Some wise man with a beard once told me, “You can tell more about people by what they don’t own, than what they do own.” That’s true I guess, on some philosophical level, and I’ll remember that quaint little aphorism next time I want to impress some people at a wine and cheese party. I can see it now, in the midst of a heated discussion about American materialism, I’ll suddenly stand up, take a sip of my wine, and spout it out like dogmatic truth, using my dogmatic truth voice I keep in my throat just for such occasions. The debate will be silenced. The look on people’s faces will stoke my ego. And after, thin women who own too may cats and thick framed glasses will ask me out for coffee Sorry, I’m rambling again. What I’m trying to say is, you still can tell a heck of a lot about people by what they DO own, especially us Americans.I’ve been helping people in New Orleans clean out their ruined homes. They pay me decently and provide transportation. On the way there, they usually say, “Don’t worry man, I don’t own a lot of stuff.” That’s bullshit. That’s like people who say, “I don’t watch a lot of TV.” I swear, 80 percent of the people I meet say that phrase, yet every time I go to their house, they’re watching TV. Anyway, I get ready to clean out a house. I put on my gloves and mask, feeling like a surgeon, save for the torn Miller High Life T-shirt. I start bagging up and throwing out, and the stuff I come across, is trulythought provoking.
Everyone’s life is in a pile on the curb. These piles announce to the world: The person who lived here just can’t get enough statues of Mary. This one over here really like the color blue! This guy owned a beta max! What would you do with four rice cookers? I did’nt know they made life size cutouts of Nick Nolte? So many disco balls in this pile, but so few roller skates? Right here, on the ground, I see a helmet with a sticker on it that says, “Street Racing is not a crime!” Well, owning idiot slogan material is a crime against one’s own dignity, but who am I to judge, I still wear my hat backwards sometimesusually when I’m feeling both aloof and gangsterish.
Lives have been shattered, taken, and displaced, and the strongest manifestation of this is the piles of debris that line every street in New Orleans. For those of you who don’t know, we bury our dead above ground. We’re famous for this; it’s in brochures and shit. It’s wierd because the totality of our lives have also been buried above ground as well, in these huge piles. I don’t have to write another symbolic sentence on why this is so profound, I trust in the intelligence and emotional intuition of those reading, plus, I doubt I could even accurately even articulate it all.
Now let’s talk about another thing the patrons of this water logged city do own. They own the right to have their asses kicked by police, always did. In case you did’nt see the news, it took five officers of the law to arrest and beat up an unarmed, unthreatening 64 year old ex-elementary school teacher who was just out trying to buy a pack of cigarettes. Then they charged him with public intoxication.on Bourbon st. Charging people with public intoxication on Bourbon St. is like walking into congress and charging everyone with Stupidity. Most hilarious part of the whole event, Mr. Davis (the brutalized man) says he has’nt had a drink in 25 years. Out of all the drunken idiots to beat up on Bourbon St, these pigs pick the elderly ex-elementary educating teetotaler. Glad these cops were “holding the city together” in it’s time of crisis.
And was this attack racially motivated? Perhaps? Would this have happened if Mr. Davis was your run of the mill Bourbon St. patron throwing money around? I doubt it. Let’s picture your typical French Quarter tourist: He’s a middle-aged balding white male wearing a collar shirt tucked into the elastic waistband of short khaki shorts. Beads are draped around his neck and it’s not even Mardi Gras, a “brewski” is in one hand, and he’s just looking to see some bresticles. I’ve literally seen one of these guys run up to a police officer, take the hat from his head, and pose for a picture. The officer just laughed, they shook hands, exchanged some words and parted ways into the rambunctious crowd and neon lights. I always wondered what they said in that brief conversation.
Guy: I’m just gonna borrow your hat for a second ossifer.take me a little pic-chuuur!
Officer: OK, whatever my white brother, just don’t barf on it!
Guy: (holdin up hat) I’m so freakin wasted man!
*man’s wife takes picture*
Officer: How much did you drink?
Guy: A sixer of Bud and some shots of Jack.
Guy: Hey, I’m going beat up Homos wanna come?
Officer: Naw, it’s Negro Night Thursday, and I’ve gotta beat my quota!
Guy: OK, catch you on the flip side!
Officer: (waving) Toodles!
Imagine if Mr. Davis would have run up to the cop and tried the same thing. I imagine he would have been shot, or at least tasered, which always brings a smug smile to the cops. Ever watch those videos on the internet where the cops tase some unruly traffic violator? While the law breaker is squirming around on the ground like George W in a tickle fight with Dick Cheney, the policeman stands over him triumphantly with this look on face, the same look a child gets when setting grasshoppers on fire. Yup, these are our heroes. If I ever have a kid, (and that would not be on purpose) and he ever says he wants to be a cop when he grows up, I’m going to retroactively abort him right there with a macheteand that would be out of love people.
But what really cracked me up was the cop who harassed the media after for doing their job. Did see that shit? He jabs the camera man in the gut, and in this high-pitch girlish yelp exclaims, “I’ve been fighting to stay alive for six weeks!” That shit was pathetic. Doesn’t this guy watch any action movies, and judging by his gut and penchant for punching people, I’m guessing he does. Anytime you’re gonna say some macho ass shit like that, you gotta put some bass in your voice. He totally ruined the moment. With that girlish cadence, he may as well have yelled, “Tiffany hit me with a pillow, MOM!” Same shit to me. Beating a 64 year old unarmed ex-elementary school teacher senseless is not quite the epitome of toughness, but still, you don’t go sounding like some frightened schoolgirl after. That is not how Jesus would have sounded. And if anything, at least fire him for that.and the fact that he had bitch-tits. Yall notice that? How you gonna beat up a defenseless old man and have lil man boobs? Come on, that mother fucker’s guilty of something!
I guess what I’m trying to say is, New Orleans sucks right now, and it will never be the same. I know the media keeps saying how “resilient” these people are, and how they will “bounce back” but I’m really not that sure. The media HAS to say dumb shit like that. After all the natural disasters in history, have you ever heard the media say, “these people were corrupt, negative, and backwards people to begin with I doubt they will regain their former glory, no matter how mediocre it was.” No, the media always heaps praise on defeated people. I guess that’s the political correct thing to do, but that does’nt mean it’s the truth. Example: I got a square ass fucking head, no lie. And when I’m feeling self conscious about it, I ask my mom, “Is my head too square mom?” And she usually tells me, “It’s perfect honey. It’s wonderful!” I know that’s some bullshit right there, but I guess at the time I just needed to hear I was OK. I’m nervous about the future of this city. I don’t believe unconditionally the words of hope by the media, by the public officials, and the president. Honestly, I think when it’s all said and done, the rich will be richer and the poor will be poorer.
JOHN GAUTREAUX is a social worker in southern Louisiana. He can be reached at: email@example.com
ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH
We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).
Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.
As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.
We are pleased to clarify the position.
August 17, 2005