Being the sort of person I am, the word "agitator" always grabs my attention.
The Catholic Agitator is the paper of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker (LACW) community that has been serving the poor and homeless on Skid Row for over forty years. Picking up the paper I was immediately engrossed in an article by Jeff Dietrich about the conflict between the LACW and the City of Los Angeles. The conflict had to do with shopping carts.
Apparently, the City of LA was cracking down on the homeless by confiscating the shopping carts they used to hold and transport their belongings. The City found these carts to be an eyesore so, to preserve appearances, they started taking the carts away. How could they legally do this? The City claimed that the shopping carts were stolen property, taken from local grocery stores.
Of course that wasn't the real reason for taking the carts away. The real reason had to do with the fact that the shopping carts made the homeless visible. That was the real crime of the homeless. Being seen. And taking away the carts would help vanish the poor on the streets of LA. Without shopping carts people could drive around the city and not see poor people. Shopping carts broke the illusion by making the homeless visible.
Knowing what was going on the LACW decided to help their friends. They bought their friends their own personal shopping carts. No longer stolen property the City couldn't take the carts away. But that didn't stop them from trying. What ensued was The Shopping Cart War between the City of LA and the LA Catholic Worker.
Needless to say, reading about the War I immediately became of fan of Jeff Dietrich, the LA Catholic Worker and their newsletter The Catholic Agitator.
You can find subscription information for The Catholic Agitator here. And if you'd like to quickly catch up with Jeff Dietrich and his best writing in The Catholic Agitator collected over forty years, let me point you to the edited collection Broken and Shared. I just started Broken and Shared and so far have found it to be a wonderful, provocative, challenging and inspiring read.
This summer I'm speaking at the Pepperdine Lectureship in Malibu. I'm thinking about blowing off the Hollywood environs of Malibu ASAP to spend some time on Skid Row with the LACW...