Article 25

Brian Garry Runs for Others

In Uncategorized on 01/30/2016 at 8:16 am

Brian Garry I

Brian Garry is a candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives. (Photo by Paul Davis)

A candidate against the system

By Corey Gibson

There were not enough seats Nov. 5 at Om Eco Café. Brian Garry was having a kick-off party for his campaign for the District 31 seat in the Ohio House of Representatives. In front of a diverse audience of university professors, social activists, friends, family and the occasional café customer greeted by the slew of supporters, Garry stood at the microphone, a brick wall and an eclectic bookcase as his background, thanking everyone for their support.

Garry, a University of Cincinnati graduate, is owner of Clifton-based construction company Green City Construction.

“Is it true you punch horses?” someone in the crowded room yelled, referencing Garry’s 2003 arrest, and acquittal, on a charge of assaulting a police officer’s horse. The room erupted in laughter as Garry stood in front of everyone, a bit uneasy about his speech being interrupted so early, only to mumble, “A little bit.”

A social activist in his younger years, Garry followed in the footsteps of the man he calls his mentor, the late Rev. Maurice McCrackin, protesting the death penalty and social inequality. He grew up in the hallways of Cincinnati City Hall, where his mother, Patricia Garry, was a legislative aide to City Councilman Charles P. Taft. Garry’s political activist upbringing showed as he stood before his audience at Om Eco Café. He garnered cheers. He had his speech mostly memorized. He added emphasis and spoke clearly and knew what the crowd wanted to hear. He’s a likable person. He posed for photos and shook everyone’s hand. He received the backing of a prominent local business and of City Councilmember Chris Seelbach, who also gave a speech touting Garry’s vision for the future of Ohio.

‘Magnify the voice’

Yet, it all felt too small for a person running for a seat in the state legislature. It all felt too homegrown, too close to be something that could possibly steer the future of the state. But maybe that’s what Garry wants. Something out of the ordinary. A type of politics that doesn’t exist. A type of politics where everyone really has a say, no matter color or social status.

But is that even possible?

On paper, Garry looks like the picture-perfect Democratic candidate for a seat in the Ohio House. He’s been active within the Democratic Party for the past 25 years. He’s volunteered his time on projects ranging from toxic waste to the repeal of Article XII – a charter amendment that forbade the city from passing any ordinance protecting homosexuals from discrimination – to stopping city budget cuts in arts and social-services funding.

Term-limited lawmaker Denise Driehaus is vacating the District 31 seat, a district that includes neighborhoods such as Amberley Village, Oakley, Norwood, Clifton and areas of Saint Bernard.

Garry ran for a seat on Cincinnati City Council in 2003 and in 2007, when the Hamilton County Democratic Party endorsed him.

He is quick to point out one of the losses was narrow.

“In a final analysis, I was equal with Wendell Young and Greg Harris, both of whom went on to serve on city council,” Garry says. “I decided not to run after that because of my son and my fatherly duties.”

So why continue seeking a career in politics?

“I’m an idealist. I want to leave the world a better place than when I got to it,” Garry says. “This is an opportunity for me to apply and magnify the voice for social justice for those who are, in many ways, shut out of our system.”

Garry says this year he is focusing on fundraising more than he has in the past. He knows grassroots campaigning can be a struggle when he goes up against other politicians who have backers funding their campaign, which is why one of his main issues is keeping big money out of politics.

“We feel that money has an influence over politics that it shouldn’t,” Garry says. “Similar to that, we feel party politics should stay out of the primaries. Any endorsements should wait and let the fair elections process to take place.”

Even Garry’s primary opponent for the seat, Dr. Paul Sohi, believes in waiting to endorse a candidate. Above an article on Sohi’s website calling for the Democratic Party to wait to endorse a candidate, pictures continually flash, all featuring Sohi with prominent political figures such as Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil, former State Sen. Eric Kearney and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Caleb Faux, executive director of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, said the party typically does not endorse candidates in a contested primary.

Noisemaker

Although Garry knows he needs funds, he also believes keeping his feet on the ground is his best bet for garnering votes.

“We believe we have a message that resounds with young people,” he says. “A lot of our energies will go to energizing that young, spirited, talented age group of voters.”

