What shape will the Community Engagement Initiative take and when?

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

Councilman Reynolds — co-sponsor with Councilwoman Crampsie Smith of the July 7 resolution that urged a Community Engagement Initiative — has been the prime articulator of the goals and possible shape of the CEI.

It might be instructive for us to revisit his two main statements about the CEI:

July 7: ‘Reynolds rationale for the resolution”
August 11: “Councilman Reynolds on the Community Engagement Initiative”

Let Gadfly summarize for you key points about the Community Engagement Initiative articulated by Councilman Reynolds:

  • Goal: “The Community Engagement Initiative is not about our police department; it is about a different kind of conversation and looking at the ways that we as a community can end systemic racism and create an equitable city.”
  • Shape: “There can be two types of meetings, one type of meeting could be run by the City of Bethlehem similar to [the Public Safety meeting] . . . The second type of meeting, though, could and needs to be run by organizations and groups in our community . . . [schools, churches, social justice organizations]. . . . It is important that City Hall or Council doesn’t control all of these meetings.”

Let’s talk about the shape of the CEI now and the goal in the next post.

Meetings run by the City

Let’s think about this first type meeting. Since it’s run by the City (but “who” is that, as Gadfly’s last post asks?), this aspect of the CEI should be easier to set up, and Gadfly wonders why we haven’t already seen some progress here. What would these meetings be about? Councilman Reynolds already has a good idea. When he has spoken about the intertwining tendrils of systemic racism, he machine guns a litany of subject areas. In fact, the July 7 resolution itself contains a litany of agenda items. Topics for CEI meetings run by the City could include mental health, addiction, poverty, inclusionary housing, affordable housing, zoning, transportation, education, policing, employment practices. Thoughtful people might create such a list of the tendrils of systemic racism, consult about setting priorities, set priorities about which areas/issues to tackle first, and begin calling residents and people with special knowledge or expertise together to suggest the kinds of policies and legislation that would work to eradicate (he says boldly) racism in each area. Each meeting could be tasked to generate a list of ideas as well as a list of legislation. Gadfly feels that this type meeting has the best chance for getting things done quickly, and he wonders — ha! since, of course, he doesn’t have to do any of the work — why it isn’t up and running already.

Meetings run by community groups

The goal of these meetings, says Councilman Reynolds, could be letting people share their experiences . . . whatever organizers of the meetings want. The decentralized nature of these meetings by design requires the host organization to set the agenda, control questions, etc. We’re talking here about schools, churches, the Boy’s and Girl’s Club, New Bethany, and so forth. The agendas here would be set by the individual community groups. It is not clear to Gadfly how these meetings will be stimulated. It is not clear to Gadfly how substantive ideas from these meetings will get back to Council, it is not clear how the community groups will be assured that their ideas will get back to Council, for some Council members have already said that they will do their best but that for sure they would not be attending all such meetings. And the more meetings there are, the more successful the CEI catches on with community groups, the less likely Council will have much direct involvement at the grass roots level. If “we” succeed in sparking a thousand, a hundred, a dozen, a half-dozen “points of light,” how is the loop closed and how are the ideas generated brought back to Town Hall for action? Councilman Reynolds stated that he had his own ideas, but that it was important that others be heard. Gadfly gets the need for wide engagement, gets the need to assure that the agenda is open, but at this point Gadfly worries that there won’t be cohesion and looks to hear more about how this type meeting will work as part of the CEI. The danger is that people are invited to talk, nothing comes of the talk, and civic participation loses even more ground. You might remember Gadfly astounded that after 27 people called in to the Public Safety Committee meeting August 11, they were promised no follow-up, just a kind of vague “we’ll get back to ya,” and at the subsequent Council meeting one week later there was (he thinks) no substantive mention of the Public Safety meeting at all, no mirroring of all that citizen input. Where did that several hours of citizen comment go? Poof.

Gadfly is not sure if Councilman Reynolds was saying that there could be two types of meetings running concurrently. That does seem too much. Maybe he was throwing his full weight behind this second type. If so, Gadfly feels it will take more organization than he’s heard of so far, and he worries that time to meaningful action will spin out too far. But maybe that’s not a problem for many of you. Being an old feller, Gadfly has a more acute sense of the value of time than others. But all of us probably believe that the sooner racism is stemmed the better. Let’s get started.

Comments invited as always.

to be continued . . .

Protests have a wider reason than raising awareness

Latest in a series of posts responding to the George Floyd killing

Gadfly:

Thanks for the great job you do promoting discussion and thought about local issues.

I saw the transcript of my City Council recording [the August 11 Public Safety Committee meeting]. To facilitate accuracy I am including the original text.

But first, let’s talk about the group promoting defunding the police, “Black Lives Matter.” While many of the recent protestors are truly interested in supporting minority rights, “Black Lives Matter Inc” contrary to its name, is at i’s core, a Marxist organization admittedly led by trained Marxists easily verified by a quick web search. It is funded to the tune of $1.3 billion by organizations from around the globe as well as by well-intentioned but misled corporations. Much of the money raised because of the George Floyd video just as easily may be funneled to French radicals or to the Congo, but not, you notice, to the devastated local black communities. It is international and has connection to the TIDES Foundation and others. By the way, Marxist movements historically are responsible for the deaths of 170,000,000 civilians, not counting deaths during war.

The violence you see today didn’t begin with the death of the vicious felon George Floyd , it began in 1999 or maybe even earlier when Marxist-Socialists protested the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle demonstrating in what was called a “black box”. This is a collection of radicals all dressed in black with masks and helmets or head coverings. They paraded down the main streets damaging businesses, setting fires in trash cans, and smashing windows. Because of the complicity of the elected officials there, the police were regularly restrained from intervening and when they did the mob mingled and dispersed, their nondescript clothing making it impossible to arrest the vandals among them.

This type of activity went on occasionally for years since then. ANTIFA was the next progression. Same outfits, same tactics, but even more violent attacking individuals, often including the same radicals. Twenty years BEFORE George Floyd!

They were waiting for a video like George Floyd’s.

If raising awareness of injustice was the reason for the protests, how long would it have taken to raise awareness? But if the overthrow of our government is the goal then arson, destruction, intimidation, violent confrontation, and even extortion as we see in many cities is in order.

THERE IS NO APPEASING RADICALS.
THERE IS NO APPEASING RADICALS.

This may seem far-fetched  . . . I’m sure it did to the people in Portland and Seattle too. But things eroded little by little.

First the language changed. They started using phrases like social justice and systemic racism. If we’re going to have discussions let’s define the words and discuss whether the problem is real or imagined. What is social justice? There are about 18,000 police departments in the US. There were 13 or 14 unarmed blacks killed in 2019. Does that sound systemic? When 4.4 million random stop and frisks were conducted in New York City, during the period from 2004 [to] 2012, even though Blacks were disproportionately singled out, the incidence of further police action was less for Blacks than for whites. Is that SYSTEMIC racism??

If you are rightly willing to condemn actions like those of ANTIFA and reject strategies of BLM like the dissolution of the family and defunding of police, say so, strong and clear at the beginning of this process Otherwise you are complicit in the lawlessness.

Socialism has a unwavering pattern. Venezuela was a prosperous country with rich oil supplies but with a lot of problems in their government. They saw Socialism as the solution to their problem. About 6,000 people a year are murdered by Venezuelan “law enforcement” in a country 12 times smaller than the US that has banned private gun ownership. There are no zoos, starving citizens have slaughtered the animals for food. There are no pets for the same reason. One of the leaders of Black Lives Matter, Opal Tometi, praised and posed with Venezuela’s Marxist Socialist Nicholas Maduro.

