- Okay, smartypants, so tell us what went right for a change
Several things I did not expect. (As many of you know, I tend to expect everything to be a spectacular disaster so my expectations are never difficult to exceed) First of all, this event was not.. as I initially feared it might be.. a white middle-class only event. According to all accounts I've seen and read the crowd was diverse and huge. Here's the T-P's description.
A vibrant, determined crowd surrounded City Hall. Nagin himself later described it as cross section of the city's population. Though white people appeared to be in the majority, people from all races, classes and backgrounds appeared united in their cause, standing elbow to elbow around the stage where speakers demanded immediate strides in quelling the violence. Scores of others watched from the street and adjacent Duncan Plaza, where at times they couldn't see or hear the program.One bone I have to pick with this description (which goes on to involve itself unnecessarily with the marchers' wardrobe choices, BTW) is that it stands in stark contrast to the paper's snarky and openly hostile descriptions of similar crowds who have gathered in recent years to protest the war. But I'll give the paper a pass today because I think the description of yesterday's crowd is accurate at least. The fact that the message was not lost to inaccurate media spin is another nice surprise.
Second, the marchers made it very clear that they were not there to furnish the Mayor with a venue for pandering. The pandering came later, of course.. and will continue unabated but the message was clear that they were indeed there to bury and not praise the administration. This is thanks, in no small part to Bart's remarks.. which everyone knows are posted here. Some brief quotes:
We desperately need to experiment with some kind of decriminalization, to eliminate the black market for drugs.
We know that law enforcement alone can’t solve these problems. We need long-term solutions too. We must have better schools. We must have an economy beyond tourism. We must pay workers a living wage. We must fight racism and classism.
It is truly a remarkable event when the keynote speaker at an anti-crime rally actually speaks to the most critical issues from which crime results. I applaud Bart for his effort.... but I would have left the bit about about the "torches and pitchforks" in there.
Bart's and Karen's speeches were great moments because they offered many of the frustrated participants the, very necessary by this point, catharsis of seeing their elected leaders stand there and take it as they were publicly called out. I was particularly interested in Varg's observation.
There was indeed something glorious that happened today. Some sort of victory was eked out by 5,000 people who took it upon themselves to do something, anything, to throw a monkey wrench into the machine of entropy that has gripped the city for decades. And I think we did win the battle.If Varg's take has even the slightest relation to reality (and there are reasons to believe it might) then something significant was indeed accomplished yesterday.
- Yeah that was my next question. Will this do any good?
Okay so I'm still skeptical. Other than the catharsis.. and the possibility of Varg's end to entropy, the immediate results will likely be bad. Just this morning, for example, Oliver Thomas was on WWL gleefully participating in another one of those "people are going to have to give up some freedom" (Thomas actually said, "people will have to be less comfortable") conversations which indicates to me that he either didn't hear or chose to discount entirely, Bart's impassioned speech. Furthermore, the Mayor has taken the bull by the horns and declared that crime is now the "Sole focus" of his administration. In other words, "nothing else will receive any attention and it's your fault because you complained about this, man." He also continues to display his oft-remarked-upon similarities to the President by responding to this outright repudiation of his policy with... a "surge" in unproductive police checkpoints. One of my main criticisms of this event was to point out that the very act of demanding more effective policing will likely result in... more intense policing. The response by the authorities in the early stages is.. predictably lame. But then again, as Bart says, they are "on notice."
- Why is it crime and not the multiple other well documented problems that motivated so many people to express dissatisfaction with a demonstrably inept administration?
