Monday, September 05, 2016

The Fraudulent Case of Saint Teresa

Mother Teresa is a rock star. Her reputation is that of one of sacrifice and a life dedicated to the poor and the good. If you scratch the surface of the products of her life though, you would open a window into someone who dined with despots, praised warmongering dictators, and humbly received tens of millions of dollars in gifts in the name of the poor, only to have about 7% of those dollars actually trickling down to the ones in need. Her scandalous promotion to "Saint"makes me want to nominate Don Vito Corleone. He was a good Catholic too and at least the people in his neighborhood actually loved him.


Mother Teresa claimed many friends. From the Royal Family of the United Kingdom to our own conservative hero, Ronald Reagan. All lined up to shake hands and took their turn in line as she embarrassingly received offering after offering just so they could hear a few words of wisdom from such a pure and holy woman.

Among those, you could count Jean-Claude Duvalier in the early 1980s. Jean-Claude, before his overthrow in 1986 was the dictator of  Haiti, beginning in 1971. Before fleeing his country to exile in France, thousands of his citizens were killed or tortured, and hundreds of thousands fled the country in fear. While he lived a life of luxury, making millions in the drug trade and selling body parts from dead Haitians to medical schools overseas, poverty among his people was considered the most widespread of any country in the western hemisphere. He was apparently an okay guy to our newly appointed saint, who in 1981 flew to Haiti to accept the "Legion d'Honneur" award, and receive a quick donation(from embezzled funds from the state). In return, she showed her gratitude with public statements of support. She praised Duvalier as "loving their poor" and that "their love was reciprocated". Her testimony on their behalf was shown on  state-owned television for weeks.

The other questionable friend I will mention was Charles Keating. He was a Catholic fundamentalist who would become famous for his role in the Saving and Loan scandal of the late 80s, where he was convicted of fraud, racketeering and conspiracy for his involvement in a scam which cost the federal government an estimated $3 billion dollars and left 23,000 customer with worthless junk bonds, many losing their entire life savings. Keating donated millions to Mother Teresa as well as unfettered use of his private jet when she was in the United States. As he was awaiting sentencing, she wrote a letter on his behalf asking for clemency. In the prosecuting attorneys own words in response to this letter; "No church...should allow itself to be used as salve for the conscience of the criminal." He also pointed out the money he donated was stolen money, and pleaded for her to do the right thing and give the money back to whom it rightfully belonged: "You have been given money by Mr. Keating that he has been convicted of stealing by fraud. Do not permit him the 'indulgence' he desires. Do not keep the money. Return it to those who worked for it and earned it!" Saint Teresa never replied to this letter.

Keating and Duvalier are just two examples(among countless others) that illustrate the level of filth Mother Teresa actively advocated for and called friends.


The question then goes to, "okay, well at least she could do some good with the money regardless where it comes from, right?" Man that would be almost acceptable except that just wasn't the case.

While she received untold millions of dollars from despots, criminals and what you would call legitimate royalty, the money never actually trickled down to those who needed it. Independent accountants trace the lion's share of the funds(92-93 percent) was spent two ways. It was either for the founding of more nunneries, over a five hundred counted, to train more female personnel in the dogma of the Church or the cash went straight back to Vatican City itself. That left almost nothing to actually help any of the poverty stricken people that she was championed for.

You would think that given her well-funded programs, that she would make the places she represented better than when she left it. But one consistent theme was the complete lack of improvements where money was donated.

In one particular nursery, noted writer Christopher Hitchens asked where specifically $25,000 dollars went that was raised a few months prior to an official visit. The contributions was given on the pretense of buying cribs, diapers, formula and medicine. The nursery was exactly the same months after receiving this money.
According to Hitchens:

"The sister in charge said something to the effect that they had to give the money to the main MC(Missionaries of Charity) office-or something like that. They never saw a penny of it. One of the babies died during our visit-of starvation. He could have been saved very easily."


