July 12, 2008
Murder of Dignity
By Mark Sashine
There are cities you love at the first sight. Venice comes to mind, Paris or St. Petersburg. And there are cities which you have never seen but you love them as a legend. For me it was New Orleans. I dreamed to live there since childhood. Through cold winters of Russia I dreamed of the Mississippi Delta, the Bayou, the Cajun accordions (I now have one) and of the jazz funerals. I dreamed about Mardi Gras and the French quarter. New Orleans, I loved it from afar and in the Y2003, I visited it on our 20-years’ wedding anniversary journey. We came on Mardi Gras and followed all the crews. It was sublime. I’ll never forget it.
And in the Y2005 I cried. I saw my beloved city killed. Among the crimes of this administration the murder of New Orleans was the most insidious, the worst of the worst, pure evil. Yes, the Iraq and Afghanistan abominations arebeyond satanic but even the evil government takes care of its own. Bush and his cronies did not. Their disregard for the human life was so open and so evil that I was expecting the White House to be stormed. Nothing happened though except for a shameful media spin. And then I wrote the piece below. It was published as a Diary in September 2005.This piece is important to me not only because Bush and his cabal killed my dream. It is also important now morethan ever. New Orleans, I believe was a template for the way to ‘handle’ all of us. And this template is exercised again and again. I believe if there was New Orleans intact by now the mad hatter Bush would not push for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. I believe that we all are now New- Orleanians and our dignity is being murdered. Please, read how it was done then, in the Y2005.
It is better to be rich and healthy than poor and sick
You really don’t want the real poor to come out, do you?
The Three-penny Opera
We finally cleaned up the public housing in New Orleans
We couldn’t do it but God did.
Rep. Richard Baker, GOP, LA, Baton Rouge in his discussion with lobbyists, Sept. 9, 2005 (per DNC blog, September 11, 2005)
The first man I met in New Orleans in the Y2003 was dressed in cellophane and duct tape. The tape covered him from top to bottom; it streamed all over his body down to the worn-out sneakers, back to the waist and then concentrated in a form of a set of grotesque gagging bubbles in front of his face. The poster in the man’s hand said, ” Homeland Security”. That’s how I understood that I was in another world. The world where poor people lived a dignified life.
In the US, it is a crime to be poor. Of course, it is not officially unlawful to be one but the poor person, group, state or even country are considered as someone who cannot take care of themselves, thus requiring help and as such could not have dignity. ”Empty sack does not stand,” said Benjamin Franklin and he was right, that wise man.
That is, the empty sack does not have to be filled. It can be stomped upon, thrown away, even filled with garbage. Empty sack has no dignity; its existence is defined by its emptiness.
Surely, a lot of rich people cannot take care of themselves. It is sometimes painfully obvious. Take George W. Only the richness of his family, the belonging to the people with money prevented him from becoming a bum of bums. By the age of 40(!) he was a good-for-nothing drunk with no profession, no skills, no dignity and no stamina. He remains that way until now but it is not a crime to be a career criminal in the US as soon as your career is power. And if you don’t have any dignity, malice is at your service to replace the void, so to speak.
New Orleans was different. It was obvious from the start that the primary idea, the main purpose of that city was for all people, affluent and poor alike to sustain dignity as something unique, maybe even something Cajun, something specifically Bayou. The descendants of slaves and white/Creole slave owners mixed together after the Civil War to create a race unique in its heritage, in its character and its dignity. In fact, dignity was the main cement that race was based upon. It made it stick.
What did we know about them? Robert Penn Warren, Mardi Gras and Ann Rice? Vampires and Shrimp Creole? Hey, good-looking , what’s you gotta cooking? The Jazz funerals and Louis Armstrong? Richard Gere running away from mobsters with Kim Basinger? Not much. But it was there, in the New Orleans that Uncle Tom met Evangeline St. Clair and it was there that District Attorney Jim Garrison charged the first JFK conspiracy. Was there a connection between the slave and the white man who challenged the system? Yes there was. They both were dignified people.
New Orleans lived its own life and did its best in the country that did not appreciate the poor. New Orleans did its best for all people to live in harmony. The atmosphere of the quite dignity, of everyday good humor and sarcasm worked on everyone in the city and eventually people drifted into it: first reluctantly and then- more and more willingly. Only in the Big Easy could you see the distinguished attorney distributing free condoms together with his daughter and only there could you see people in Armani suits seated peacefully at the table with the people in rags.
The Big Easy, what does that mean? Who personifies the real New- Orleanian character: Vampire Lestat, Robert De Niro’s Devil, Willie Stark, the Boss or maybe that extraordinary Ignatius Reilly created by John Kennedy Toole, that genius of one book? Who knows? But I guess there is something from Ignatius in every native of that city, as well as there is something in them from the RP Warren’s Sugar-Boy, that loyal bodyguard who lost his purpose after his Boss was killed. There was dignity in both of them, the dignity of the poor and independent nonetheless.
And so they lived in that place below the level of the sea, protected by levies, lonely, dignified, insulated survivors, open to everyone and accessible to no one as if they knew the mantra of Joseph Brodsky, “If you are born in the Empire, try to live in the distant province by the sea.” And that was true- the sea was there, it helped to breathe, to obtain sustenance; it also brought all those big cruise ships and the tourists to see the most extraordinary city in the world, to smell the free spirit, something which existed only there. They knew their power. No matter what they were; if the person was to live among them, that person had to follow their rules and that (at least they thought so) had made their power known all around the country just by their existence.
