other citizens enjoy, like voting representation in the House of Representatives, two voting US Senators, and statehood? Yes No

Do you think that DC citizens have ever given their consent to this arrangement – that is, to NOT having voting representation in the House of Representatives, two voting US Senators and statehood? Yes No

Do you hereby give your consent to being governed without voting participation by representatives you have elected to the legislative branch of national government? Yes No

Finally, would you give up these three rights in return for the permanent elimination of federal taxes? Yes No

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Huzzah for those who got arrested! I'm sorry I couldn't be there; if they do it again, and I hope they will, I'll join them. I'm sic and tired of being a subject, not a citizen, and that's exactly what we are. Some really bad days, I feel like an indentured servant!

I've lived in Mexico City, where they had no trouble with voting representation for the Distrito Federal. Other capitals in the civilized world (such as it is), also and customarily have full representation. So the idea itself is not unheard of nor scandalous; folks, it's the denial that is.

I believe there are two kinds of provisions within the Constitution and the other founding documents (specifically the Declaration of Independence, in this case) – ones that deal with fundamental rights, and ot hers that are technical and administrative in nature. The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence says it all, and should be honored as expressing the fundamental basis for the founding of our nation,"We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...But when a long train of abuses and usurpations invariably pursuing the same Object evinces a design to reduce the under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty to throw off such Government and to provide new guards for their future Security."

Ladies and gentlemen, the Declaration of Independence says it all. Are we to ignore its words?
I think not. We are being governed without our consent, and we are clearly suffering a long train of abuses and usurpations on the hands of those who are governing us without our consent. I think it is long overdue that we seek an orderly way to throw off such government and to provide guards for our (present and) future security. What could be more fundamental to the definition of democracy then that it derives its just powers from the consent of the governed? We have not been asked and we have not given our consent – that is clear and not subject to denial. Let a Federal District be set up without population, and give the rest of the District to its residents as a State! Nothing less meets the test of requiring a governing body to derive its just powers from the consent of the governed, and nothing less should be tolerated. So be it.