Saint Teresa was mainly known as nursemaid and "helper of the poor", with her hospice Home for Dying Destitutes in Calcutta serving as her flagship station all run by her Missionaries of Charity order, which she established in 1950. Despite routinely receiving millions of dollars, what is shocking is how criminally ill equipped the clinics were as well as how untrained the staff was.

The best you could say the clinics were rudimentary and haphazard, and at worst they were unsanitary and dangerous. There are many accounts, directly from volunteers that have testified to the inadequate care for the dying. No proper beds, just lines of cots on a dirt floor. No tests were performed to determine ailments, thereby no separating contagious patients. No modern medical equipment was available. Needles were constantly reused without proper sterilization, which led to her nuns spreading AIDS and hepatitis. Toilets were used as a cleaning source. No visits by friends or relatives. Patients were restricted to their cots and no excessive movements were permitted.

Multiple journalists noted that there were many patients, in these "Houses of Dying" that Mother Teresa herself called them, that had curable, treatable diseases. Questions of transporting these patients were consistently rebuffed. Reasons given ranged from "well, they all might want to be cured" to in Mother Teresa's chilling own words; "their pain brings me closer to God."


People suffering from terrible, painful diseases such as cancer were not given painkillers or anything stronger than aspirin. There were multiple instances of Saint Teresa's wish to keep poor in their place of suffering. Her main priority was to convert the sick and poor to her religious dogma(and use them as a fundraising source).  Providing for the care and needs of the poor was not at all part of her program. In her own words:

"I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people. "

On another occasion, Teresa told a terminal cancer patient, who was dying of extreme pain, that he should consider himself fortunate, because: "You are suffering like Christ on the cross. So Jesus must be kissing you". She then freely related his reply, which she seemed to not realize was a passive rebuke: "Then please tell him to stop kissing me."

Ex-nun Kelly Dunham who worked directly with Mother Teresa in a convent in New York, was troubled by her experiences. She says that the thing that Mother Teresa should be accountable for is the "cult of suffering" that she has created. Kelly was moved by the pain and misery of the residents, but angered by her instructions on how to deal with it.

    "One of the goals of Missionaries of Charity is to love people but one of the things
we were instructed to do is cut ourselves off from loving people."

"They are in the business of alleviating suffering, but I think that they believe a lot IN suffering, and it's really tough to do both at the same time."

Most neutral observers of her activities found a troubling "Cult of Suffering" in Mother Teresa's activities. As she stated earlier, "their pain brings me closer to God." It seems clear that she was motivated by the religious conviction that keeping others in a poverty stricken, painful state was essential to her own spirituality. It should be noted when her own health started to fail, she spared no expense in getting the best possible medicines and kept her last days as comfortable as possible. I guess her "great sacrifice" was fostering millions(yes millions) of others to suffer so she wouldn't have to.


Mother Teresa was a great Catholic. Vatican City loves her. She promoted the Church and its principles(especially its views on contraception) better than even some popes in the past hundred years. Her timing in being canonized couldn't be better for the Catholic Church who is seeing their numbers plummet due to being turned off by its Bronze Age values in modern times(never mind its pederast scandal) and need a hero to bounce back from a PR nightmare. 

I just wonder if the average person actually knows what she was all about before cheering for their new saint, because as Hitchens said, either Fanatic, Fundamentalist, or Fraud all seem more appropriate.

*Quotes and information was taken from various sources including; Christopher Hitchens "Hells Angel" documentary, Penn and Teller's BS series, and various articles from Patheos and Huffington Post. Any opinions interpreted are my own.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Letter to the Brunswick News Submitted in Response to UGA/FL on Saint Simons

