“Defund” is a clunky verb, and maybe that’s why folks are feeling skittish about what is otherwise a fairly basic, kinda half-assed slogan for an emerging national movement. “Abolish” is much stronger and more principled. Having a sense of dignity with your words is important, even in times of crisis.
The other problem with “defund” is that it’s too obvious. Who could rightfully come out against such a thing? Public institutions from the local to the federal have spent decades stripping away our investments into education, health care, holistic services for the elderly, housing safety, broadcast media—hell, our dumb, slobbering president is bellowing threats to defund (scratch that, abolish) the U.S. Postal Service, and the pig-bellied social media commenters seem generally to be keeping their traps shut over that. But the national court of public opinion catches an inkling of maybe toning down the federal funds for military gear at your local police precinct, and the gun nut crowd spasms. I’m mystified by the response, but America is a very weird, deeply subservient country.
That’s not exactly a reason, per se, to cut funding for local police (just ‘cause public schools don’t have books don’t mean no patrolman needs to go without ‘iz AR, right?). But it’s a healthy starting point for what seems to be an increasing cohort of apparent public intellectuals who are now sniffing around their municipal budgets.
And so what is a budget?
A budget is a moral document. It shows where our resources are directed—“our” resources, as in “our” shared commitment to a community. The imbalance between police and, say, everything else is a good target for outrage. It’s a chance, at the very least, to fuel grassroots political involvement at the local level. The president’s big reality show paints a grim picture, one that needs to change. But it’s also a spectacle that never shuts off and never lets the people turn their attention more helpfully toward their own City Hall and their own neighborly public officials.
This moment scans to me as a chance to fortify that gaze against locally elected liars and corrupt police departments. The president’s fascist trial balloons are only going to sink us into a moral sleep, keeping our brains glued to screens of all sizes. The independent press is disappearing. Critical thought is out to lunch. If we’re not paying attention, well, y’ever notice how police departments work like the U.S. military, continually picking up a greater piece of the pie? It doesn’t stop—unless we stop it.
I support the abolition of police departments as we know them now. I support a complete rethinking of public safety. This is not an overnight proposition or a hashtag. This is where I’ve been for a long time, entirely distrustful of police officers and higher-ups, and unwilling to compromise on anything but the basic timeline of disbandment. Minneapolis got things off to a great start, though. Might want to take some notes.