Garry says another group of voters he is going to heavily rely on is African Americans. His field manager, Kevin Farmer, says Garry “has the heart and the issues when it comes to the urban ghettos.”

“Certain people not of color do not understand the situation of people who are of color,” Farmer says. “Being poor white is different than being poor black. And Brian has an understanding on both ends, and at the end of the day he has the love for doing the right thing for everyone. He has the solutions to get it done.”

The main issues Garry is running on are income equality, reducing child poverty, police brutality and fracking. It’s those issues, Garry says, that made him want to bypass another run for city council and move up to the state legislature.

“Some of the issues we think of as incredibly important – education and incarceration, that can be affected at the state level and can’t really be affected through our local legislation,” he says. “City council really has no direct effect on education.”

Garry says he wants to give a voice to the people on the street, who, he says, care more now than ever about social and economic justice.

“I think he cares about the people,” says Garry’s campaign manager, Celeste Treec. “He connects with the people on a grassroots level. He has a heart for the people and shows this with his actions by getting involved and learning the concerns of the people. He’s willing to educate people on social-justice issues to help everyone become more politically involved.”

During his speech at Om Eco Café, Garry reminded the audience he was there for them, that he was in politics for them, but that he needed their support if he was going to “make noise in the state legislature.”

“Our city is beginning to reflect our nation of haves and have-nots, where so many have so little and so few have so much,” Garry said.

City Councilmember Chris Seelbach endorsed Garry, saying, “Not only has he shared our values since day one, he hasn’t needed to evolve like other politicians. He shares our progressive values and he is a fighter, the son of a great feminist in Cincinnati. He cares about women’s issues and has been a straight ally to the gay community here long before it was popular. Brian isn’t afraid to make some noise when the other side is not doing their job. We need someone that will stand up and fight for us and call the people out when they’re not fighting for our values, and that is why we need to send Brian Garry to the state legislature.”

“We believe in social justice,” Garry said. “We believe we can change the world. We are engaging in the same grassroots community-based politics as we always have. We keep our head in the clouds, with our ideals and our principles, but we keep our feet planted firmly on the ground because that’s where the people we want to represent are.”

 

“Uneven Surfaces”

In Uncategorized on 01/25/2016 at 12:11 pm

Uneven Surface sign

What We Need is In-for-Structure

By Mary Pierce Brosmer

 

So, what of uneven surfaces? We are ON them and IN them: treacherous times when patterns of somebodies and nobodies are in rapid re-arrangement. Along with the victories there is backlash: violence and fascistic cruelty lurking among the respectable and the well-heeled as fully as among the less calculating killers. I’ll try to connect the dots in a sea change moment in history until they resemble something consoling and (possibly) coherent, a pointillist painting, a few cautious steps on Uneven Surfaces.

 

Structures of both nature and culture are in flux, whether deteriorating, or jumping to a new phase state it’s impossible to tell from moment to moment. We read of sinkholes, melting glaciers, super-bugs, power grids vulnerable to cyber-attack. A medical professor laments, “Advances in technology have eclipsed our ability to train for them” (not to mention pay for them).

Lately I’ve been trying to tease apart some uneven surfaces in noticing this world in flux, loosely framed as, “Is it possible that the obsessive clinging to traditional structures for their own sake – without regard to the people and values they were created to serve – is because they are imploding, perhaps causing their implosion?

  1. The most overtly “successful” among us are those adept at legal structures and business hierarchies, strategies for winning, even if the win perverts justice, destroys natural resources, legitimates theft. The repeated motif of Congressman Boehner’s swansongs was his pride at being a “guardian of the institution.”And, what, I said in my head every time I heard him, about the people the institution was created to serve? Boehner’s leadership reminded me of a teacher-colleague who argued passionately that our job was only “to teach the curriculum as written.” He outlasted me in the system by a decade and took his pension, in pious (and safe) service to a list of readings and tasks created decades ago by people he’d never met, while all around him had bloomed new and beautiful poems, novels and short stories that might have more ably inspired the actual human, diverse students serving whom was our real job.

What astounds me is the way that reduction of systems to ends in themselves doesn’t even serve the systems. The “art” of the deal, the way political has little or no relationship as a word to its original meaning because it’s been severed from its end: bringing groups together to achieve the best for the most. Philosopher David Hume wrote, “The moral imagination lessens with distance.” An incalculable distance has evolved between laws and morals, systems and the people in them.