To the Editor, 

           The purpose of this letter is to properly inform you of the results of the so-called "success" of Georgia-Florida weekend according to Dale Provenzano. As far as the local businesses and those who work them it cannot be described as anything other than an unmitigated disaster. I have informally talked to people who work at or own over 30 businesses, ranging from bars, high end restaurants, retail stores, garment stores, rental companies, to taxi services and have yet found a positive answer regarding the weekend. The responses ranged from 20%down to over 70% down. I'll say that again. 70% DOWN.  From busboys and bartenders, to renters who depend on this weekend to pay costs for the off season, this has had an incredibly negative effect on near everybody. This weekend for all of the aforementioned businesses is the real Black Friday for Glynn County. It is the last and busiest weekend of the year we can count on to cover our costs and get us through the winter. I know this may sound hyperbolic, but I can attest that Christmas is literally cancelled for hundreds if not thousands of people in the county. It was cancelled through the aggressive and, to be frank, offensive campaign Mr. Provenzano waged on "Frat Beach". He effectively put a huge KEEP OUT sign outside our community and it worked. I question the wisdom of putting that kind of sign outside a TOURIST community. 

             The scary side of this is what the tourists that actually came said. I heard repeatedly how they did not feel welcome, and they won't be coming back ever. These were not underage students. These were twentysomething to thirtysomething alumni who were so offended by their experience, they wouldn't come back on any other weekend as well. That's a lifetime of lost revenue for the county for every person offended. They did not feel comfortable going anywhere with a minimum of 5 pairs of eyes attached to a badge. Who wants to vacation to a place where anywhere you go, you are surrounded by police officers?  Never mind the well publicized letters Mr. Provenzano wrote to the universities as well as the newspapers, which, in my mind, as well as those who came for the weekend, sent the message, "We don't want you here".

             The police officers presence just flat out made everyone feel uncomfortable and seemed excessive.  That "6,000 people on the beach" is just a scandalous lie. According to officers who were there, a more accurate estimate places it at 1,500. Even the picture in the paper was used from two years ago. Besides, I got more complaints on people unable to get to the beach. One complaint was lack of parking. The reason for that, at the coast guard station at least puts the first FORTY spaces occupied by police cruisers across the state. These foreign cops were antagonistic to the locals as well(despite the glowing review of Mr. Provenzano).  I know of at least one restaurant owner, who had four cruisers parked right in front of his front door, politely request "gentleman, I know you have a job to do, but you are making my workers as well as my guests uncomfortable, would you mind just parking across the street?" only to be rudely rebuffed. This is a poisonous environment for the entire tourism industry.

            I understand there was an outcry for a more controlled island during this weekend. Something probably has to be done. However, the tactics used herein offended myself as resident, and has proven overbearing and incredibly shortsided financially for the county. While this particular weekend will only force a few hundred restaurant, retail, and hotel workers(just to name a few) to sweat and stress their personal bills entering the slow season, I don't think it is overstating that the economic future of our community is in question considering the actions and attitude of this commission.

John Jersey Koedderich

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Kim Davis Should Be In Jail or Impeached

This is a no-brainer for me. She has a job to do, she outright refuses to do it, so she should be fired. There's not another job in the country where a boss goes to an employee and says to do their job, the employee flat out says "No", and said employee keeps their job. Time for her to take the train.

That being said, she is an elected official. It's not that easy. Though I think firing her is the proper course of action, that elected official thing puts it into a more complicated box. According to Andrew Wolfson of the Louisville Kentucky Courier-Journal;

 "Kentucky law allows a commonwealth’s attorney to indict county judges-executives, justices of the peace, sheriffs, coroners, surveyors, jailers, county attorneys and constables for malfeasance in office or willful neglect in the discharge of official duties, for which they can be fined up to $1,000 and removed from office upon conviction. But for some reason lost to history, the statute doesn’t include county clerks". 

This says that a simple pink slip doesn't exist in this situation. The Kentucky House of Representatives would have have to charge her with an impeachable crime, then the Senate would try her. Kentucky governor Steve Beshear would have to call a special session of the General Assembly in order to pursue impeachment. This is the obvious, costly, long-winding approach.

Even as someone as repugnant as I find Kim Davis, I will throw her one bone. This new law was passed after she got elected and started her post. While I think that she should just do her job like the law instructs her, otherwise be dismissed/impeached for willfully neglecting her official duties.  I'd be willing to give her an  (overly)reasonable compromise.

