frog's blog

Anuran, n. an amphibian of the order Salientia (formerly Anura or Batrachia), which includes the frogs and toads

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Nothing But Beads

Once again those strands of colored plastic will be prayer beads again. But when the time for praying is over, we turn to ranting once again.

Have you heard what they are peddling out for rationale for the tragedy? According to some fundamentalists, it’s “God punishes gays for the Southern Decadence parade.” Or if you worship a different deity, it might be, “Allah punishes Americans for complicity in empire.” Somehow, though, if God exists, I don’t think she acts this way.

But if you listen to many of us radical activist types, the potency of Hurricane Kail, I mean Katrina, I mean She Who Shall Not Be Named was very likely linked to global warming.

Yet it’s not the hurricane that hurt us, but all the racist reactions to it. Thanks to a fellow Tennessean and friend of justice and former denizen of Nahlins—Tim Wisewhat needs to be said has been said.

I am writing for us, for all my friends who love dissent and gumbo and carnival that cannot be quelled by churches, cops, or category 5 racial intolerance. This hit us hard, but we are hard-headed, stubborn, soulful, resilient. Who are we? We who love New Orleans, urban underwater village of voodoo visionaries, jazz mythologies, blues grit, spicy grits, groovy Februaries, an urban bayou beatitude of gratitude. Despite the crime, the racism, the hypocrisy of the tourist industry and politicians, this is some transgalactic outpost of sin, of sinful saints, of beads and cake, of alcoholic hallucinations of god as goddess, naked on Bourbon Street & wrapped in nothing but beads.

I’m waiting to hear again: the wicked refrain of Tom Waits’ odes, the psychedeic sanctification offered by Dr. John, the religious jubilee of the Neville Brothers.

Why couldn’t it have been Texas, Los Angeles, the East Coast some lovers of steamy southern decadence confess. But this is not a wish for harm on the hateful. We taste the curse of ecology and gravity and a white supremacist society. I can hear the hushed refrain of reaction: Didn’t you know that God hates black people and gay people and people who didn’t know they were living below sea level?

But I love that city as black as red and brown and gay and avant-garde, and it still be a real part of Dixie, a surregionalist bioregion of its own concoction, a magickal constellation still part of earth.

It’s nature’s 9-11, America’s Tsunami. Before the waves drenched us, CNN floods with the recurring disaster of spectacle. Before a crisis even happens, the media makes us melodramatic with fear. But the reality has outstripped the hype. How often does that happen?

Castro offered aid but we didn’t take it. Too good for commie doctors and commie politicians but when a category 5 hit Cuba last, not a single Cuban died.

Unlike 9-11, this is worse, and this time the flag is not being brandished like a bully’s bat to beat us into the proper response. Bush is dodging rhetorical bullets and whining about the blame game. Don’t blame! Investigate! How many lives would that approach have saved in Iraq? Afghanistan?

“Greatest catastrophe” and “doomsday scenario” of “biblical proportions” to grip the victims of the daily grind. The Spectacle responds to mama nature’s spectacular nature.

How many times did we hear the words “chaos” and “anarchy” invoked to describe the human component of what came after the wave. The rotting horror that followed the hurricane represents not anarchy but the dire shambles of a dreadful system. Blaming the victim reaches a new form when the hungry, desperate, and often hopeless survivors of doomsday are painted as the torchbearers for chaos and anarchy.

While resisting the temptation to form a PR committee to defend my favorite A-word, I must confess that what we saw last week was not so much the triumph of anarchy but a failure of government. A massive, mean-spirited and catastrophic failure of imperial proportions.

How many cops turned in their badges? How many sad, inexcusable excuses can the governor of Louisiana and the president of the United States trade in one day? Perhaps we need words to describe liberty and freedom but let’s be clear when we say that FEMA and the White House represent neither. I found a much more thorough analysis that follows a similar line of reasoning here. And thankfully, these perspectives are not isolated but represent a swelling momentum of deep human courage, not the apolitical photo-op heroism the media and polticians love.

Of all the reactions, many surprised me in their heartfelt honesty and sense of solidarity. The number of unofficial, unsponsored, unlicensed, unequivocably effective grassroots and down-to-earth relief efforts is amazing.

Who decided to stay. Who had no choice. Who couldn’t afford to join the parking lot on Interstate 10. All lanes outbound. Who will ever get to go home?

A rhyme scheme begins:

Cries of distress piped global through digital hoses

The pathology of shame shot up through our noses

On a voodoo grave I see rotting roses

3 Comments:

At 6:27 AM, Blogger leanordbrinick34486372 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 9:45 AM, Blogger Dennis Formento said...

"But I love that city as black as red and brown and gay and avant-garde, and it still be a real part of Dixie, a surregionalist bioregion of its own concoction, a magickal constellation still part of earth."

thanks for noting the surregional roots in the sky... milky way and muddy waters... you dig, i planet...

 
At 9:46 AM, Blogger Dennis Formento said...

"But I love that city as black as red and brown and gay and avant-garde, and it still be a real part of Dixie, a surregionalist bioregion of its own concoction, a magickal constellation still part of earth."

thanks for noting the surregional roots in the sky... milky way and muddy waters... you dig, i planet...

 

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