“…She pushes beyond the familiar alarms to see transformation as source of radical possibility and opportunity, not nostalgia and loss… A better world is here already, in the streets themselves, waiting to be discovered and brought forth by all of us…What makes these pieces particularly remarkable is how, even during the lean times of the depression [for example], she discovered vibrant, small-scale city economies clipping along on their own energies, scenes so different from our shared vision of the 1930s…”
—from the Introduction to Vital Little Plans, The Short Works of Jane Jacobs, Edited by Samuel Zipp and Nathan Armstrong
That explanation of Jacobs’ thinking got me thinking, maybe I should be squinting at this first year of Donald Trump to see what else is happening.
Because while I understand how important & on-point it is to expose, articulate, and condemn all the corruption, lies, racism, authoritarianism, and creeping fascism that are threatening the country right now, maybe we should be putting equal emphasis on finding examples of love and hope, protest and organizing, and most important: progressive policy recommendations that are also in the 2017 mix. It might feel like Trump’s white power agenda is the story, but in 10 years, we will see that the resistance is writing our history right now.
In that spirit, here is one of my favorite things from 2017 so far: New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s speech explaining why taking down monuments honoring the Confederate South is the right thing to do. (He delivered this speech three months before the neo-Nazi/KKK/White Nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA.)
*Footnote about the picture at the top:
There is a much-loved photograph of Jane Jacobs sitting in jail, awaiting booking. She is side by side with the writer Susan Sontag, who looks characteristically defiant. Jacobs appears calmer, and bit world-weary, as if she were barely enduing the regular idiocy of bureaucratic authority. They ended up there, along with more than 250 other demonstrators, after an antiwar protest at New York’s Whitehall draft induction center in December 1967. The picture puts her at the heart of her times—it’s a snapshot from our collective idea of “the Sixties.” And it’s all the more poignant when we know what is on the horizon: A year later the Vietnam War would bring to a boiling point the frustrations Jacobs first felt at the onslaught of modern planning a decade before and push her family to flee the United States for Canada. …Death and Life remains a great predictor of the era’s upheaval, one of the first in that remarkable early Sixties run of seismic books—Paul Goodman’s Growing Up Absurd, Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, Michael Harrington’s The Other America, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man—that would rearrange the minds of a whole generation. ——from the Introduction to Vital Little Plans, The Short Works of Jane Jacobs, Edited by Samuel Zipp and Nathan Armstrong, pg. XXVI