Since she ran and won her post before this "offensive" law was put on the books, she can remain as County Clerk throughout her current term without necessarily participating in the one law she has a problem with, as long as others in the office perform the duties prescribed without her interference. Then, in the next election, Mrs, Davis, or whoever wins that election must perform the duties of the land in accordance to the law of the land.

Funny thing, is that is almost the exact compromise Judge Bunning of the United States District Court offered her. The court offered her a HUGE olive branch. Instead of issuing licenses contradictory to her religious beliefs(bigoted, ignorant, and downright hateful that they are), they said to let others do her job for her, and for her to just not sabotage the process. She was jailed because she defied the court's orders, not because of the religious beliefs she held. Even after her release, she has undermined the process by trying to say that all licenses issued without her participation are illegal(even though the District Court has assured those obtaining them that all issued licenses are legal). She has even gone so far as to alter the licenses themselves. According to John Cheves of the Lexington Herald-Leader;

"Davis changed the wording of the marriage licenses so they no longer carry her name or the words "Rowan County Clerk," which she says would wrongly suggest her approval. Next to that place, now crossed out, are the words "pursuant to federal court order," followed by the case number of one of the lawsuits against her, and then Bunning's initials.
Also, the deputy clerks who issue licenses must sign as notaries public, not as Rowan County officials"

Read more here:

This is blatant defiance of the Court's orders. She should be put in jail immediately.

My own personal feelings is that this is a hypocritical, awful woman that is truly giving Christianity a bad name, even if other Christians don't realize it. She is promoting her stance of hate and intolerance with the shield of Christianity wrapped around her.

Kim Davis is not a trailblazer for religious freedom. Far from it. She is a prime example of deceptive language religious oppressors use to elicit favorable reactions to their one-sided policies. She is using her power as an elected official, to defy the law of the land and even a specific court order, in order to force others to adhere to her own bigoted religious beliefs. Those beliefs, twisted as they are, are absolutely hers to practice. Nobody is saying that she, herself has to marry another woman. However, the law of the land, including the First Amendment I might add, says that no government agency can force the citizens to adhere to any religious beliefs. Kim Davis is an elected official. The law says she can believe in whatever she wants, but she cannot in any way, use her public office to encroach those beliefs on her fellow citizens.

Kim Davis is not Rosa Parks. She's the bus driver.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What These Monuments Stand For

So I actually have a nuanced and complex opinion on the monuments and street names in New Orleans that honor the mythology of heroes to the so-called Confederate States, the cause they fought for, and the cause these monuments were built to celebrate. But since so many of the folks who want to keep these monuments and street names and all they represent, who defend them with bombastic and hyperbolic statements as if this is some simple issue, I feel it is only right that I return the favor with my own oversimplified position.

Throw these things in the damn lake and let them be buried in the mud.

These are monuments and honorifics that celebrate people who took up arms against the United States of America and for four years of open warfare attempted to destroy our nation. They fought for the "rights" and "freedom" of some human beings to own and enslave other human beings deemed inferior due to the color of their skin.

The period of open warfare did not achieve these political goals, and instead  secured the Union, ensured emancipation, and provided for the expansion of civil rights to previously enslaved Americans. A period of insurgent warfare and terrorism followed, as adherents to the old system attempted to restore the old order of things, where the rights of newly freed citizens would again be diminished due to the color of one's skin. There are monuments celebrating this warfare as well, right here in this city.

These are not questionable assertions or theories. These are the facts backed up by the historic record, often written by the very hands of the men who fought to destroy the Union and the men who fought to destroy the rights of others after the Civil War ended. These writings and statements of purpose we considered so uncontroversial that the very organizations that would later hold these men up as paragons of Southern patriotism and pride would preserve the very writings and statements of purpose that make up this historical record. They would do so unashamedly.

They would be able to do so because the simmering and unending insurgency in the South became too expensive for white Northern sentiment to justify.  White Northern sentiment, after all, was not a monolith thrown behind support of civil rights. In the end, the old temptations of power and money conspired to undermine the projects of Reconstruction and civil rights. In the end, certain interests in both the North and South realized what could be achieved with white sectional reconciliation, and what material wealth could be gained by keeping millions of citizens just above the institution of slavery, in the strangling arms of Jim Crow.