But uniqueness is a tragedy. The more they isolated themselves, the more the Empire squeezed them, and in their pride they didn’t see it. They had their senators, their nice
Governor and their young mayor. But they didn’t give a damn about the war in Iraq and, I guess, governor Blanco did not complain that the Louisiana boys had to go there instead of staying here. I bet she did not mention that the trough, that perfect wind pattern which protected the Gulf shore, was gone and nothing now would prevent any hurricane from slamming into the coast. I bet she did not even mention any of that.
They forgot or maybe never heard of the first Law of any Empire- it kills its independent and it kills its poor. The Big Easy was a ghetto but it was an independent ghetto. It had to go. And here comes Katrina.
I can only guess that the idea to use an opportunity and murder the ghetto first appeared in the heads of the Crawford praetorians on the Sunday afternoon, August 28 when according to the perfect timeline chronicles published by Jackson Thoreau (see ‘ Timeline shows the depths of callousness by Bush and Co. displayed after Katrina hit’) Bush, Brown and Chertoff were warned by the Dr. Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center that the levies might fail. It was at that moment, precisely, that the evil thought had emerged, “Let those levies breach and then we let them die.”
The most evil things in the world usually do not happen because someone plans them. They happen because there is someone who wants them to happen and does not prevent them from happening.
The praetorians had all the reasons in the world to ‘clean the public housing’. Not only they would be able then to take full control over that region both militarily and politically. They also needed desperately to destroy the spirit of independence. Look at the survivors and you will see. Hungry, desperate, with nothing; no possessions, no connections, no money, they are fully dependent on whatever scraps the mighty government can throw at them; they depend on virtually everyone and power is the last thing they think about. Who cares? And who can blame them? Nobody. They are trapped.
Of course, the praetorians didn’t get all what they wanted either. The press, the media did not let those people just die peacefully as they hoped. But they capitalized nicely. They are in charge. Their role is even bigger. They have all the money and all the military. Already they are talking about New Orleans- a symbol of the Empire. They distribute contracts to Halliburton and Bechtel while the true spirit of the city is either dead or scattered.
Did anyone ask those evacuees in the Astrodome or in other shelters how they wanted their city to be rebuilt? Did anyone invite them to the reconstruction meetings? Did anyone, whoever stood in front of them and promised that they all would be able to return and benefit? Not a chance. All they will get will be FEMA handouts and maybe Brownie will return to private practice. Life goes on. And Death goes on, too.
Power of the people belongs to all of us and if it is eroded, dumped, ridiculed or destroyed all of us lose big time. Not all of us may be like the people of New Orleans. Not all of us understand their way of life. Not all of us understand anything at all these days. But be warned: there is a direct link between the Afghanistan and Iraq massacres, PATRIOT ACT, Gitmo, Abu- Ghraib and those dead people in the Convention Center and St. Rita’s. It is the work of the same hand. Americans are now confronting a phenomenon that other nations have confronted before and paid dearly for the lessons; we are facing the government for itself, the government against the people, the government of the national destruction. We’ve already started to pay but it is only the beginning. After the spirit is dead, there it is a body that is targeted. Constitution and Law are our body and they are already severely compromised. Where is the Law for the Katrina survivors? Where are the criminal cases against the criminally negligent? Where is the criminal investigation of the murder attempt? Where are all those attorneys? What has happened to the relentless pursuit we are so famous for? The Empire has struck a deadly blow, but it did not get everything. It is reeling in a cover-up. There is still a chance. A very slim chance though. The only way to stop them and to get them is to understand that they are there to do you harm, and as soon as they are there, that harm will be done. All the movements must unite, all the people must participate, and the People’s Front for the saving of the US Democracy has to be proclaimed.
Here is my final question to all who read this. Do you want to die? If not, please, wake up. You cannot think that you can live all your life now without giving a damn about what is going on around you. The predators are afoot. And they will kill you. They are there to kill. And you, my lonely friend, are a much easier prey than the proud and sturdy New-Orleanians. The Empire needed not God, but the Devil to destroy them. To deal with you and me it will not need such a powerful ally. Remember what the blind Colonel Slate said in the movie Scent of a Woman ,”There is no prosthetic for the amputated spirit.”
Everything I have written here is written with love. There is no mockery and no malice; just plain, sad truth. Good luck to all of you.
Authors Bio: A writer is a rogue goose. All other gees fly in a flock formation; every goose knows his place and time for honking. The rogue goose is undisciplined. He leaves the formation indiscriminately to have a look at it from aside. He roams back and forth, takes a peep at the leader, honks a little bit from behind, distracts everyone and writes on what he sees. Time passes and as he wants to return back to his place he discovers someone else there. Thus he either has to wait until they land for rest or join another flock in emigration. Those other birds could be cranes, storks or even crows. If he makes it he will become a rogue again. Whenever he goes and whatever he writes he never reaches a destination or enjoys a landing. There’s only Kipling’s God of Fair Beginnings and skies above and beyond. And the only way for a writer to make peace with the Deity is through the language of Poetry