If Black Lives Matter wanted to be inclusive and healing they wouldn’t bristle at the phrase All Lives Matter. While many of the young people in good faith have responded to the BLM slogan others engaged WITH EVIL INTENT, let me leave you with a question. Would an organization whose goal is the empowering of black citizens trash and burn its black community to the ground?

Thanks again,
George Roxandich

Bethlehem City Council meeting tomorrow tonight Tuesday, September 15, 7PM

logo Latest in a series of posts on City Government logo

Click for public comment instructions, agenda, and etc.!

Our next City Council meeting — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — occurs tomorrow tonight Tuesday, September 15, at 7PM.

You can find all the information that you need to follow along and participate through the link above.

You can watch the City Council Meeting on the following YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRLFG5Y9Ui0jADKaRE1W3xw

Of interest:

  • There’s a hearing on a private zoning amendment at 2105 Creek Road. Always tricky.
  • Another zoning matter. Follow-up on last meeting’s discussion of a change to enable a grocery store at Center and Dewberry.
  • Maybe info from the Mayor on plans for hiring a new Chief of Police.
  • Maybe info on discussions of changes in public safety and of the new Community Engagement Initiative.

And there’s always the unexpected.

As long as he has flutter in his wings, Gadfly urges attending City Council.

Be informed. Be involved.

Gadfly’s insomnia

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

Gadfly was up early this morning. Before the paper delivery man, before even the Word of the Day (“purport”) appeared in his in-box.

Part of that has to do with his 80-year-old plumbing.

But the main part has to do with nagging questions about our Community Engagement Initiative.

Gadfly knows you will envy him so smooth and settled a life that during a pandemic, the last 50 days of a nation-gripping-ripping presidential election, and ongoing concern over his sagging mental and physical powers that it’s the CEI that makes him lose sleep.

But there you go.

Gadfly’s excited about the CEI, very excited. People all over the city, underheard people especially, gathering, speaking, a social spreading of a positive kind, a spreading of dreams, ideas, concerns, problems, energy, enthusiasm. A powerful bubbling up of citizen participation. Democracy in action.

But he still doesn’t get it yet.

Forget that in the exact words in the resolution that passed July 7 in the Year of Our Lord 2020, he reads that “the City Council of the City of Bethlehem urges the Mayor and his Administration to collaborate with the City of Bethlehem Police Department to create a public space and forum,” that is, to create the “Community Engagement Initiative.” There is no sign that is happening. There is no sign that “the Mayor and his Administration” is doing that. And it seems it is only the anal-retentive Gadfly that is worrying about this little detail about who is to set up the CEI, or only the anal-retentive Gadfly who even remembers this little detail.

Sigh.

But the reason the anal-retentive Gadfly is exercising his anal-retentiveness over this detail is that he thinks we need to know who is responsible for the CEI. He thinks we need to know whom we should hold responsible, whom we should hold accountable for whether or not the CEI happens, for whether or not it is productive. Is it Councilman Reynolds? Is it Councilwoman Crampsie Smith? Is it both Councilman Reynolds and Councilwoman Crampsie Smith? Is it Council as a whole? Is it community organizations?

Where does the buck start and stop?

And something’s missing for Gadfly — visible organization, a visible plan.

If it’s there, if it’s happening, it’s not visible, at least to Gadfly. Yet.

So what got Gadfly up early this morning (it’s 4:58 as he writes) is the fact that here we are on the brink of another Council meeting, and he is afraid we are not going to hear any more in a concrete way about the extremely exciting notion of a Community Engagement Initiative.

Gadfly’s putting this in the queue for 8:00AM posting. No sense disturbing your sleep as his has been disturbed.

to be continued . . .

Lawmakers should make it easier for body cam footage to be seen (and some thoughts on a new Chief of Police)

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

One hopes this issue is on the agenda when we discuss possible improvements in the way we do public safety. Perhaps a resolution to the state legislature?

And Gadfly’s been thinking about how Chief DiLuzio’s retirement might affect such discussions about the way we do public safety. Gadfly the Whiner has been looking for quicker action. Will the fact now of an interim chief further delay such discussions? Will some voices want to delay till a new Chief is hired, perhaps making his or her views on changes part of the interview process? Hmmm, let’s think further about a new Chief — hire from inside or outside? Is interim Chief Meixell a “natural” choice for the permanent position, or will we want to go outside the department? And then there’s Capt (“Dr.”) Michelle Kott — female and now leading the professional standards division in the department, certainly an area on which attention needs to be focused these days. Interesting time ahead!

selections from Paul Muschick, “Daniel Prude’s death illustrates why police videos should be public.” Morning Call, September 12, 2020.

The moments that led to the death of Daniel Prude remained a mystery for six months. He died after struggling with police in Rochester.

It turns out, Prude was held to the pavement with a hood over his head. That was revealed this week only after officer body camera video was released.

His final moments may have remained a mystery forever, if he had died after struggling with police in Pennsylvania.

That’s because it’s much more difficult to obtain body cam footage here.

Unlike in New York state, body cam and other police videos are not subject to Pennsylvania’s public records law, the Right-to-Know Law.

Our lawmakers should make it easier for these recordings to be seen by the public.

The release of audio and video recordings are governed by a 2017 law that authorized police to wear body cameras. That law allows police and other law enforcement agencies to withhold recordings for many reasons.

Agencies can deny a request if a recording contains potential evidence in a criminal matter; information pertaining to an investigation; or confidential or victim information, and if “reasonable redaction” wouldn’t remove that information.

Those are broad categories, which makes it rare for footage to be released.

It’s not even easy to ask for a video.

You can’t request one via email, letter or fax. The law requires requests to be made only by “personal delivery” or certified mail. If a video was recorded inside a residence, the request must identify everyone who was present, unless their identities are unknown and aren’t “reasonably ascertainable.”

And you don’t have much time to ask — only 60 days from when the recording occurred.

There is an appeal process if a police department refuses to release a video. But there’s a financial hurdle to take that road. It costs $125 to file an appeal with the county court.

Legislation is pending that could make it easier to obtain police videos in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, it has not been considered since it was introduced nearly a year ago.

House Bill 1903 by Rep. Dan Miller, D-Allegheny, would make videos not recorded by body cameras, such as dashboard cameras, subject to the Right-to-Know Law.

Regarding body cam videos, the bill would give people 180 days to request them, and allow requests to be made by regular mail, email and fax. It would change the appeal process, giving jurisdiction to the state Office of Open Records instead of county court.

That’s important, because it removes the matter from the criminal justice system.

Miller said in a legislative memo that allowing body cameras was a positive step toward protecting police and citizens, but the “lack of transparency” undercuts the law’s benefits.

It does. It’s time for Pennsylvania to change that.

Further thoughts on Chief DiLuzio’s retirement

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Reprinted from Councilwoman Van Wirt’s Facebook page:

I think this is absolutely the right question. “The real question is if the mayor has confidence in the chief to lead the conversation between our community and law enforcement,” Reynolds said. City Council has no power in appointing the Police Chief- this lies exclusively with the Mayor. But I do think it is important for City Council to give voice to legitimate concerns over the Police Chief’s leadership ability. My confidence in the Chief’s ability to not just lead his force, but to even want to participate in helping Bethlehem find a path forward through these serious and very real problems, has been further eroded. I do not think social media situations like this one are just a matter of a ‘poor choice’ but rather lets us see into the unvarnished truth of Chief’s Diluzio’s real feelings about protesting structural racism, (nobody cares) and his ability to embrace and understand Bethlehem’s modern day challenges and issues.