That white sectional reconciliation, that return to something close to the old order, was something to be celebrated. And what better way to celebrate the eventual "victors" of an issue than by building grand monuments to them, in places of public note? What better way to honor them than to have grand thoroughfares graced with their names? What better way to enshrine their "restored" legacy than to name schools for them? All of these are the ways our culture and civilization celebrate the giants among men.

What better way to say "we told you so" than to place the losers of a war in the highest pinnacles of cultural honor and, in the process, legitimize and polish away the ugly motivations behind the cause they fought for and attach some higher civic meaning to the military loss?

And once that higher civic meaning was attached, and the ugliness of "they fought to own other human beings" was washed away from their legacy with stories of defense of home and hearth and question of rights, all white Southerners were encouraged to buy into the fantasy (or discouraged from challenging it too fiercely). Many could now double down on the belief that superiority of skin color was real, that forces for "good" might have lost on the battlefield but won out in the end. Whole cults of personality grew up around the mythology of these men and reinforced the social hierarchy with laws, social behavior, and violence if anyone got too far out of line.

When monument defenders talk about the "history" they so desperately want to preserve, that is the history they are preserving whether they want to believe it or not. There are no footnotes of fine print on these statues and street names that say "we know this is complicated, but..." If such footnotes existed, if such context was added, then this may not be such an emotional issue for so many.

Look at the opposition, after all. The most popular online petition in support of keeping these monuments to heroes of slavery's cause demand the Mayor "stop talking about them." That's because even the civic conversation itself is dangerous - the very discussion of why these monuments were built puts the lie to the heroic mythology. Uncomfortable truths aren't usually welcome, and many individuals in the South are deeply invested in the bedtime story of what these men on those monuments represented. They aren't interested in the real context, the real history, or facing how the legacy of that history still runs deeply within our civic DNA to this day.

And those who would scold us for "erasing history" by moving these monuments out of their places of public prominence to places where appropriate historical context can be provided? They are defending monuments that served specifically to erase a more accurate accounting of history. They are defending monuments used to rewrite the cultural narrative of the South and celebrate the violent failure of Reconstruction's nascent civil rights project. They are defending trophies of propaganda to the Lost Cause. There are no footnotes or fine print on those statues and street names, after all.

There are plenty of places to put truth to the lies these monuments tell. General James Longstreet of the Confederacy moved to New Orleans after the Civil War and became a strong civic leader in this town. He was one of the officers in command of the integrated Metropolitan Police when the White League attacked the State House in New Orleans in 1874. He was pulled from his horse and was shot and injured. His actions for the Reconstruction government of New Orleans and Louisiana did not endear him to those who believed in the Lost Cause. Despite all his investments in New Orleans, there is no monument to James Longstreet in this town. But there is a monument to those who attacked him and his men at the Battle of Liberty Place.

PGT Beauregard of the Confederacy returned to his home in New Orleans after the Civil War. While he was no fan of Reconstruction or social integration, he grudgingly accepted political and economic rights of newly freed citizens. In the interest of calming New Orleans - violence was bad for business - he spoke eloquently on the topic. These words were not palpable to the Lost Cause, so do not appear on his monument on Esplanade Avenue.

Finally, at the corner of Carrollton and Banks, there is another monument. It is a plaque at the base of a flagpole, dedicating Carrollton as the "Avenue of Palms" to veterans of a different war, a forgotten war, Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1991. There is no proud US flag on the rusty flagpole, the plaque could use a good powerwashing to really make out the words, and the base itself is off-kilter and surrounded by litter.

