Friday, August 10, 2007

Branded

"Do I worry about [the murders in New Orleans]? Somewhat. It's not good for us, but it also keeps the New Orleans brand out there, and it keeps people thinking about our needs and what we need to bring this community back. So it is kind of a two-edged sword. Sure it hurts, but we have to keep working everyday to make the city better."
Mayor C. Ray Nagin to Fox 8 News, from a Times-Picayune story

How long, Lord? How long?

I asked this, what: seven, eight month's ago?

How long, Lord, how long? ". . . Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure. Thou makest us a strife unto our
neighbours: and our enemies laugh among themselves . . .", the Psalmist laments
in number 80. Unlike the children of Israel, release for the [people of New Orleans] is as close as the nearest tank of gas and entrance to the interstate. A conversation with a friend [back in December], a couple that came home early and rebuilt and who threw themselves into the endless parade of rebuilding meetings, turned to talking whistfully of what life would be like in Memphis, and I wonder, how
long?

We are branded, Mr. Mayor. We wear the indelible mark of a people foolish enough to live in a city below sea level, behind levees built by a government we know incompetent, governed by fools and scoundrels of our own choosing, in a city where the streets run with blood while houses are torn down at random and it's called recovery. The branding burns our foreheads like the mark of the people of the biblical beast; cries out like numbers tatooed on the wrists of the survivors of the Nazis: we suffered and we will never forget; is hidden in shame sometimes like the scars of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Like the tatooed people of the last century, we will rise up and go on and build the New Jeruselum, will rebuild our city as Hiroshma and Nagasaki were rebuilt, will not accept the mark as a sign of the end of time. I listened to a radio talk show host ranting the other day about all of the people who say they are leaving because of the crime, because of it all. I hear those stories, too. I heard them back at the turn of the year.

The couple I spoke with are still here. Everyday more people come home. We are determined. We have been tested and have passed through the water and been made stronger. You, Mr. Mayor, have been tested and found wanting. Every day someone who voted for you in Houston or Atlanta comes home, and sees the result while your family settles into Dallas. How much longer do you think we will tolerate this before we march again to city hall, sit down, and wait for your to announce your resignation. How many more must die and how many salvagable houses demolished before we are not content to sit peacefully on the steps and wait for you to leave, but come in to get you.

The brand you need to concern yourself with, Mr. Mayor, is the first flaming brand that lights those in the rest of the crowd, the flickering firelight playing off of the sharp times of the pitchforks and the glassy, angry eyes of the crowd calling for you to be given to them for the crucifiction. How much more do you think the city can really take before we begin to organize ourselve in our own defense against crime, before we confront your random bulldozers with something sturdier than flimsy Do Not Demolish signs?

If you think we are not capable of whatever is required of us, look about your ruined city and consider that we have come home in the hundreds of thousands, to this. We are ready for anything, and we are of one kin with the people who stormed Bunker Hill, who followed Pickett up that hill, who today patrol the streets of Bagdhad. We did not look around at the desolation and turn around and go back to Texas. We came determined and driven. We will do whatever is asked of us to defend and save this place we love. And our patience has run thin.



Comments:
Courage and much strength to you.
 
It rained eight inches on your banks today. You are in our prayers. I would add to Marco's words, much peace to you all there in New Orleans.
 
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"And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." -- Audie Lorde

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