Morning Call, September 4

“Bethlehem police Chief Mark DiLuzio abruptly retired Friday, five days after reposting an offensive Facebook meme that prompted a public scolding by the mayor. ‘I do agree that it compromised my position. I figured, the hell with it — I’ll just retire now,’ DiLuzio said, noting he had planned to retire at the end of the year.” (Gadfly notes that the Chief suggests that his reason for re-posting the image was that “Both the movie and Seinfeld are two of my favorite shows.” Neither in his apology letters to Council, the message on his Facebook page, nor in this interview several days later does he recognize and acknowledge that the image itself is racially insensitive and apologize for his original choice.)

Your turn to comment on the Columbus monument

Latest in a series of posts on the Columbus monument

Gadfly’s interest over the past several posts on this topic has been to try to make sure we have a more complete picture of the kind of man Columbus was than our historical hagiography has traditionally let on. If we’re going to talk about him, if we’re going to erect a monument to him, we need to know who he was. He was indeed an “imperfect man.” Seriously so.

But conversation about the monument is the kind of conversation, tough as it is, our community should have in this time of national reckoning about race. It can be the subject of that good conversation that builds community. And Gadfly hopes that is going on in the committee Mayor Donchez formed to respond to the concerns of a sizeable number of residents.

The Bethlehem Columbus monument is, Gadfly would surmise, little known and little visible. Gadfly bets many people are surprised that we have a Columbus monument.

The Easton Columbus monument that has been the subject of significant controversy recently is 9ft tall, stands on a pedestal perhaps equally high, is part of the Karl Stirner Arts Trail, and resides on high-traffic Riverside Dr.

The Bethlehem monument is relatively small and resides in a quiet pastoral spot sort of behind and off to the side of the first home replica along 8th Avenue in the northeast section of the Rose Garden. With its adjacent bench, the monument invites meditation rather than the awe that the Easton monument seems to demand (see April Gamiz’s great gallery of Easton photos here).

The Bethlehem monument would seem to focus on Columbus as navigator.

And here is its inscription: “Presented to the citizens of Bethlehem to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America.”

Our Columbus monument was approved by our Fine Arts Commission and received brief debate at City Council August 4, 1992, before being approved by a 6-0 vote. One resident said, “Columbus left a trail of theft, rape, and murder. You don’t praise criminal behavior.” A second said, “There’s no way that this man should be held up to our young people as someone who should be emulated,” adding the issue was what type of person was symbolized. Councilman Mike Loupos pointed to Thomas Jefferson as slave owner and focused on Columbus as explorer: “We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for him discovering the New World.” Councilman Otto Ehrsham added, “we’re not alone in honoring the accomplishments of the man.”

The controversy about Columbus was much in the news at the time, so no one could be unaware of it. There was, in fact, an interesting major article in the Morning Call about how schools in the Lehigh Valley were dealing with the controversy over Columbus in their curricula. The Bethlehem-area Italian-Americans who created the monument handled the controversy this way: “This monument, [we’re] sure, is going to upset some people. We’re sorry if we’re upsetting anyone. But this is America, which is a beautiful Italian word by the way, and we can thank people like Columbus and the people who followed him for giving us the opportunity to voice our opinions.”

What do you think?

Gadfly knows some of his followers will be at the Rose Garden Farmers Market this morning — why not seek out the monument and give the controversy some thought.

Gadfly invites your responses.

Pandemic pause for Polk

Latest in a series of posts on parking

Selections from Christina Tatu, “Bethlehem’s Polk Street Garage is on hold, even after steelworkers memorial was moved from the site.” Morning Call, September 12, 2020.

The high-profile corner of Third and Polk streets is seen as the key to unlocking development in a neighborhood dotted with parking lots and former Bethlehem Steel buildings that are now vacant.

The authority received $2.5 million in state grants and last year authorized taking out a loan for the project, which will be built on land the authority purchased for $2.1 million from the Sands casino, now Wind Creek Bethlehem.

The project calls for a five-story building in front of the garage to be constructed by Peron Development and J.G. Petrucci Co. that would include 32 luxury apartments on the top floors and a store on the first floor. Fernstrom said that portion of the project is separate from the garage and still in negotiation.

On Friday, John Callahan, director of business development for Peron, said he was unaware the parking garage had been placed on hold. The retail and residential portions of the project can’t move forward until the garage has been built, he said.

Many parking spaces have already been leased, he said.

The authority has a lease agreement with Northampton Community College for 300 spaces. Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts committed to 45 spaces; Peron committed to 33 spaces and another 35 were set aside for the retail tenant.

“I don’t see where the demand goes away as a result of COVID,” Callahan said. “My understanding is it takes nine to 10 months to build the garage. We are building for the future and allowing further development. This will have a major impact on businesses, more specifically the community college.”

Thinking about Columbus in Bethlehem (6)

Latest in a series of posts on the Columbus monument

What right had the first discoverers of America to land, and take possession
of a country, without asking the consent of its inhabitants, or
yielding them an adequate compensation for their territory?”
Washington Irving’s “gigantic question”

1492 Conquest of Paradise
dir. Ridley Scott, 1992 

see the first contact scene, min. 47:00 – 53:40

Unfortunately, the English language version of this 1992 Ridley Scott film “1492 Conquest of Paradise” is not available for free on YouTube. But, fortunately, there is little dialogue in the scene Gadfly would like you to watch. But here is that dialogue. Note especially Columbus enacting the ritual of possession and signing the Notary’s book in the Latin form of his name: “Christ bearer.”

Columbus: There!
Sailor: Land Ho!

Columbus: By the grace of God, in the name of the gracious majesties of Castilla and Aragon, by all the powers vested in me I claim this island and name it San Salvador.

————

The Gadfly seminar is almost over.

Let’s jump from John Vanderlyn in 1847 to premier filmmaker Ridley Scott’s epic 1992 film to celebrate the quincentennial of Columbus’s “discovery” of America.

In this film and in especially the short scene of the discovery moment (mins. 47-53:40), we see the hard, pervasive work of systemic racism in play again.

Scott focuses on the weary almost defeated Columbus, the man who has given all for his dream of a successful westward voyage. We pity him. Our heart aches for him. He has worn himself near death on his impossible quest. But land is close. The impossible achievement is near. As the sailor in the background methodically chants the ever lessening depth of water as the shore approaches, Columbus is aroused — can it finally be true? — till he triumphantly utters as if to himself, “There!” And on cue the fog parts and the New Edenic World magically appears as if by some miracle — “Land Ho!” The incredible dream is dream no more but glorious reality. Columbus, however, is subdued not ecstatic — his demeanor dramatically contrasted to that of his crew — humbled by his own achievement, and his first act on shore is to kneel as if to give thanks to God who is the real power in his success.

This is all Ridley Scott’s creation, mind you, there is nothing in the sources on which to base this characterization of Columbus. Scott is telling us how we should view Columbus as he slow motions our hero to shore. Columbus’s first act is an act of adoration and thanks. He’s without doubt a good guy. And Scott even characterizes Columbus with a sense of reluctance as he enacts his absurd role in the absurd ritual of possession (we almost think such an act is normal!), signifying in signing his name as “Christ bearer” that he is an instrument of a Divine Plan (soak in the Vangelis music that coats the whole process with supernatural tones!).