You'd think that, with all these signatures and speakers loudly defending the history and deep meaning of New Orleans' monuments, at least of few of them would mention this humble bit of metal and concrete as worth of at least a little attention. But we know it isn't really about the monuments themselves, it is about what they represent. And uncomfortable truths aren't usually welcome.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Letters to my Representatives: the Iran Deal

After reading that former Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu has come out against the Iran Deal, and seeing that sitting New York Senator Chuck Shumer is also making moves to scuttle President Obama's signature foreign policy achievement, I figured it was time to email my representative, Cedric Richmond of New Orleans, and let him know how I felt about the situation. 

Good afternoon, Rep. Richmond. 
Thank you for your work for Louisiana and New Orleans. 
I am writing to let you know I fully support the Iran Deal as negotiated through diplomacy by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. 
While I realize the deal has flaws and limitations, I believe it is in the best interests of the United States of America to see this agreement becomes official. I believe that if Congress undermines this deal, the United States will be abandoned by our allies in Europe and by Russia and China over the issue of Iran. 
President Obama and Secretary Kerry have done an outstanding job keeping this strong coalition together and putting consistent pressure on Iran at the negotiating table. Undermining the agreement will only serve to undermine that important work and cause our nation to lose the credibility required to pursue diplomacy with our nation's rivals. If this happens, I believe the sanctions regime will crumble as the coalition does, and that the United States will be alone - and in a position of weakness - when attempting to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons in the future. 
I also believe that, should the United States find itself in that weaker position, the chances of armed conflict with Iran is much greater. I fully support diplomacy over another military involvement in the Middle East, as our nation already remains engaged in several unresolved conflicts in the region. 
I am also keeping in mind that many of the loudest critics of the Iran Deal are also the very same individuals who promised that the Iraq War and Afghanistan campaigns would be "cakewalks" for the United States. And we all know how empty those promises and predictions turned out to be, and the terrible costs this country has borne because of that. 
Please support President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and our allied nations' hard work in securing this deal through diplomacy. 
Thank you. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Lost Cause Winning Again

Welp. Now that South Carolina has brought the Rebel Flag down, our "national conversation" on race and American history is ready to be turned back over to modern day believers in the Lost Cause. The full power of our larger, 150 year fairy tale history is rearing its ugly head in defense of our plague of Ozymandian monuments to Santa Claus the Easter Bunny the Tooth Fairy assorted mythological personalities created in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Not to say everyone contributing to this handover is a believer in the so-called Confederacy. Far from it, in fact. Most of the folks ready to man the battlements in the defense of imaginary Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and the rest are simply holding on to the sentimentality of growing up in a region that cared more about heroic bedtime stories than it did with primary documents and evidence.

Others will appeal to the "history" - some to that of the South itself as if we are defined by 4 years of rebellion and 150 years of trying to cover up the real reasons for that rebellion, others as if the mere existence of a statue for a certain period of time should mean the thing itself is inviolate. Some defenders of the status quo are actually individuals who despise the so-called Confederacy and Lost Cause, but they dismiss any discussion of monuments and street names as "not focusing on the real problems," as if our larger social complexity is incapable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. As if so many of the larger social problems they'd rather we be talking about don't have their cultural roots in the fairy tale of the Lost Cause.

Meanwhile, the Lost Cause doesn't  care if its defenders actually agree with it or not, semantically. It just keeps plodding along as it has since 1865, waiting for its opponents to argue with each other or change the subject before it quietly slips over to the desk and writes its own history when no one is looking or doing any fact checking. Before you know it, Bobby Lee is building schools for the children of his previously enslaved-Americans, and would have seen them all become productive voting citizens if those pesky carpetbaggers and scalawags hadn't come in and forced the South to turn to Jim Crow laws. Or something. I haven't checked the comments sections in the past hour, so I'm not fully up to date on all the new magical things Lee and Davis and the gang did to selflessly fix the country they tried so hard to break after they tried to break it.

The most successful defenders of the Lost Cause are currently getting everyone caught up talking about statues and place names for George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson. We've even gone off the rails so far in New Orleans that there's a "serious" discussion over the meaning of the fleur de lis and whether the city should abandon the symbol.

