Would you rather have the Merriam-Webster definition or the Cambridge English definition of oppression?
Would you rather have the Merriam-Webster definition or the Cambridge English definition of "oppression?" Lester Black

My eyes are bleeding. My brain is broken.

The Seattle City Council just had a full meeting entirely dedicated to a new resolution "reaffirming Seattle as a welcoming city and condemning all forms of oppression throughout the world."

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The resolution, put forward by Councilmember Alex Pedersen, passed 4-1. The only no vote was from District 2 Councilmember Tammy Morales, the only non-white council member present at today's meeting.

I know what you're thinking—How can a resolution condemning all oppression throughout the world be bad??? The resolution was put forward last week by Pedersen who, frankly, seems tired of all the time the council spends on symbolic resolutions. He proposed his catch-all resolution against worldwide oppression right before the council was to vote on Councilmember Kshama Sawant's proposed anti-war-with-Iran resolution and her resolution opposing India's National Register of Citizens and Citizenship Amendment Act.

"Please allow me to ask that we try to not craft a city council resolution for every horrible thing that our president or any world leader does," Pedersen said during last week's meeting. He then went on to say that the city should concern itself with local issues because the council doesn't have enough "bandwidth" for all these globe-spanning resolutions.

There was appropriate pushback from Sawant last week (she was not present at today's meeting). Councilmember Debora Juarez was also absent today, and Council President Lorena Gonzalez is on maternity leave.

That left Pedersen fighting time-wasting symbolic resolutions by pitching a time-wasting symbolic resolution to a smaller audience.

"Oppression is defined as 'a situation in which people are governed in an unfair and cruel way and prevented from having opportunities and freedom,'" Pedersen read aloud at one point during the meeting. He said that this definition was from the Cambridge English Dictionary. (An amendment to the resolution proposed by one of the lawyers on the council—guess who it was! answer below!—required the inclusion of the actual definition of oppression, just to be extra clear.) Pedersen then read the Merriam-Webster definition of oppression. I am not sure whether one definition or both definitions made the final cut.

Morales was the only council member to speak up against the resolution.

"While I appreciate the intent behind this, to make sure we are clear that we as a council are committed to protecting people," Morales said, "I think it’s important to acknowledge that a blanket statement like this can obscure the violence that’s committed intentionally upon marginalized groups."

The resolution attempted to make the point that Seattle had already defined itself as a welcoming city ten times over.

The supporting evidence included examples of other human rights resolutions passed by the Seattle City Council during the last three years. In the mix was the resolution in support of the Deferred Action Childhood Arrival (DACA) program and the immigrant communities who relied on it, a resolution opposing the Trump administration separating migrant families at the border, and more.

Morales pointed out that these were specific and important examples of meaningful action that the council had taken up to support immigrants and migrants.

"We have to continue to lift up the voices of those who have been silenced to the margins when their oppression has been brought to our attention whether it’s locally, nationally, or internationally," Morales said. "We can’t be silent when the issues of human rights are at stake."

Pedersen, after thanking Morales three times for her comments, launched into his defense, which was just saying that this resolution is "a 'Yes, and' situation."

He then let everyone know that he was currently looking at the Amnesty International website and that there "were scores of human rights violations" happening right now.

"We don’t have resolutions for everything going on every day," he said, eyes glued to the Amnesty International site. "So this is reaffirming Seattle as a welcoming city and condemning all forms of oppression throughout the world."

Pedersen continued: "We're not meaning to exclude, but cast a wide net and include other resolutions."

In fact, specific language had been added to clarify that the resolution didn't actually prevent other council members from submitting resolutions about human rights violations at home or abroad. That was a departure from the original version he had proposed last week.

So Pedersen literally pushed through a resolution that simply reaffirmed that Seattle is a welcoming city. That's it. That's where the tax dollars went today.

The conversation then moved from Pedersen defining "oppression" two times from two different dictionaries to Councilmember Andrew Lewis sheepishly taking credit for being the one to ask for a definition of oppression.

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"I do support Councilmember Pedersen's resolution despite the fact that it might be duplicative," Lewis said.

In summation, to demonstrate efficiency in local government, Pedersen pushed through a non-binding resolution that congratulates / subtweets the council for passing non-binding resolutions and does not forbid them from passing more in the future.

Hello, Seattle Process, nice to see you again.

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