Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Clockwork Merliton

. . . The river's tent is broken; the last fingers of leaf
Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind
Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed . . .
-- from The Fire Sermon, from T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland

What will it mean to the future of the city if the senseless murder of Helen Hill is the last straw? The level of despair is the worst I've heard since the bleak fall of '05, when it seemed the city was drowned to death. People are beginning to murmur that they have had enough, that they will follow Paul Gailiunas and go. It will be painfully ironic if the placards posted through Central City calling people to stand up against crime to save their city become instead signposts on the way to somewhere else.

Even from my cozy corner of the Triangle of Hope in Mid-City, the neighborhood I began referring to only partially in jest as the Green Zone, a gathering of friends was marked by the tension. I had hoped Bart and Xy would join us; they hard RSVP'd. Given their connection to Paul and Helen, I was not surprised when they did not come. One person who did come came without his wife, pleading too much stress on her part. She called right after his brief drop-by, worried about where he was "with all the bullets flying out there." At nights end, one person fled the porch suddenly when I mentioned "the couple in the Marigny" and did not return.

I do feel safe even as property crime seems to be on the upswing in Mid-City. I look at the police maps, and "persons crimes" are notably absent from our area. Still, my daughter is in the Bywater every day at NOCCA, and the guards at the entrance and high fences: are they enough? Its one thing to risk my neck on principle, but another that she have to risk hers.

The more I think about it, the more I think that Kimberly has said it best by stealing the silly phrase of 2001: If you leave, the terrorists win. Here, that trite bit of propaganda has true meaning. The shooters are lost to humanity, have lost their humanity, become precisely what Anthony Burgess meant by a clockwork orange: a souless, clockwork person; something that seems bright and full of the juice of life but is in fact a sham of a human being; a golum.

Regardless of one's views on religion and spirit, it is indisputable that evil moves in the world even if it is only a diseased and dysfunctional aspect of humanity. It is moving through our city, cruising slowly through the drug-riddled neighborhoods with a .40 caliber automatic in its pocket. To leave now would be a mistake at great as Neville Chamberlain's. It will not mean peace for our time, but instead consign those who remain to a downward spiral into the unimaginable and render everything we have done for the city by coming home worthless.

I am no more ready to give up hope now than I was a year and a half ago. Confronting the crime problem is no less daunting than contemplating how to rebuild a city more damaged than anything seen since World War II. All that is required for evil-- and in the city's case entropy--to triumph is that good men and women do nothing, as thefamous misquote of Edmund Burke runs. Just as apt is an actual quote on the issue of American independence also from Mr. Burke:

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one...

I had wanted to come. A little fellowship with friends and neighbors would have done us good. But as the day waned I found myself feeling dizzier and queasier and then I got the chills. Today I'm feeling better but still weak. I believe it was pure grief-sickness.
We missed you Bart. Hope you feel better physically. You would have gotten a laugh out of Michael's lime green crocofile shoes...
AMEN darlin'!

I know that many in the city are more than a little freaked, but for those of the Marigny these ocurences are not new... they existed prior to the Flood. We raised Hell back then, but no one listened. Now an entire city is listening.

The key is to be aware of where you are and those around you. Thugs do not like potential victims who are aware: too hard to do their crap on them.

I go to clubs in the wee hours, and everyone that walks in knows that someone is watching. The thugs know this, and they never know who is packing what. When a possible perp slimes in, I slip my knife off my waistband and flick her open... no one hurts my friends. (No, I'm not a tough girl, but I did survive the bashers in S.F. and SE Asia for many years.)
So true. Keep keeping the faith.
Great post. I love the quote at the end.
I agree completely, Mark. I am not going to let these people run me out of here. Interesting that I wrote this morning about these people being lost to us. You put it more concisely, as always, but I agree. No rehab is possible.
"What will it mean to the future of the city if the senseless murder of Helen Hill is the last straw?"

There's no other way to say this but bluntly: To me and to most other black people I know, it will mean that white lives are worth fighting for and are still worth more than black lives. Where was the outrage and the last straw months ago when the murder rate spiked or in 1994 when our murder rate was the highest in the nation?
E.J. the same thing happened with the restaurant murders, but at least there was a huge public outcry and something was done, and the situation improved, at least temporarily.

I was numb about the murder of Dinerral Shavers to overreact to the Hill murder until I realized how closely it touched a number of people I knew personally, who were their friends or neighbors.

Both victims were people who made a profound difference in this city, and were not already among the lost. I think the reaction to Hill murder is amplified by Shavers, and hopefully the loss of two promiment members of the communit--one black, one white--can have the effect of bringing people together.

If we react reflexively and diminish one murder over the other, or treat the outpouring of anger over Hill as unworthy because the same thing didn't happen for Shavers, if there is an exclusively white crowd on Thursday, we are so fucking doomed.

You can't blame white New Orleans for having racial identity issues when people rushed out to vote for Nagin and Jefferson for the same reason. Everybody has some work to do, and if nothing else I hope these two murders give everyone in every community a reason to come together to demand radical change.
I'm equally sickened by Hill's murder. We all want this violence to end, and if 155 murdered Black people and 7 murdered White people in the course of one year is what it takes to get it to end, then that's the way it is. I welcome a peaceful city with open arms if this is what it takes to get it.

I also welcome a city in which I will be not only seen as a neighbor and friend but also treated like one, in life and in death. And call me cynical, but many people wouldn't even know about Shavers if he were killed this week instead of last week. I don't think people are diminishing anyone's life; and I understand that white people will identify with each other for various reasons, but it is clear to me yet again that far too many white people do not "identify" with me and likely never will nor really want to.

Also, I can't blame anyone of any color for having racial identity issues. As members of this society, we've all inherited them like or not. I do, however, blame white people for excusing their behavior on account of a racial political game in which they have been equally involved and that began long before black people were foolish enough to vote for Nagin and Jefferson. We will never get past the race thing as long as white people can invoke the luxury of removing race from the equation when it suits them.

This City is where it is now because too many of us, black and white and whatever, have tried to distance ourselves from our own roles in allowing it to deteriorate to this point by favoring those who we think are like us and neglecting (intentionally or otherwise) those we think aren't.
If you've been visiting here a while E.J. you know I don't have a whole lot of use for people on either side who are obsessed with identity politics.

I think this could be a moment in which we figure out how to put that aside in the interest of common survival, then I heard Nagin and Thomas and others repeating last night's press conference mantra: "every life lost is important." Of course it is, but did they have to make that a subtheme of their press conference, to try to turn tomorrow's event into the Million Cracker March?

Yes, I want to know where all of the Marigy and Uptown do-gooders were when the ministers met in Central City and said enough, but I want even more to get rid of an incompetent police chief and district attorney,and to try to squeeze the mayor into some sort of action before its too late, before the returning white and black middle class decide the games up and leave this city to follow East St. Louis into Hell.
I don't think he said it to get White people to turn out. I think he said it to soothe Black people's anger that after all this time, NOW White people are finally visibly galvanizing to fight murder. Moreover, he needs to fight the perception that even though Black communities have lived with this for YEARS, it took the murder of a White citizen to spur him and the police chief into action.

He's Nagin. He don't give a crap about anyone but himself. Y'all should kick his ass when y'all go to city hall tomorrow. Now THAT will make us all feel better. :-)
No, E.J, as today's post points out, I agree that it was meant to marginalize Thurday's march and to try to placate his political base all at the same time. They let Perry speak last and none of the new council members speak at all, and I believe that was calculated (but then I used to be a paid political hack, so maybe I'm just cynical).
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