  1. Walking into the garage of my son’s house in Atlanta in still-hot October, I came upon an odd sight that has haunted me and that seems to embody this severing of the moral imagination from the means intended to express it. A long cockroach, the whitest white I’ve ever seen in a living creature, almost fluorescent white, was molting, finishing with a few tiny squirms the shrugging off an old shell. Something about the cold white flesh, while certainly in its own natural order, showed up in my imagination as what is left of human relationships after centuries of “life” captured in structures for their own – not humanity’s – sake. As, I intuit, was a dream I had that became a poem about what is left of meaning and story and music, in schools dominated by “standardized” tests.

 

Hidden Meanings

 

I dream I am teaching poetry underground

in not so much a cave, as a series of tunnels.

Fifty or more teenagers sprawl around

smoky fires and flickering computer screens.

 

I stand in the tallest tunnel and ask for a poem.

 

I ask for a poem and five boys rise,

plugging in amps.

Amps alone are their instruments.

There are no speakers, no guitars, keyboards

certainly no words. A blur

of inchoate noise fills the tunnel.

“Thank you,” I say, knowing

they have given what they can.

 

Scaling back, I ask for a word

and someone offers, “Bird,”

as if calling it up from a distance.

 

Uncertain what to make of it,

I ask one of the old questions:

“What makes it a poem?”

A girl in a lateral-branching tunnel

calls out, “Language interest.

 

“Good”, I say. “Good. Anything else?”

“Hidden meanings,” says one of the musicians,

his face pallid in computer glow.

 

“Yes, yes,” I say, “but not too hidden.”

(This I consider an important lesson.)

“Anything else?”

They look at me expectantly,

most are sitting upright now.

 

How about story?

As in: an old woman hears

a bird and remembers tears,

something funny someone once said at supper,

supper itself, things crunchy in her mouth, smells,

how her mother’s hand felt on her face, music.

 

“I’ve heard of supper,” murmurs a boy in the back.

“Someone my uncle knew cooked actual food and

handed it to people on plates … he thinks

this happened often in those days.

 

“I saw a picture of that on the internet,”

volunteers a faraway student,

but someone interrupts,

“I say let’s get back to the original

Point – that is the word, ‘bird.’ ”

 

OK, yes, let’s circle

around that word again.

 

The tunnel seems to widen

and students flow forward,

easing around the largest of the fires,

computer screens provide back light.

 

Bird, birdie,

watch the birdie,

fly, sky, clouds

eclipse, moon,

dancing, stones.

 

Words pour in from all quarters.

That we will make something of them later,

I trust, for now we are making something

of ourselves

 

In my dream of teaching poetry underground.

 

  1. Mary Pipher (Reviving Ophelia, etc.) has written that families need both love and structure in order to raise psychologically healthy children. I fear that love, in the structures in which we raise peoples, shape cultures, has gone underground. Speak of love, even hint at its existence (not to mention its presence as an ordering principle in all scripture) and you will be laughed out of the room, not taken seriously as a participant in any organizational endeavor. Take, for example, this e-mail a condo neighbor of mine received from a long-time board member. The writer, a self-named “man of god,” is responding to my friend’s suggestion that we, in our microcosmic world, have monthly conversations to learn ways of creating community across our differences and sometimes conflicting needs, learn ways beyond the many-decades-old “blue book” of bylaws and “legal declarations.”

“I did not realize you are such a naif. If you think your suggestions below will ameliorate the anger, hatred and meanness of your coolaid (sic) drinkers, you don’t know much about sin or if you prefer, the dark side of human nature. From 35 years of dealing with people like this in my churches, I can tell you there is nothing that will work to calm them.”

That Ben Carson and Donald Trump are ascendant because of their outsidership reflects the points I’m making that the larger We is sickened by laws and rules, pardon the pun, trumping purpose and meaning. Meaning, love, vulnerability, justice, service are so very seriously underground as to be thinned to abstraction (as in my dream: all amps, no music).

