This morning between sips of tea, I mull over this idea: only fear of accountability seems to assure good governance. Out of that mull, or mashing, comes a return to the word capricious: characterized by or subject to whim; impulsive and unpredictable. Synonym: arbitrary.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday ; a celebrated and adored American activist in this family. Happy Birthday Dear Doctor King! Over breakfast this morning we had a silent moment for all those people who do not see MLK as a wondrous and brave human. We hoped they will find the path that can see the benefit for everyone, in the laws, and non-capricious governing acts, that should govern all citizens in our nation.  No one should ever be dragged behind a truck to their death, or shot in the head, for the color of their skin, or the values they hold.

 I simply love the sound of the word capricious, and as an artist, serendipity and whim is often followed. But when paired with government, capricious becomes troubled. It is important to think about this term on MLK’s birthday. Capricious governance is a “punishable and “sue-able” law on the books, and is generally described as the practice of treating the enforcement of law as “whimsical” or “governance applied differently to different people depending on the whims of the elected officials.” This is an approach that is practiced way more than it is punished, from condo housing boards, to non-profits, to elected boards.  “Boards are often incompetent decision making boards made up of competent people.”

Research Note for novel development: building of a utopian society:  There is a ton of significant “precedent forming law” about how policies/laws/ordinances/resolutions must be uniformably practiced, and not read one way for one citizen and another way for another citizen. Also- transcribe conversation from audio town meeting minutes (request from your town hall for easy listening at home from meeting October 20th, 2010) in which elected officials discuss the “who” of who files a complaint. They are passionate that the “who” matters significantly. I asked “why does who is filing the complaint matter?”  Is it not the complaint, relative to the law, that matters? And the answer, for you all to hear for yourselves is paraphrased here: It matters who is filing the complaint because they might have ulterior motives, and they might be a trouble maker. And is because they might be a trouble maker, we need to know who is making the formal complaint before we will act on the complaint in any formal way. By making it not about the rule, but about the “who” we create a culture of capricious governance, or arbitrary enforcement or non-enforcement, and of complainers as “enemies.” And then enemies equal retaliation, and there is division, and division breeds conflict rather than community harmony.

 Uniform/equal application of the rules- that is what I am remembering on MLK’s birthday. When I asked my 5 year old “Who is MLK?” she answered that “he was a man who wanted America to be a better place.” The 11 year old echoed this general theme with specific references to his “I have a Dream Speech.” I told my children that I found President Obama’s speech this week at the Memorial Service in Tucson, AZ to be a kind of “I have a dream” speech. Instead of calling for all citizens to be treated equally under the law, Obama called for civility in discourse under the law. He called us all “from the same family” and asked the nation once again for tolerance and civility for “difference.” This was asked for relative to a dead 9 year old child, whose enthusiasm for our government system, and her pure belief in the power and beauty of democracy, brought her to her death. With tears in all our eyes, he begged us to be tolerant and civil, and to make government functional and idealized, for her sake and for the future of our nation’s sake.

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