This is amazing stuff! But what is most amazing is that Scott consciously and candidly violates historical fact by showing the beach empty. The New World, this Eden, exists for our taking. Not one of the “innumerable” Taino that the real Columbus describes, some of whom were literally present at touchdown, are there. Why? It would seem obvious that Scott did not feel he could bring off a scene of such arrogant possession-taking by Columbus literally in front of Indigenous people for modern audiences. It would show racism at the very moment of our birth. And we couldn’t take that. So he falsifies. Creating a false image of an empty land that we might legitimately have a right to fill up. Imprinting our minds with a racially palatable untruth. Fake news.

So such at this moment is the definitive cultural image of the founding of our nation.

This is an example of how the cultural machinery to suppress people of color works in the construction of our history.

Thinking about Columbus in Bethlehem (5)

Latest in a series of posts on the Columbus monument

What right had the first discoverers of America to land, and take possession
of a country, without asking the consent of its inhabitants, or
yielding them an adequate compensation for their territory?”
Washington Irving’s “gigantic question”

John Vanderlyn, Landing of Columbus (1847), United States Capitol Rotunda,
Washington, D.C.

The setting of the painting is a narrow beach at the edge of a wooded bay or inlet. Columbus, newly landed from his flagship Santa Maria, looks upward as if in reverent gratitude for the safe conclusion of his long voyage. With his left hand he raises the royal banner of Aragon and Castile, claiming the land for his Spanish patrons, and with his right he points his sword at the earth. He stands bareheaded, with his feathered hat at his feet, in an expression of humility. (Artist of the Capitol)

———-

Gadfly believes that all people want to better themselves.

Gadfly believes that it is hard to keep people down.

Gadfly believes that it takes real systematic work to keep people down.

Gadfly believes that forces in the nation have done that hard work to keep people of color down.

Gadfly believes that people of color are surrounded by walls of systemic oppression.

Gadfly is happy to hear that on June 22, 2020, our president admitted that systemic racism exists.

Gadfly hopes that those white people who doubt the existence of systemic racism are paying attention.

———–

Let’s look to our Capitol Rotunda for an example of the cultural machinery, the hard work, that supports systemic racism.

You know the Rotunda, it’s where our dignitaries lie in state.

You saw it most recently when John Lewis lay in state there.

You also know it from your trips to Washington with your kids and grandkids.

You walk through the Rotunda at the beginning of your tour. Or you may have queued up there waiting for your tour to start.

The U.S. Capitol Rotunda is a holy place, a sacred place, a revered place. Gadfly calls it our “Holy of Holies.”

On the walls of the Rotunda are 8 large paintings of historical scenes. Large paintings. Huge paintings. 20 x 20. They dwarf you.

One of those paintings is John Vanderlyn’s Landing of Columbus (1847).

There is our official recognition of how we should feel about Columbus and how we should feel about the origin of our country.

There is our hero taking possession of the “New World” humbly, with gratitude, patriotic and religious symbols abounding.

But where are the owners of that land, people whom he described in the First Letter we just looked at as “innumerable”?

Imagine people of color in our Holy of Holies wondering about their place in our nation.

Every day the Vanderlyn painting quietly joins in the hard, pervasive work of keeping people of color down.

 

And don’t get Gadfly started on the Pocahontas painting there.

Thinking about Columbus in Bethlehem (4)

Latest in a series of posts on the Columbus monument

What right had the first discoverers of America to land, and take possession
of a country, without asking the consent of its inhabitants, or
yielding them an adequate compensation for their territory?”
Washington Irving’s “gigantic question”

Welcome back to the Gadfly seminar on Columbus.

Did y’do yer reading assignment yesterday?

Time to compare notes.

Columbus’s Diario, October 11, 1492

So Columbus kept a journal/diary/log book on his voyage from August 1492 to March 1493. He spent only about one day at the point where he made first contact with the “New World.” For most of his time on this first voyage he was on the move, mapping, charting, and, especially, looking for gold. In this entry on the October 12 touchdown, Gadfly’s eyes and mind go ineluctably to the part of Columbus’s concluding assessment of the Taino people he encountered where he says that “they should be good servants and intelligent, for I observed that they quickly took in what was said to them.” What are the Taino good for? To be good servants. To be — drum roll — slaves. Enslavement is what Columbus envisions from the get-go. Though the Taino are, according to Columbus’s own words, peaceful people full of “good will,” and thus one can envision the possibility of harmonious relations between peoples of totally different cultures, Columbus’s mind is focused on his domination of them. Their lack of clothes, their body paint, their purported lack of religion, their inability to “speak” (in Spanish) show that the Taino are uncivilized — Columbus is not one whit curious about their culture, about what a new culture might teach him — thus virtually demanding domination for their own good, and Columbus’s focus on their feeble armaments not only marks their feeble level of human advancement but promises ease of domination. The other part of Columbus’s concluding assessment of the Tainos is the ease with which they will be converted. Columbus is a Catholic, a member of the one true religion, who has a mandate from the Catholic Sovereigns of the Catholic nation of Spain to make Catholics, that is, to save souls, as part of his mission. The Tainos are heathen, damned, who will — by love or force — be redeemed from moral darkness, converted into new beings, erasing their own worthless character and culture in the process.

Do I have all that right, gang? Are you seeing what I’m seeing? If so, it’s not a pretty picture.

Columbus’s First Letter, April 1493

So what we have here is Columbus’s official final report on his first voyage to the “New World” addressed to his bosses, to his financial backers, the King and Queen of Spain (though, to be sure the implied audience of the Diario is also this same King and Queen). Like all such final project reports, Columbus is quick to highlight the successes of the journey –to prove that their money was well spent! — but also to lay the basis for funding for another trip. We see the age-old cycle of business reports. This letter is remarkable for several things. First, for the revelation that Columbus took possession of every island for Spain by reading a proclamation at a public ceremony right in front of the Taino owners — “no one making any resistance,” of course, because they had absolutely no idea what was going on. Incredible. What balls! That act of formal and legal possession had to be certified by a Notary who was part of the crew and ultimately filed in the Home Office in Spain should some other country contest ownership. Second, Columbus immediately embarks on erasing Taino culture by giving every place a new name, a Spanish name. Columbus knows the Taino call the site where he touched down first Guanahani, but he renames it San Salvador. Insidious. The power of naming is a primal power. The Spanish have it. Columbus layers his map over the Taino map and renders their presence invisible. What balls! The third remarkable thing in this letter is a rhapsodic Columbus swooning over the natural beauty of the part of the world he “discovered.” What he describes is an Eden (which many vacationers among Gadfly followers can still to this day attest), and Columbus temporarily falls under a magical spell that rests in stark contrast to his role as profiteer providing “as many heathen slaves as their majesties may choose to demand” and “as much gold as they have need of.” Ultimately, this Columbus is the serpent in the garden, ruining all.

The letter was successful. Columbus’s funding continued. As did the oppression of the Taino and the raping of Eden.

The Columbus picture album

As you can imagine, the news of “discovery” of a New World was paradigm shattering, and interest in knowing more was high in the Old World. The printing press was still a relatively new resource, and Columbus’s letters were rather quickly published in book form and distributed widely — and sometimes with images like the ones here. Columbus, of course, would have had nothing to do with the creation and choice of these images to accompany his text, but they are a gauge for us of what the culture saw in Columbus’s work and what it anticipated in the future from it. “In composite,” Gadfly asked you yesterday, “what story do such images tell?” The first image depicts the Indigenous people as “fearful and timid” before the advance of the Spanish symbolized in the powerful ship, that marvel of modern technology and high civilization, in the foreground that acts as a kind of portal for the first contact scene displayed in the rear. And after that there is no sign in the images of the Indigenous people at all. None. The culture for which Columbus is the long extended arm turns the inhabitants of the New World into ciphers, writing over their maps and literally removing them from the landscape.