  1. In Cincinnati city politics, Issue 22, which purported to be a way to “support our parks,” seemed to me emblematic of the inverse relationship between substance and structure, in this case infrastructure. I’ll admit to being sucked into “supporting our parks” to the extent of signing the petition to put the issue on the ballot. (Being solicited outside the mailroom of the condo complex where I live, by a former Cincinnati mayor and Ohio congressman, may have contributed to my careless signing. By the way, such “solicitation” is very definitely against the RULES. But rules in cultures which are in love with them for their own sake, are always run by people with little or no compunction about bending or ignoring them for those they consider “somebodies.”) Fairly quickly, however, I became alert to the fact that, it was not the parks, as in what’s left of nature in the city, that was being “saved” rather the permanent tax would be available to build structures IN nature, not humble toileting and teeter-totters, but Disney-esque beer halls and the like which the powers that be determined would “save our parks.”

I could frame statewide Issue 3 the same way, and will. Our betters (those with $2 million each to invest) proposed to do us the honor of building structures to keep marijuana use, medical and recreational, “safe,” not to mention profitable. Yeah, like the big banks (our other betters, those job-creators, cautious investors of our money) can be relied on to be good stewards of our economy (see 2008).

  1. Looking at popular culture, I have wondered about the significance of the zombie meme: death-in-life repeating itself in television series, film, music, fashion. A friend told me of being invited to a niece’s zombie wedding, which would feature the bride and groom in shroud-garb, and – wait for it – DEAD flowers. If ever there were an expression of what we know but don’t acknowledge, rising from the unconscious, the fixation on the living-dead, or dead-living is a hammer to the head.
  2. You might remember the film, Shawshank Redemption, in which a long-time prisoner has become what they call an “institution man,” so at home in the death-in-life structure of the prison that, upon his release, he breaks parole so that he will be returned. So thoroughly has the learned helplessness of “rules-only” living captured him.

A friend and I had matching experiences – hers more recent, and mine a few years ago – as everyday expressions of this variety of learned helplessness and moral distance.

My friend was on her way to in Washington Park when, crossing Elm Street, she caught her sandal between cobblestones and pitched forward, landing heart and sternum first, breath knocked out of her body. A man using his cell phone to roust a sleeping homeless man from the steps of Music Hall, offers to “call someone” to help her. Her breath returning in gulps, she declines. My version of this story was that I was riding my new Africa bike in Kennedy Park when I pitched forward virtually at the feet of three teenagers, cell phones in hand. Not one of them moved toward me or offered touch, help, as I lay tangled in the bike. They did offer to call 911, looking down on me from what I experienced as an inhuman distance.

  1. Here is my only idea about righting the relationship between structures, systems of all kinds, and the lives and values they were created to serve (and not vice-versa).

First, to keep always in the forefront the fact that, in both nature and culture, systems are created by the impulse of life, to make more aliveness possible.

Next, to remember this inevitable spiral: creation of safe places and protective systems for the vulnerable all too often leads to those places becoming “hell holes.” Think only of the devolution of the word “asylum” from “safe place” to the shudder meanings of “asylum” as a place of hopeless holding, overwhelming need, lack of care for all involved, cruelty and neglect.

Preventing this horrible set of unintended consequences is possible only by ongoing (regular, non-gimmicky, emotionally authentic ) spiritual-emotional stewardship. In one of many attempts to “legitimate” such stewardship practices I began calling them an “In-for-Structure.”Rendered in this slide from a talk I gave at The New Hampshire Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

 

 

The abstract for the talk:

“In health care we have we have created system-wide infrastructure for managing all aspects of delivery of care, while completely failing to create systems for caring for the system itself, or for those who deliver care. In this plenary session, Mary Pierce Brosmer will offer a modest proposal for creating an effective and responsive system-wide organizational operating system for your hospice.”

Organizational operating system, and regular practice of a personal operating system for listening to and acting from the intelligence of the whole (by creating space for every one of its parts) as it moves through time and space, and NOTHING, no aspect of the operating system allowed to become set in stone, idealized and sacrosanct, sacred yes, but not desecrated by rote application.

May Swenson wrote a poem, “Distance and a Certain Light,” the final verse of which is

“In any random, sprawling, decomposing thing

is the charming string

of its history – and what it will be next.”

Those with brains wired and hearts stunted by institution – think first last and always – are unable to follow the “charming string” of the thing their fear has caused to decompose, toward the life of “what will be next.”

And so very often call themselves “men of God”, but what God?