Good question! You pay attention. I tried very hard to get this answered yesterday. It's very important to me because somewhere in that... "shallow soul" as Gentilly Girl likes to put it.. of mine I always suspect that this furious fear of crime.. which, I admit, I have never really shared.. might stem from a primitive desire to protect one's family, possessions... one's stake.. and can therefore be described as a class issue. I knew phrasing it this way would generate a strong emotional response. Unfortunately, too much of that response came in the form of petty personal attacks that did not attempt to answer the question. On the other hand, there were, in fact, some very thoughtful responses. For example, Scott says
one word: survival. There is no more basic instinct than protection of one's own life and the life of their offspring. People feel threatened. The crime seems random and they don't know where or when it might come for them. Helen and Paul were shot in their home and apparently because they made the mistake of answering a knock at the door. And yeah, it makes a difference for a lot of people that they were white and educated, whether they admit it or not. You can call that prejudice or basic social psychology. Not for everyone obviously, but a lot of (white) folks. You kinda hope people recognize that and recognize that one murder is no more tragic than another. There was clearly some effort with today's more to make that apparentI think the fact that the violence is so "random" is what makes people the most afraid. There are ways in which that can still imply a degree of racism and classism but it's more true that the majority of yesterday's marchers don't stand for such things.. and that's why they're so put off even by the suggestion.
- Just what the hell is a "yuppie" anyway?
Yeah I throw that term around a lot and I think the closest I've come to defining it was yesterday when I said.
Today, however, we will hear the voices of the empowered.. the bourgeois, the professionals, and others who either have.. or aspire to have a stake in respectable society.Roughly it's a derogatory term I use to describe folks who.. well-meaning or otherwise.. are outwardly ambitious. That can include a lot of people. Even your typical "hipster" or "artiste" more often than not falls into this category as does the average student or parent. I'm not sure if my differences with these people actually warrants classifying me as a "malcontent" but there is enough truth to that label for me to display it on my sleeve if need be.
- So how, then, does "yuppie" differ from "douchebag"?
"Douchebags" are rarely, if ever, well-meaning.
- Is Silence akin to Violence?
Emphatically, no! The question arose yesterday whether this slogan actually referred to the silence of witnesses not coming forward to help convict criminals or the silence of those who exercise their right to a dissenting opinion. Examples were cited where both of these meanings were employed. Yesterday, I made plain my objections to the latter usage. At the risk of once again being unpopular, I cannot agree with the former either. If you are an uninvolved witness to a crime, I believe you should be afforded the right to remain simply uninvolved.
- Since you like to complain so much, what do you propose as a solution?
It is not incumbent upon the critic of one approach to substitute an alternate approach in order to have his criticism validated. Criticism can be refuted on its own merits.. but to suggest that the absence of an alternative solution negates the criticism is wholly outside the bounds of logical argument.
But.. if you really want to know, I fully endorse the aspects of Bart's speech I have quoted above. I'm not so keen on "community policing", however, on the grounds that I simply prefer to be policed as little as possible.
- I disagree with everything you say. Should I delete you from my blogroll?
By all means do so, if you like. I would much prefer, however, that.. when you disagree with me you simply state your reasons for disagreeing. I don't mind at all, by the way, if you choose to match my "inflammatory" rhetoric so long as you remain on point and refrain from allowing the discussion to devolve into speculative personal attack... unless it's funny. I view these little forums as an arena for vigorous creative argument. When I go to ridiculous extremes it is usually for the sake of making a point in as colorful a manner as I can devise. (For example.. only a crazy person could honestly compare yesterday's march to a pogrom.. or take such a line of criticism at face value. I was trying to point out the conflict within an act of civil disobedience that seeks ostensibly to strengthen enforcement of the law.) Some of the respondents.. many actually.. got that and said so. One of the things that makes your little online community work is the conflict and sharing of different points of view. I don't need to tell any of you that... but some of the response was disappointing. I thought at least, Ashley, given his own unique writing style, would be able to appreciate impassioned rhetorical device... unless he really is like that in real life.. in which case, wow!
- Finally, will you be at the next march?
If you promise not to hit me. Actually, I have philosophical issues regarding the value of taking oneself seriously enough to participate in community action that goes too far beyond the bitching and complaining phase... that is unless someone brings beer.
Update: More good stuff from yesterday. Here's Bart comporting himself admirably last night on Anderson Cooper's show. Anderson Cooper, BTW, qualifies as a "douchebag".