Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Just Us in Davis: Wield a hatchet, plant a seed


From page A10 | December 08, 2013 |

By Jonathan London

After (finally) finishing the leftover turkey, I am left reflecting on what remains of the Thanksgiving Day. I am thinking about giving thanks and the state of thankfulness.

As a professional critic (that is, a professor), I tend to focus on what is wrong with the world and to wield my mind as a hatchet, to cut to the heart of the systems that oppress and divide us. This deconstruction is a powerful way to speak truth to power, to expose the emperor and so on.

However, equally important is planting seeds, and offering creative alternatives to the status quo. Without the hatchet, there is no open ground for seeds to grow: Without the seed, there is only barren ground. I see thankfulness as a common ground that can hold both the hatchet and the seed.

To be thankful is not to be naïve to injustices or to blindly accept the status quo. One can be thankful about the everyday gifts that surround us and still be passionate about social change. In fact, I experience thankfulness as part of a critical awareness of the world as it is that leads to a vision of the world as it should be.

Around our table — and, I imagine, many others — “family” was the most common answer to the question of “What are you thankful for?” For me, family represents unconditional love, support, shared history and unshakable connection. For all of this, I am deeply thankful.

What makes this feeling of thankfulness more poignant is the recognition that not everyone has the benefit of an intact family. This recognition then turns to the reasons behind this disparity between my and other’s experience of family. While there are many factors internal to family dynamics at play, there are also larger structural factors that cut against family unity. One of these is our nation’s dysfunctional and unjust immigration policy that tears apart families and frays the fabric of our society as a whole. Remember, Thanksgiving is essentially celebrating the arrival of a boatload of undocumented immigrants to these shores.

Deportation of undocumented immigrants has increased significantly under the Obama administration, taking a tremendous toll on immigrant families in California and across the country. While the U.S. House of Representatives shares the blame in not passing humane immigration reform as called for by the Senate and President Obama, the administration alone is to blame for the harsh implementation of the current policy.

A recent hunger strike by a range of civil rights, religious and political leaders has brought national attention to this pressing issue, but the deportations continue unabated. See for Rachel Maddow’s recent story on the topic. Calls, letters and other expressions of outrage directed can be directed to the Speaker of the House John Boehner to bring comprehensive immigration reform to a full floor vote and to President Obama to halt these anti-family deportations.

After “family,” the most common response to “What are you thankful for?” was “this food!” Having cooked the turkey myself (love that dry brine rub!), I was pretty proud of the dinner. I was thankful that our family has the economic means to put this dinner, and dinner every day, on our table.

This led to the reflection on those who do not have such resources, who depend on food stamps, who go hungry, who are homeless and so on. Why is this: Why do so many in our richest of all nations go hungry when others of us have too much to eat? As Bill Clinton famously said, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

So, looking at the economy, we see a set of diverging paths: with those few on top reaping ever greater shares of the nation’s wealth, and those on the bottom sliding deeper into poverty with little opportunity to arise. One of the most significant downward forces on the economy is the shamefully low minimum wage. This is shameful in that is beneath human dignity to work all day (and often night) and still not have the money to feed, clothe, house and care for your family. It is also shameful in that the minimum wage actually has decreased, in real dollars, over the past decades.

Proposals to raise the minimum wage to a mere $10 an hour (that’s $20,000 a year before taxes, folks) have been called radical wealth redistribution and a threat to the economy. Well, the critics have the first part right: Raising the minimum wage is one step in allowing millions of Americans to enjoy the fruits of their labor — a radical idea, indeed. But the critics are dead wrong on the second: many studies have shown that raising the minimum wage actually will stimulate the economy, as these millions of workers will now have more money to spend and will have reduced reliance on public benefits.

At the same time, it is important to maintain a safety net of these benefits, including protecting food stamps from the draconian cuts proposed by the GOP. Tying both the hunger and the wages issue together is the plight of the farm workers who produced our Thanksgiving bounty but who struggle with poverty and food insecurity.

Starting with thankfulness for the gifts that surround us, we become aware of the injustices that divide us. Wielding the hatchet of critical awareness, we uncover the root causes of these injustices. Dislodging these roots, we plant new seeds to create a world we can all be thankful for.

Let’s eat.

— Jonathan London, Ph.D., is a Davis resident and parent. He shares this monthly column with Jann Murray-García. Reach him at [email protected]



Jonathan London



New chemistry building in the works at UCD

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1

County supervisors receive positive report on Laura’s Law

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

Fix it yourself, with a little help, at Bike Forth

By Bob Schultz | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Bob Dunning: Squeezed by the math on conservation

By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

Big Day of Giving surpasses $5 million goal

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

California regulators approve unprecedented water cutbacks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Kids get a peek at the great outdoors

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

BeerFest expands to include cider

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Heidrick Ag History Center rebranded as California Agriculture Museum

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

May 11 talk focuses on clean water

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

‘From Age-ing to Sage-ing’ guides library group

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Crossing lines, on ‘Davisville’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

’12 Angry Men’ will screen Friday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Pet Food Express organizes Save a Kitten fundraiser

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Round up at the registers for Davis schools

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6Comments are off for this post

Retirees to hear about Woodland’s shade tree campaign

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

Origami lovers will meet at library

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

Breast cancer treatment update offered

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

Earth-centered author comes to Avid Reader

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

MIND Institute lecture will focus on prenatal exposure to insecticide

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

Pence Gallery: We’re overflowing with gratitude

By Natalie Nelson | From Page: A9 | Gallery

Health care documentary will screen at meeting

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

Who is Ralph Hexter? Chancellor’s No. 2 fills us in

By Tanya Perez | From Page: A10 | Gallery



New book flows with good news about water

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4 | Gallery

Injection wells endanger our aquifers

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

Living with this for 30 years

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5



Aggies go flat in 7-1 Sacramento State win at Raley

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Devils crush Edison to earn McClatchy rematch

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Blue Devils grind out a victory over Oak Ridge

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Davis boys dominate first playoff match

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Alliance/Legacy roundup: Local squads fare well over the weekend

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

AYSO roundup: Davis teams capture Fog Classic crowns

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

Pro baseball roundup: Giants blank Pads, win fifth straight

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10





High school artists exhibited at Pence Gallery

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

See Christian Quintin’s paintings at Hattie Weber Museum

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble returns

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A7 | Gallery

Sac Ballet presents Modern Masters on May 8-9

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A7

Davis Youth Flute Choir tunes up for China tour

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8







Comics: Wednesday, May 6, 2015

By Creator | From Page: B5