 

So the Animals Shall Speak

In Uncategorized on 01/24/2016 at 3:00 pm

Christmas Story

Timing is everything

By Renée Henning
There is an old Christmas legend about talking animals. According to the tale, cows, donkeys, and other farm creatures were present in the Bethlehem stable when Jesus was born. The beasts, taking pity on the homeless baby, tried to warm and comfort him with their gentle presence and soothing sounds. As a result, Jesus gave all animals the gift of speech. They can talk like people, but only while the clock tolls 12 times for midnight on Christmas Eve.

When I learned of the legend, I was charmed – and skeptical. As a lark, I decided to test the story through scientific observation. My experimental work occurred in New England in the 1960s and 1970s on three Christmas Eves. Now, having realized that I will never resume this important research, I have decided to publish my empirical results. Your job is to figure out from what follows whether the legend is true.

The First Christmas Eve

On the first Christmas Eve, I was a teenager. My plan was simple. I would observe the research subjects at midnight on Christmas Eve and memorize what, if anything, they said.

The research subjects were my pets, Mitzi and Moo-cha-cha. Mitzi was a bouncy Belgian sheepdog with papers certifying her to be pure German shepherd. Moo-cha-cha was a queenly mongrel cat. The dog and cat were opposites in most respects. However, both of them were party animals who loved family gatherings and hated being banished to the basement at night.

The research subjects, my relatives and I had a wonderful Christmas Eve that year. My family feasted, played silly games, sang Christmas carols danced, and read the biblical account of the birth of Jesus. Suddenly at 12:05 a.m., too late, I remembered my forgotten scientific experiment. Well, they say all scientific advances involve some trial and error.

The Second Christmas Eve

The second Christmas Eve turned out to be Mitzi’s last Christmas Eve on earth. It also turned out to be full of surprises.

I was better prepared this time around. As the research subjects and my family partied, I kept an eye on the clock. At five minutes before midnight, I got ready to observe the subjects. But there was a problem – to my surprise, I could not find them. Mitzi and Moo-cha-cha, who had been celebrating with us all evening, had vanished.

I walked through the house calling them repeatedly, with no response. This was the second surprise. Although Moo-cha-cha had been known to hide smiling while someone nearby went hoarse calling her name, Mitzi typically responded to calls with happy yelps.

Quickly I organized a laughing search party to comb our three-story Victorian home. My family finally located the research subjects, too late, at 12:02 a.m. For the third surprise, the subjects turned up in the basement to which they hated to be banished.

The fourth surprise was what was occurring there. Mitzi and Moo-cha-cha were sitting companionably near each other, facing each other. Mitzi was panting and had a huge doggy grin, and Moo-cha-cha was purring loudly.

“Did you talk? Did you talk?” I asked excitedly.

Unfortunately for science, neither animal would say.

The Third Christmas Eve

The third Christmas Eve, which came some years later, was my first as a bride. My husband and I were guests that snowy night at his parents’ New England home. Staying with us in our bedroom was the new research subject, the household’s pet dog.

Scampi was a miniature schnauzer. He disdained other dogs, thought he was a short person, and pined whenever he was away from people. Something of a sophisticate, Scampi particularly enjoyed the cocktail hour, for the company and the cheese. Clearly, if he was going to speak at midnight, it would be to a human, not to an animal. Furthermore, according to my reasoning, if Scampi did talk, it would most likely be to his soul mate, my husband.

My preparations were more advanced than on the two earlier Christmas Eves. As midnight drew nearer, I watched the clock, the research subject and the door, which was closed to ward off any escape. I also had a laboratory assistant, my husband, to serve as a second pair of eyes (or ears) in the experiment. However, there was one last thing to do. I needed to brush my teeth.

At 11:50 p.m. I left the bedroom. After propping my watch over the sink, I checked the time repeatedly while working on my teeth. I brushed, brushed and brushed. I just did not want to see what I expected – Scampi without the gift of speech.

At 12:03 a.m. I walked into the bedroom, where my husband and Scampi were sitting in companionable silence near each other.

“Did Scampi talk?” I asked hesitantly, dreading the answer.

My beloved husband gave me an answer about what transpired in that closed room at midnight that snowy Christmas Eve. That 1976 statement is all he ever was willing to say on the subject in our many happy years of marriage.

My husband responded, “Scampi told me not to say.”

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.