Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Fire This Time ... Or ... Skip The Vote

In The Blood Drenched Hand,  posted here on Thursday morning, I cited the sad fact that only 16.6% of voters turned out to cast a ballot last Saturday in a very important citywide election.  I was in that number, as I almost always am.  What else are you going to do, set yourself or something else on fire?  Well, sadly, some may.

I voted for zerObama last time.  And I will do it again.  But I had no illusions then, and have none now.  We got what I expected from zerO, and if he wins again we will no doubt get more of the same: a false liberal sell-out to the plutocrats, slightly diluted by a messy thin gruel of limp progressivism for the rest of us. I give you the Obamacare morass.  'Nough said.

So, as crazy as the Republicans are, they may well find a way to win next time.  Of course, it will be mostly a corrupt victory, as so many are, not least of which was the stolen 2000 presidential election.  This time it will come on the strength of the countrywide plutocrat funded (read Koch brothers and ALEC) state level disenfranchisement of the poor, minorities, and college students living away from home. If it happens, it will be another asterisk emblazoned win with all the brutal attendant consequences, just the same as before.  I give you George W. Bush.  'Nough said.

Nothing describes the trashing we have handed democracy or any notion of self-government better than a paraphrase of Oscar Wilde, to wit: We are a nation of 300 million politicians, the worst of which are in elective office.

And so we come to the push behind this post.  On Thursday evening, as usual, I took an after work bicycle jaunt.  Bounding through the side-gate, I pumped straight for Central City: New Orleans' urban heart beat,  the pulsating neighborhood next door to mine.

Permanently precarious, planted deep in the intersection of peril and persistence, it is pound for pound pure community syncopation: a symphony of shifting accents on social currents.  Cruising down the home grown shock and awe venue ironically named Felicity Street,  I engaged in an interior dialogue regarding where to stop for a cold one.  Smiling and waving greetings, people everywhere, it seemed the whole of the neighborhood had turned out on the side-walks and street sides to greet me like some ridiculous Lone Ranger style second line on two wheels. I passed through a flood of memories pooled in the boarded-up, abandoned home of Podna's  Bar-B-Q at the corner of Magnolia;  a now disappeared stand-up/take out lunch counter type sandwich joint and restaurant, owned by the large Sicilian immigrant family of my boyhood friend, Lenny Rizzuto.  I rode on, listening via headphones to my Android, tuned to some west coast NPR radio station broadcast of the BBC World Briefing program.

The World Briefing reported the deepening economic crisis visiting hardship and austerity in Spain, and the protests occurring there.  It went on to an even more disturbing story about two recent instances of self-immolation by Italian citizens, pummeled into utter desperation by the punishing effects of the severely austere economic policies insisted upon by the autocrats of the Euorzone financial structure.  The shocking images of Vietnamese Buddhist monks setting themselves ablaze in protest of our napalm fueled rape of that country in the 1960s came to mind.  And I thought, yep, while the modality of violence laid down on an innocent people may be different in kind, the effect is as unjust, devastating and intolerable.

Central City spilled out like a brusquely decanted canto of an epic tragedy.  It grew more lyrical by the block.  LuLu, a watery-eyed, well lubricated and happy soul greeted me at the Claiborne Avenue Discount Zone convenience store with congratulations for locking my bike before going in  to get a beer.  On the Martin Luther King Blvd. neutral ground (median, for non-New Orleanians), an itinerant preacher was megaphoning the Gospel and group prayer to his not inconsiderable, spontaneously assembled flock, while volunteer apostle stumpers passed out hand-folded and home-printed invitations to join the congregation among those of us on the periphery.  Blocks on, Kimmie, a too neatly tight and prim guy offered hotel comp bar soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, and knock-off "glam" clothing on the cheap.  Next, Walter and I passed half a block together as he walked his newly "found" bike with two flats, and I slowed to make another friend. 

My "peeps" live in Central City.  Yeah, my neighborhood is next door.  But it is literally just blocks down the street, and from my porch it's easy to see what's coming.  There will be no high-energy, pumped-up "rock the vote" movement of the kind that helped zerO get elected the first time.  It more likely will be a "skip the vote" experience.  And the fire this time will not be suicidal.

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