So, to bring us back to this cultural moment of racial reckoning in Bethlehem and the reason for this excursion into history, is Columbus the kind of man we should be honoring and heroicizing? Is his mission one with which we are proud to be aligned?

Terrible destruction and genocidal waves resulted from events Columbus set in motion.

Gadfly thinks again of the soft, thoughtful reminder of Joyce Hinnefeld, Clerk of the Lehigh Valley Meeting (Quakers), each Sunday morning: “we worship together on land that was originally the land of the Lenape people.”

Festival UnBound this Saturday! Listen to and learn from our local healers

Latest in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre

Touchstone continues its wonderful community building activities!

FESTIVAL UNBOUND – MEDICAL WORKERS SPEAK OUT


September 12, 7p
(rain date: September 13, 7p)

Tickets are FREE, donations are welcome. Interested in reserving a table? Call 610-867-1689 or email chris@touchstone.org

Performance takes place OUTSIDE, in Touchstone’s parking lot. Masks and social distancing are required for all attendees.

DONATIONS


In the last year, doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals have come to the forefront of national attention for their work on the front lines of COVID-19. Come out and take a listen to what some of our local medical workers have to say about the experience – tales of trauma, triumph, and compassion, from the healers in our community.

With food by Roasted and drinks by Molly’s Grille and Pub – available for cash only purchase all night, so arrive hungry and thirsty!

Thinking about Columbus in Bethlehem (3)

Latest in a series of posts on the Columbus monument

What right had the first discoverers of America to land, and take possession
of a country, without asking the consent of its inhabitants, or
yielding them an adequate compensation for their territory?”
Washington Irving’s “gigantic question”

Let’s step away from Columbus himself.

Let’s think about how his “discovery” was promoted in Europe.

Columbus wrote 4 letters, one after each of his voyages to the “New World.”

When those letters were published and distributed shortly after their completion, they were accompanied by images.

What do these images tell us about the way Columbus’s New World achievement — the nature and value of “discovery” — was perceived and anticipated in the Old World.

People wanted to know what it all meant. And pictures are sometimes a better vehicle for conveying that meaning.

Let’s look at a New World gallery. First images of the New World that accompanied Columbus’s words for fervently curious Europeans.

What are the people like?

 

What will the big picture look like?

 

Show us a town

In composite, what story do such images tell?

Thinking about Columbus in Bethlehem (2)

Latest in a series of posts on the Columbus monument

What right had the first discoverers of America to land, and take possession
of a country, without asking the consent of its inhabitants, or
yielding them an adequate compensation for their territory?”
Washington Irving’s “gigantic question”

We are thinking about Columbus’s actions and character, whether we should have a monument to him in Bethlehem.

In the last post Gadfly asked you to look at his thoughts as they were written freshly on the very first day of touchdown in the “New World.” When he was on the front lines.

Gadfly gives you a bit longer assignment now. Here is a section of his official report — called his “First Letter” — to the King and Queen of Spain, his financial backers.

This report is written in reflection back in Europe 4 months or so after leaving the “New World.”

Gadfly asks you to do the same thing as before. Listen to the Columbus voice. What do you hear? Form some estimate of the man and his mission.

Gather you thoughts, and add them to your previous ones.

We’ll compare notes later.

Columbus’s First Letter, April 1493

On the thirty-third day after leaving Cadiz I came into the Indian Sea, where I discovered many islands inhabited by numerous people. I took possession of all of them for our most fortunate King by making public proclamation and unfurling his standard, no one making any resistance. To the first of them I have given the name of our blessed Saviour, whose aid I have reached this and all the rest; but the Indians call it Guanahani. To each of the others also I gave a new name, ordering one to be called Sancta Maria de Concepcion, another Fernandina, another Isabella, another Juana; and so with all the rest.. . . .

I came again to a certain harbor, which I had remarked. From there I sent two of our men into the country to learn whether there was any king or cities in that land. They journeyed for three days, and found innumerable people and habitations, but small and having no fixed government; on which account they returned.. . . .

The island called Juana, as well as the others in its neighborhood, is exceedingly fertile. It has numerous harbors on all sides, very safe and wide, above comparison with any I have ever seen. Through it flow many very broad and health-giving rivers; and there are in it numerous very lofty mountains. All these island are very beautiful, and of quite different shapes; easy to be traversed, and full of the greatest variety of trees reaching to the stars. I think these never lose their leaves, and I saw them looking as green and lovely as they are wont to be in the month of May in Spain. Some of them were in leaf, and some in fruit; each flourishing in the condition its nature required. The nightingale was singing and various other little birds, when I was rambling among them in the month of November. There are also in the island called Juana seven or eight kinds of palms, which as readily surpass ours in height and beauty as do all the other trees, herbs, and fruits. There are also wonderful pinewoods, fields, and extensive meadows; birds of various kinds, and honey; and all the different metals, except iron. . . .

In the island, which I have said before was called Hispana, there are very lofty and beautiful mountains, great farms, groves and fields, most fertile both for cultivation and for pasturage, and well adapted for constructing buildings. The convenience of the harbors in this island, and the excellence of the rivers, in volume and salubrity, surpass human belief, unless one should see them. In it the trees, pasture-lands and fruits differ much from those of Juana. Besides, this Hispana abounds in various kinds of species, gold and metals. The inhabitants of both sexes of this and of all the other island I have seen, or of which I have any knowledge, always go as naked as they came into the world, except that some of the women cover their private parts with leaves or branches, or a veil of cotton, which they prepare themselves for this purpose. They are all, as I said before, unprovided with any sort of iron, and they are destitute of arms, which are entirely unknown to them, and for which they are not adapted; not on account of any bodily deformity, for they are well made, but because they are timid and full of terror. They carry, however, canes dried in the sun in place of weapons, upon whose roots they fix a wooded shaft, dried and sharpened to a point. But they never dare to make use of these; for it has often happened, when I have sent two or three of my men to some of their villages to speak with the inhabitants, that a crowd of Indians has sallied forth; but when they saw our men approaching, they speedily took to flight, parents abandoning children, and children their parents. This happened not because any loss or injury had been inflicted upon any of them. On the contrary I gave whatever I had, cloth and many other things, to whomsoever I approached, or with whom I could get speech, without any return being made to me; but they are by nature fearful and timid. But when they see that they are safe, and all fear is banished, they are very guileless and honest, and very liberal of all they have. No one refuses the asker anything that he possesses; on the contrary they themselves invite us to ask for it. They manifest the greatest affection towards all of us, exchanging valuable things for trifles, content with the very least thing or nothing at all. But I forbade giving them a very trifling thing and of no value, such as bits of plates, dishes, or glass; also nails and straps; although it seemed to them, if they could get such, that they had acquired the most beautiful jewels in the world. For it chanced that a sailor received for a single strap as much weight of gold as three sold solidi; and so others for other things of less price, especially for new blancas, and for some gold coins, for which they gave whatever the seller asked; for instance, an ounce and a half or two ounces of gold, or thirty or forty pounds of cotton, with which they were already familiar. So too for pieces of hoops, jugs, jars, and pots they bartered cotton and gold like beasts. This I forbade, because it was plainly unjust; and I gave them many beautiful and pleasing things, which I had brought with me, for no return whatever, in order to win their affection, and that they might become Christians and inclined to love our King and Queen and Princes and all the people of Spain; and that they might be eager to search for and gather and give to us what they abound in and we greatly need. . . .