How does it help the so-called Confederacy to talk about bad parts of slave-owners? Well, despite their complex and often troubling places in American history, Washington, Jefferson, & Jackson were all Presidents of the UNITED States of America. There is definitely a need to further scrutinize their mythological histories with their historical realities, but not when the topic of conversation is focused on the so-called CONFEDERATE States of America and the cultural legacy of the Lost Cause in the South. Suddenly, you're rhetorically defending men who tried to destroy the United States through rebellion by referencing men who all used their office to put down rebellions or respond to threats against the United States.

Furthermore, consensus history already includes a lot about George, Tom, & Andy's slave owning, Native American fighting, and general hypocrisies. New Orleans already took names of theirs off local public schools. Most of us learn that the story of George Washington & the Cherry Tree is apocryphal - it is one of our first lessons in the difference between what we tell children at bedtime and what is the real story.

The Lost Cause, on the other hand, is a bunch of people holding onto the so-called Confederate States equivalent of that cherry tree story, holding their hands over their ears and yelling LA LA LA when someone wants to tell them their Christmas presents aren't actually delivered down the chimney by a Coca-Cola marketing campaign. The first rule of the Lost Cause is you do not criticize the Lost Cause.

As far as the fleur is concerned, history is full of appropriations and assimilations of symbols one way or another. I'm fairly confident, based on my limited experience in New Orleans, that the fleur de lis symbol long ago ceased to be one associated with French colonial black codes, and became far more inclusive among a very diverse population associated with living and participating in the culture of this city. As with all things, there is good reason to explore the history behind the symbol. But we can accept, in many cases, that history is not static and things can change, over time, in a culture.

Just like the United States flag flew over centuries of enslavement and Jim Crow and terrible things done to many ethnic minorities, as a symbol it has grown through the years to be more inclusive as the reality and aspirations of the nation became more inclusive. There is a reason it was carried at the front of the column as the marchers entered Selma, there is a reason it was waving on the steps of the Supreme Court as same sex marriage was legalized, and there is a reason it was seen on the steps of the South Carolina capitol as the Rebel Flag came down on Friday. If you weren't watching the live feed, you may have missed the audio of the crowd chanting "USA, USA, USA!"

It was easy to feel, in that moment, that things were changing. How gloriously & naively hopeful. While we're watching that flag come down, the Lost Cause has snuck in the back and started deleting paragraphs in the story we're writing right now. Listen close and you can hear which words they're typing in place: First the Rebel Flag, next the US Flag! First the Washington NFL logo, next the Saints' fleur!  First Robert E. Lee's statue, next the Statue of Liberty! What about the black on black crime in Chicago? Which city will "they" burn to the ground next? The second rule of the Lost Cause is you do not criticize the Lost Cause.

Because that's what all this symbolism, the flags and the monuments, come down to. If Lee and Davis and the gang had spent as much real time on reconciliation as their mythology states, they might be worthy of the monuments and street names. They could have thrown themselves and their full clout into the project of Reconstruction, civil rights, and been remembered for building a better South and a better country after all, and it would have been in truth instead of in fantasy. Instead, they became the very symbols standing in the way of progress and reconciliation. The Rebel Flag was flown by rioting whites, the symbol of police dogs and firehoses, bombed churches and burning crosses, terrorism and night riders. Because of this, we've been going over the same old ground for 150 years, and the proof was in the pudding. Jim Crow won. The Lost Cause won. And we do not have the South the bedtime stories promised. We have nothing close, despite generations of work. So strong is the current we're working against.

That still doesn't stop the bedtime story from winning the day. The Lost Cause is upstairs putting the kids to sleep with it, while the other adults are still downstairs at the dinner table, arguing amongst themselves.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Proof of Life

It is that time of year again.

There are tropical waves in the Atlantic basin. Rising Tide 9 has opened registration for this year's conference. UNO is seeking submissions for a book on post-Katrina writing.

