Political science graduate students are forced by instructors to at least begin to think about the question: What’s power?
How to define that most over-used word? Who has it? Who doesn’t? How little? How much? For how long? And why?
Guess it depends on whom you listen to and when and what’s going on around us.
If you listen to many of our politicians, it’s the root cause of our problems. They’re the powerful forces. Those root causes are in charge. And our focus needs to be on them. Or things, well, will just remain as they are. You know.
Actually, we don’t know. What students do learn is that the most effective form of power is the one most never see: the non-decision. The equation: A gets B to do nothing. We ought to get it written in calligraphy, put in an expensive unforgettable frame, and put it up on a wall in every elected official office.
Sneaky secret? When caught exercising their most lethal power, you’ll hear the reply from our highly paid, well-benefited, and over-staffed electeds: you’re right-wing, racist, insensitive, silly, stupid, anti-progressive, reactionary, uninformed, don’t know the system, wrong ethnic, racial, religious group.
In common language, that means how dare you to question our actions! Get it? Now go away or we’ll make sure you never get another meeting, a plaque for your wall, a photo, a letter, a wave.
Dead citizens can’t complain. And the poor–whose children are being shot, beaten, threatened, murdered on our streets–can’t afford to write checks for campaign fund-raising events. They are trying to get through each day and pray that tomorrow comes sooner.
Within the last month, weapons have been dropped outside city schools. School safety agents using screening machines are the reason. And where there’s no screening? A mother cries in The Bronx because her child was stabbed. Wanna bet that the family has no politician pictures on the home walls, another victim of the great non-decision.
Pols will tell you it’s COVID-19 and root causes that are killing and shooting, stabbing, assaulting our young people. They are all our young people, New York City’s young people whether poor or rich, Latino, Black, Asian or White. New Yorkers all.
The hands of root causes did not hold those guns that shot into crowds or that sprayed bullets across a street where poverty is in charge, and the un-elected mayor is named hopelessness.
Talking about our tragedy and our possible tragedies do not cry for the children or comfort the mothers who weep.
Blaming those who speak with words that do not fit the moment’s demanded correctness will not restore one life, heal a family, remove the scars from the heart of a city numbed by the unseeable COVID killer, frozen to the daily headlines marking our dead, our wounded.
We need our school safety agents, we need our police, and we need politicians who understand that being powerful is more than a gift. Getting to the root causes of bad public policy should be the legacy of a public service career. What we remember now are our wounded, dead and endangered.
And we can’t root cause them away. No matter what you think.