As soon as I had some into this sea, I took by force some Indians from the first island, in order that they might learn from us, and at the same time tell us what they knew about affairs in these regions. This succeeded admirably; for in a short time we understood them and they us both by gesture and signs and words; and they were of great service to us. . . .

In all these islands there is no difference in the appearance of the inhabitants, and none in their customs and language, so that all understand one another. This is a circumstance most favorable for what I believe our most serene King especially desires, that is, their conversion to the holy faith of Christ; for which, indeed, so far as I could understand, they are very ready and prone. . . .

This island is to be coveted, and not to be despised when acquired. As I have already taken possession of all the others, as I have said, for our most invincible King, and the role over them is entirely committed to the said King, so in this one I have taken special possession of a certain large town, in a most convenient spot, well suited for all profit and commerce, to which I have given the name of the Nativity of our Lord; and there I ordered a fort of be built forthwith, which ought to be finished now. In it I left as many men as seemed necessary, with all kinds of arms, and provisions sufficient for more than a year; also a caravel and men to build others, skilled not only in trade but in others. I secured for them the good will and remarkable friendship of the King of the island; for these people are very affectionate and kind; so much so that the aforesaid King took a pride in my being called his brother. Although they should change their minds, and wish to harm those who have remained in the fort, they cannot; because they are without arms, go naked and are too timid; so that, in truth, those who hold the aforesaid fort can lay waste the whole of that island, without any danger to themselves, provided they do not violate the rules and instructions I have given them. . . .

Finally, to sum up in a few words the chief results and advantages of our departure and speedy return, I make this promise to our most invincible Sovereigns, that, if I am supported by some little assistance from them, I will give them as much gold as they have need of, and in addition spices, cotton and mastic, which is found only in Chios, and as much aloes-wood, and as many heathen slaves as their majesties may choose to demand; besides these, rhubarb and other kinds of drugs, which I think the men I left in the fort before alluded to, have already discovered, or will do so. . . .

let Christ rejoice upon Earth as he rejoices in Heaven, as he foresees that so many souls of so many people heretofore lost are to be saved; and let us be glad not only for the exaltation of our faith, but also for the increase of temporal prosperity, in which not only Spain but all Christendom is about to share. . . .

Gadfly bets you never knew we have these documents after all these years!

Thinking about Columbus in Bethlehem (1)

Latest in a series of posts on the Columbus monument

“What right had the first discoverers of America to land, and take possession
of a country, without asking the consent of its inhabitants, or
yielding them an adequate compensation for their territory?”
Washington Irving’s “gigantic question”

Gadfly misses the classroom.

He really does.

Such fun, such serious fun.

Exercises like this.

We have granted Columbus the title of Founder of our country. He is our hero. We celebrate him with a holiday.

Bethlehem has a monument in his honor.

Is Columbus worthy of all these accolades?

A large group of our residents don’t think so and want the Bethlehem monument removed.

How can we decide such an important question?

Well, you know what Gadfly always says, don’t you?

Go to the primary sources.

Here from his journal/diary are Columbus’s exact words on the day of, on the moment of “discovery.”

What do you see?

What can you tell about the man?

Columbus’s Diario, October 11, 1492

“I, that we might form great friendship, for I knew that they were a people who could be more easily freed and converted to our holy faith by love than by force, gave to some of them red caps, and glass beads to put round their necks, and many other things of little value, which gave them great pleasure, and made them so much our friends that it was a marvel to see. They afterwards came to the ship’s boats where we were, swimming and bringing us parrots, cotton threads in skeins, darts, and many other things; and we exchanged them for other things that we gave them, such as glass beads and small bells. In fine, they took all, and gave what they had with good will. It appeared to me to be a race of people very poor in everything. They go as naked as when their mothers bore them, and so do the women, although I did not see more than one young girl. All I saw were youths, none more than thirty years of age. They are very well made, with very handsome bodies, and very good countenances. Their hair is short and coarse, almost like the hairs of a horse’s tail. They wear the hairs brought down to the eyebrows, except a few locks behind, which they wear long and never cut. They paint themselves black, and they are the color of the Canarians, neither black nor white. Some paint themselves white, others red, and others of what color they find. Some paint their faces, others the whole body, some only round the eyes, others only on the nose. They neither carry nor know anything of arms, for I showed them swords, and they took them by the blade and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their darts being wands without iron, some of them having a fish’s tooth at the end, and others being pointed in various ways. They are all of fair stature and size, with good faces, and well made. I saw some with marks of wounds on their bodies, and I made signs to ask what it was, and they gave me to understand that people from other adjacent islands came with the intention of seizing them, and that they defended themselves. I believed, and still believe, that they come here from the mainland to take them prisoners. They should be good servants and intelligent, for I observed that they quickly took in what was said to them, and I believe that they would easily be made Christians, as it appeared to me that they had no religion, our Lord being pleased, will take hence, at the time of my departure, six natives for your Highnesses that they may learn to speak. I saw no beast of any kind except parrots, on this island.”

Gather your thoughts, and Gadfly will compare notes with you later.

Surprising support for systemic racism

June 22, 2020

Woodward: “Do you think there is systematic or institutional racism in this country?”

Trump: “Well, I think there is everywhere, I think probably less here than in most places or less here than in many places.”

Woodward:” Ok, but is it here in a way that it has impact on many people’s lives?”

Trump: “I think it is, and it is unfortunate, but I think it is.”

Racism in America is older than we normally think

Latest in a series of posts on the Columbus monument

Columbus’ legacy has been shaped by a Eurocentric education system that has
promoted false information, the erasure of Indigenous stories, and the
devaluing of Indigenous life.
petition to the Mayor and City Council

This is the third Gadfly post on a request by a sizeable number of Bethlehem residents to remove a 1992 (500th anniversary of the “discovery”) monument to Christopher Columbus in the Rose Garden. In the letter to the editor published here yesterday, there are 80+ signatures, but we understand the number now is about 120.

The Mayor and Council have soft-pedaled this request. It was mentioned only briefly and cryptically by the Mayor at a recent City Council meeting. The reason is obvious. The issue of historical monuments is — the term is getting good use this morning — a political hot potato. Controversies over historical monuments are a key aspect of the current culture wars, as any of us who only cursorily follow the national news know. The Mayor has apparently done the right thing, has done — ha! — the “politic” thing.  He’s handed the issue off to a committee. Gadfly wishes he knew who is on it.

120 resident names on a petition is not chopped liver, but Gadfly doesn’t sense wider attention to or engagement in the issue. After all, the City has a lot on its plate: discussing public safety, the police chief mess, starting a Community Engagement Initiative, battling systemic racism, and  — oh, yes — the budget. Gadfly is anxiously waiting for an update on how the budget is faring as a result of the bludgeoning effect this pandemic is having on the economy. Lots for us to think about.

But Gadfly doesn’t want the Columbus issue to slide by. He sees it organically tied to the attention we’re focusing on systemic racism and the ideal expressed by Councilman Reynolds of mitigating its presence here.

The petition asks us to see Columbus through other eyes. As the petition says, Columbus’ legacy has been shaped by a Eurocentric education system that has
promoted false information, the erasure of Indigenous stories, and the devaluing of Indigenous life.” Our mainstream heroic image of Columbus ignores his role in genocide. He is a much more complex figure for cultural adoration than our histories, until quite recently, have rendered him.