“If you wrote, or remember reading, blogs/posts that should not be missed—because they crystallized the particular challenges of post-Katrina life, or maybe even inspired action for addressing them—I want to hear from you,”- Cynthia Joyce

That's how it starts. Scrolling through the Rising Tide archives and catch glimpses of Ashley fighting with the sound board, Greg chuckling at his own subversive (and wildly inappropriate) jokes, and Morwen's soft and resolute lines of questioning. Trying to recall who all took shots off that ski in the yacht club. Dusting off that copy of A Howling in the Wires - the first real attempt at an anthology I was aware of - thinking of that night at Mimi's where it seemed everyone got a turn at the microphone before anyone believed a noise ordinance might really shut the music down.

Times like these are for going back through the archives. Bouncing from weblog to weblog, finding out which ones are still active, which ones still have links going all the way back. There are posts there you remember reading the day they published, there are posts there you see for the first time. See how many have changed over the years.* Those that are already gone provide some scope of how easy it is to lose our own history, how fragile it is to capture.

I wish Ms. Joyce well. I think it is important work.

For myself, when I do this, around this time every year, I usually start as far back as possible. Back when I didn't really have the sense of how to pay attention to stuff like this. That's where I find the most work I missed - that time where so much of the writing sounded like it was looking for or giving proof of life.

After a catastostrophic event and the ongoing catastrophic aftermath, bathing in the nude in front of the house is quite liberating after the first few minutes... I don't recommend this for all catastrophic events - preferably one where most people have evacuated... pick and choose your event carefully. - Gulfsails, September 2005 
These people have shocked me out of my delusional complacency, we are not fine down here. All is not well - but there are these bright pockets where, with no better way to put it and apologizing beforehand for the mellodrama... God sleeps on a cot in a Winn-Dixie parking lot caring for kittens.  - Gulfsails, October 2005 

Of Men in Trucks & Mardi Gras:
They run red lights and stop signs and turn in front of you like you’re not there. They have no use for civil society. I’m glad they’re here–a nice pair of them gutted my mama’s house–but I can’t wait ’til they’re fucking gone. - G-Bitch, December 2005  
I love Mardi Gras only slightly less than Jazz Fest. My priority today was not grading the 23 essays I received Friday. (to clear my plate for the 20 I receive Monday) or the 4 lesson plans I need by Monday morning or getting my office computer to my office space or the pre-midterm alerts to students at risk of failing—it was getting to the grocery store, before parades trap me in my home, to lay in supplies for a weekend of parades and grilling and drinking. I’m a New Orleanian with New Orleanian priorities. - G-Bitch, February 2006
Prescient visions of Dizneylandrieu:
Imagine if you will a New Orleans without Mardi Gras Indians; without neighborhoods where young boys actually want to learn to play the trombone, so they can march proudly at the head of the parade; without the little neighborhood restaurants where Creole cooking was perfected before we gave it to the world; without the little bars where every generation of musicians have played for a circle of friends and neighbors before they took our music into the world. - Wet Bank Guide, September 2005
Hearing about seven fatal stress related heart attacks, in people ranging from 83 to 20, over the course of three days is overwhelming. These seven came from every ethnic and socio-economic group. The stress is an equal opportunity killer, it seems. When you see all the reports about structures and dollars, please remember the humans involved. They seem to be getting lost in the shuffle now that they're off the roofs and off your TV screens. - NOLA Slate, March 2006
This picture. Christmas 2005.

When people visited. This could have been written at any time in the last 9 years.
I managed to hold it together enough to communicate how difficult it was for people to rebuild in these areas that the city, the state, the country was willing to write off before I dropped my charges off at the edge of the French Quarter. I’ve been racking my brains ever since for the reasons why this particular tour felt different from many others I’ve given since we moved back to New Orleans in 2006. Not too long ago, I complained that New Orleans since the levee breaches had become a cause, not a city. I think now that I was wrong. - Liprap on Humid City, April, 2012
Song references.
Emmylou Harris once said on "A Prairie Home Companion" that she wrote to Pete Seeger when she was much younger, telling him she didn't feel she could be a folksinger because she hadn't suffered enough. 
Seeger's one word response was, "Wait." - Liprap, November 2006

(*What the heck is this?)