Gadfly would have you widen your racist lens beyond slavery in the United States to racism’s roots here in our European ancestral tradition at the moment of “discovery” in 1492. Our education in how to think about discovery — and ultimately about ourselves — that the petition references in the quote above goes back to a letter Columbus wrote October 12/13, 1492, the very day of touchdown, which Gadfly will share with you in a later post if he can find it.

For now, Gadfly would have you consider as representative of the centuries-old education of the public about the nature of America the above depiction of the origin moment less than a century after discovery. In America Dutch engraver Johannes Stradanus (1523-1605) depicts a very European Americus Vespucci awakening and bestowing his name on a very naked Sleeping Beauty of a Native American. “Americus rediscovers America,” his motto reads, “He called her but once and thenceforth she was always awake.” This erotic image of the first contact of European Self and American Other demonstrates that America was produced for Europe as a passive vulnerable female waiting for her lover/conqueror. This is our inaugural naming moment.

In the early 19th century, Washington Irving — he of “Rip Van Winkle” fame — asked what he called the “gigantic question”: “”What right had the first discoverers of America to land, and take possession of a country, without asking the consent of its inhabitants, or yielding them an adequate compensation for their territory?”

The Stradanus image provides the visual justification. America was a naked woman asleep till “we” from the powerfully masculine Europe came. America is a beautiful woman ready to be taken, to be had — and thus to be canceled, erased by the New Spain, by the New England, by the New Amsterdam, and the like. America would be nothing without “us.” There was no value in Indigenous culture. The Indigenous people had no worth except to serve and support without consideration of their own needs. And ultimately they were discardable.

This is our history.

Gadfly, who knows his history, can only cringe when he hears People of Color counseled to be patient, to work hard, change is coming, the violence is literally history, you will soon have equal opportunity, we’re working on it.

Gadfly cherishes the thoughtful reminder Joyce Hinnefeld, Clerk of the Lehigh Valley Meeting (Quakers), softly gives each Sunday morning that “we worship together on land that was originally the land of the Lenape people.”

It’s important that we remember what we’ve destroyed and do better.

———-

For a more elaborate analysis of the Stradanus image, see Gadfly’s “America as Sleeping Beauty,” done 20-25 years ago in the very first class in Lehigh’s Digital Media Studio. Please forgive the creaky technology and amateurish presentation as pedagogy entered the digital age.

Councilman Callahan tries to get a political hot potato on the table

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

“We are the people who approve the police budget. We say, ‘yes put your
money toward yet another gun,’ or we could say we would like to scale
back on that funding and put some social workers in here.”
Councilwoman Van Wirt

Gadfly has earlier noted this “what the hell” moment by Councilman Callahan, hoping it doesn’t presage petty conflict on Council that impedes the serious discussion about public safety that needs to take place. Gadfly would also repeat that, while an unfortunate term, what is meant by “defunding the police” is not scary. It means reallocating resources with a concomitant reallocation of duty in order to better carry out the mission of public safety. It is a proposed solution to a problem. Defunding/reallocation has honorably happened in various model cities around the country, as previously detailed in these pages. No Councilmember here has yet publicly advocated defunding/reallocating as far as Gadfly knows, but two Councilmembers have already announced firm positions against it before any public discussion has taken place and without reasons to substantiate their positions. That can smell of “politics.” Gadfly expects that all Councilmembers have an open mind and avoid prematurely foreclosing discussion.

selections from Douglas Graves, “Defunding police issue continues.” Bethlehem Press, September 8, 2020.

Councilman Bryan Callahan tried to get a political hot potato on the table for discussion during the city council virtual meeting Aug. 25, but was overruled by the Council President Adam Waldron. At the end of the meeting and during the new business portion of the agenda, Callahan asked Councilwoman Dr. Paige Van Wirt if she is “in favor of defunding the police.”

Callahan did not ask other council members for their opinions, but focused his interrogatory on Van Wirt. He insisted, to no avail against Waldron’s objection, that his question was within the purview of Robert’s Rules of Order, but Waldron refused to let him continue.

Callahan had reduced a much more nuanced statement previously made by Van Wirt to a shorthand suitable for pointed sound-bytes, and has insinuated the subject during recent meetings.

Council has struggled with Callahan’s confrontational style before, as he has attempted to get specific issues discussed publicly.

Van Wirt declined to respond to Callahan’s question, but Callahan’s effort highlighted one of most contentious demands being pushed by the local Black Lives Matter activists who came before the council July 7.

An inflated or mischaracterized call for defunding the Bethlehem Police Department seems to be creating a fissure in the solidly Democratic city council.

While discussing the proposed community Engagement Committee, when Jonathon Irons of West Market Street spoke in person (most members were attending virtually), saying he supports what he described as the people who recently marched through Bethlehem calling for “defunding of the police.”

“We need to freeze the budget for the police department, including any new training initiatives coming out from this conversation must come from existing funding,” said Irons, as recorded in the official minutes of the meeting. “We need a hiring freeze with no new officers. We need to end the use of paid administrative leave, all these things to defund police.”

Councilwoman Van Wirt declined to elaborate further in a recent request by the Press.

As reported in the approved minutes of the July 7 meeting; “It was such a profound thing for her [Councilwoman Van Wirt] and she has to say until she really started listening throughout this whole engagement with Black Lives Matter and understanding what people of color go through, she did not understand what defund the police means. Of course, we all know it does not mean exactly that but it means looking at where we are spending our money and how can we do things better.”

As reported in council’s minutes, Van Wirt said, “Our power of the budget is huge here. We start our budget talks in the fall … to have any impact to what happens. We are the people who approve the police budget. We say, ‘yes put your money toward yet another gun’ or we could say we would like to scale back on that funding and put some social workers in here.”

While clearly there is no desire by any council members or administrators to actually defund the Bethlehem police department, that hasn’t stopped the idea from becoming a rallying point for citizens who have been led to believe that it is an issue being considered.

City council has passed a resolution calling for the community to be engaged in dialog with residents, police, schools and others seeking, as the Pledge of Allegiance says, “justice for all.”

A recent “Back the Blue” rally organized by Lehigh Valley Tea Party chairman and local attorney Thomas Carroll focused on a perceived threat to defund the Bethlehem Police. In a recent interview, Carroll conceded that no Bethlehem council member nor the mayor have called for defunding the police, but said he found the response by the council to demands of activists who attended the July 7 meeting to be “shocking and deceptive.”

Carroll, who is also the chairman of the Bethlehem City Republican Committee, said he didn’t want to see council make a “knee-jerk reaction” in responding to activists and start defunding the police department. Carroll said he supports the idea of council and the mayor funding social councelors to support the police.

Celebrating H.D. — tonight 7PM!

Latest in a series of posts on H.D.

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL ARTISTS AND ARTS INSTITUTIONS

Bethlehem-born writer Hilda Doolittle — H. D. —  (1886-1961) is
the “Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure.”

Live from IceHouse Tonight!

Radical Freedom: Poets on the Life and Work of H.D.
Join us September 8th at 7 PM as local poets celebrate the life and work of Bethlehem native Hilda Doolittle with a reading of H.D.’s poetry and their own. Featuring poets Nanette Smith, Sienna Mae Heath, Lynn Alexander, Katherine Falk, and Cleveland Wall—with an  introduction by Jennie Gilrain. This program is brought to you through the generous support of the Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium.
———–
Performance will stream on the IceHouse Tonight Facebook page and on the IceHouse Tonight YouTube channel.
———–
Live from IceHouse Tonight delivers local arts to your living room. Presenting a diverse selection of virtual performances, the series is part of the larger IceHouse Tonight series, which features over 100 events each year. The series is proudly sponsored by Fig Bethlehem.
Cleveland Wall
————
Dear Finding H.D. participants,
The first year of Finding H.D., A Community Exploration of the Life and Work of Hilda Doolittle culminated with a new play by Mock Turtle Marionette Theater: “The Secret” premiered at Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound in the fall of 2019.
“The Secret” was scheduled for a second run in April of 2020. Sadly, the spring run  of our play was cancelled due to the pandemic.
The good news is that some of the related events featuring H.D. have become virtual…
Introducing Act 2:  A Series of Performances by Local Artists Inspired by H.D.
Please enjoy Radical Freedom: Poets on the Life and Work of H.D. 
Sincerely,
Jennie Gilrain
———–
P.S. We hope you have enjoyed some of our “Finding H.D.” events–lectures, readings, nature walks, book talks–organized by Mock Turtle Marionette Theater, Bradbury Sullivan LGBT Community Center, Bethlehem Area Public Library and Lehigh University Department of English and the South Side Initiative.  If you would like to be removed from this email list, please email Jennie Gilrain at jega@lehigh.edu.
———-
For Gadfly’s coverage of last year’s “Finding H. D.” series, go to H. D.
on the right sidebar.
———–
SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL ARTISTS AND ARTS INSTITUTIONS

Why do they shoot (including shooting themselves in the foot)?

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

“Lust lays another good man low!”
John Irving, The World According to Garp

Psycho-babble alert!

Gadfly just has to talk this out.

See if you haven’t been thinking along the same lines.

In a previous post your philosophical Gadfly tried to answer the question Why do they run?

The “they” was George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Jacob Blake.

And “run” was metaphorical. Only Brooks ran. Floyd inched along like a running back dragging a swarm of defensive linemen toward the goal line. Blake walked with firm, determined stride, like he was leading a group of unbelieving officers to where the body was hidden.

Maybe the question should have been better phrased as “Why did they resist?” And so irrationally. Against such odds. But the point is that they were moving away. Let’s call it running.

Gadfly gave you some psycho-babble as answer.

Not to be deterred, Gadfly ventures into psycho-babble territory again.

This time he asks the question “Why did they shoot?”

And the “they” this time is Derek Chauvin, Garrett Rolfe, Rusten Sheskey — and Mark DiLuzio.

Well, Chauvin didn’t shoot. And we’ll get to DiLuzio in a moment. Just play along.

Gadfly is willing to bet that when all is said and done we will find out that “they” all had all the kind of good de-escalation and other kinds of training we would hope for.

But look at the blank stare on Chauvin knowing he’s being filmed and even hearing bystanders detail the horror he is in slow, deliberate motion enacting.

Listen to Rolfe chatting with Brooks for 20-30 minutes as casually as he might with a Wendy’s clerk before he sheds blood in the Wendy’s parking lot in such a reckless manner that hitting “innocent” people was a reasonable possibility.

Count the steps as Blake walks away from Sheskey around the front of the car to the driver’s door while Sheskey impotently follows — seven steps? Would that then be seven shots for seven steps?

You have to wonder, don’t you, how after the inter-galactic furor over the treatment of Floyd — a din even the deaf could not escape hearing — that Rolfe and Sheskey did what they did? They were real knuckie-heads, weren’t they? — to use a favorite phrase in the Gadfly house.

Critics of the critics of the police, critics like our Individual-1, for instance, claim that this furor, this din is “making law enforcement officers hesitate and second guess.” Which would be logical. But we sure didn’t see that here. Just the opposite, in fact. It’s as if they haven’t heard anything, as if they didn’t get the Floyd memo to be careful because the world is watching.

How do we explain what happened in these three cases? How will we know what to do now to lessen the possibility of such future happenings in our town? How will we know what to propose when our discussion of how we do public safety commences?

The question draws Gadfly like a giant magnet. Why did they shoot?

Which brings us to Mark DiLuzio and perhaps to an even more perplexing question. Why did Chief DiLuzio shoot himself in the foot? For that he did.

Until Last Friday Mark Diluzio was our Chief of Police, the head of a department he called the best in the state.

Chief DiLuzio said good things during the opening City conversations in the post-GeorgeFloyd reckoning with race that Bethlehem has been engaged in like the rest of the country. Listen to his “George Floyd’s Death & Policing in America” statement at the June 3 City Council meeting, the first meeting after Floyd’s murder. And Gadfly can’t put his finger on the audio right this minute, but he remembers in a subsequent meeting the Chief memorably agreeing with Councilman Reynolds about the reality of systemic racism, specifically about how many Black people lack the early life advantages that he and Reynolds enjoyed.

Many liked Chief DiLuzio and supported him in this recent situation. Gadfly published praise from a typical supporter yesterday.

But not everybody liked and supported the Chief. Gadfly would sometimes hear negative stories about him whispered or shouted in confidence. And, in fact, Gadfly recently found in his Facebook news feed mention of a case pending in Federal court involving him and troublesome activities under his watch.

Gadfly himself, in the “Hayes St. traffic stop” case, the only specific example on which he could judge, did not form a particularly good opinion of how the Chief acted to support an officer who was possibly racially insensitive.

So the Chief knew he and his department were in the spotlight, on the hot seat, under the microscope — calling for rigorously circumspect behavior.

And yet he’s not only on the “Keep America Great” Facebook page (which, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean he subscribes to the political and racial sentiments expressed there in abundance), but he re-posts a racially charged post he finds there.

What was he thinking? What was he not thinking? Did the instinct for self-preservation just evaporate?

And the rationale for his action, the rationale for the re-posting, rings hollow. Gadfly will grant the however unlikely and remote possibility of missing the explicit text above the Facebook image when spontaneously clicking the share button below the image. But, as Councilwoman Negron pointed out, the image on its own is offensive. The Chief’s racial radar doesn’t seem to have recognized that even days later and even after intense public scrutiny of the image.

How explain shooting himself in the foot? Chief DiLuzio is a knuckie-head like the others.

So why do they shoot?

  • outright racism
  • implicit bias, the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner
  • the indelibility of the deep-seated default character of the “Warrior” rather than “Guardian” style of policing
  • original sin (Gadfly was Jesuit trained), “In Adam’s fall, we sinn-ed all”
  • the “Imp of the Perverse,” from the Edgar Allan Poe horror story, the inner urge to do exactly the wrong thing in a given situation for the sole reason that it is possible for wrong to be done
  • “a Jungian shadow-self rearing its head to get out and reveal his true feelings,” per a chatterer around Gadfly’s water cooler
  • Facebook disease

When it comes to Chief DiLuzio, Gadfly’s first thought was from a scene in John Irving’s novel The World According to Garp, in which a wrestling coach dies from over-excitement watching porn and his peers render the verdict “Lust lays another good man low!”

Facebook lays another good man low.

But, seriously, if we don’t know the cause of the problem, how can we solve it?

Where did the training go, where did commonsense go at these moments of engagement? Doesn’t give you much faith, much confidence in “more training” as the answer to mitigating such tragedies in the future, does it?

Training is no panacea, but maybe it’s all we got.

Unless we subscribe to the nihilism of the Black lady in the video we watched a while back who said, “You know, there’s really nothing at this point that they could do that would make me feel any safer with them without them just point blank clearing them all out and starting all over from scratch.”

Sigh.