Saturday, August 23, 2008

How to Make it Play Even Better

Jeffrey says that photographs showing protesters from last night's theatrical objection to Mayor Nagin's insulting award for "Excellence in Recovery" will subvert effects of the mobilization because the protesters are white.

Yet, here is the Times-Picayune's headline:

Inside, Nagin's a hero, outside, he's a joke

And the article takes it further. You really have to read the whole thing to get a sense of its construction. The article describes the protest itself as a party and juxtaposes the party on the street with the one occurring at the Ritz.


In a scene reminiscent of a satirical Carnival parade, about 75 protesters chanted and waved handmade signs outside a posh Canal Street hotel Friday evening while inside a gilded ballroom two stories above them Mayor Ray Nagin accepted the inaugural Award of Distinction for Recovery, Courage and Leadership from an honorary committee packed with his political allies.

It then titles a subsection of the article "who's edgy," implicitly ridiculing the Nagin quote to follow:

"I think around the anniversary we get edgy, and I think we're edgy right now, and I think we'll get past it, "

Mission accomplished.

I think it was a great success.


But, on the other hand, I do entertain some criticism that speaks to Jeffrey's concerns regarding race and perception. And I think that with some honest reevaluation, the next time people get together to criticize the mayor, regardless of the racial diversity of the mobilization, they'll achieve an even greater success.

The thing I noticed after seeing this was the consistent mention of the high rate of crime.

While of course crime concerns everyone throughout the city and affects everyone throughout the city, it is better to consider the systems.

I don't just angrily criticize Nagin for being unable to control the city's rate of crime. In poor cities throughout the country, the crime rate has risen during the Bush administration. There are sometimes trends above and beyond the control of a Mayor and his Police Chief.

That is not to absolve Ray Nagin and Warren Riley of any wrongdoing, for certainly they are guilty of incompetence and disengagement. Riley's police force has unacceptably low morale as a direct result of Riley's poor leadership. And certainly the NOPD needs more help than it is getting.

But is the high crime rate the biggest reason why I think this recovery has been a failure?

Absolutely not.

What about housing?
What about fair wages?
What about health care?
Where are the infrastructure improvements?
What about the coddling of the tourist industry's monopoly men?
What about the misappropriation of CBDG money?
Where is the vision?
And so on and so forth.

These are the things that make Nagin's administration exceptionally bad, not the crime rate.

The high rate of crime might not even represent the most glaring failure of Mr. Nagin's leadership related to the criminal justice system. This city has one of the highest rates of prosecution for non violent drug offenses in the nation. This state has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. The police department continues a 'catch-and-release' policy when it's own paid consultants have suggested the implement community policing practices with all deliberate speed.

What has made Ray Nagin's award for excellence in recovery exceptionally insulting is his pathetic execution of an even more pathetic reactionary ideology.

Saying that the crime rate is too high is a tremendous oversimplification.

Mayor Nagin deserves more blame than that.

It is more even than an ideological refusal to address the underlying social conditions of which crime is a consequence - Nagin's reactionary and regressive recovery policies exacerbate them.


Carmen said...

Jesus spoke of the sower and the seeds which fell into different terrains. Crime is indeed a touchstone issue, very personal (and let's remember, that was an on the spot soundbite solicitation, as interviews are) and truly indicative of a loss of control in City Hall, even moreso than in the NOPD (who were very nice last night, in my experience). Nagin is not even a sower; he has taken seeds and kept them for his own gardening. He does not dispense the fruits of leadership.

Your blog, your opinion, your fleshing out of your thoughts, E. You don't have to find a meme each time or lessen the motivating influence of others: after all, she (and others) turned out for the crime factor. Like the 'whites only' tomfoolery, somewhat untrue, such discussions of which route to take to Rome drains purpose, being less effective than acknowledging many ways lead there. We are pretty much agreed this mayor is not deserving of an award, most thinking he is not deserving of office as well. I spoke on the street to a bright young black man who inquired to the activity, knew his own way, and resolved to the same conclusion as he left.

The turnout was simply a result of 'being in the know'. If you're not internet-driven, if you're buried in the recovery, if you're buried in work or family obligations, you didn't know or couldn't come. And what race is hurting most in this non-recovery? If only by majority of population figures? All your (good) questions relate to this: those who are affected most don't have time or power to protest.

The city elected officials (and subsequent appointments from those elected) are supposed to be representing those without the option to speak for themselves. The poor and the forgotten. Amateur investigators like yourself, like Sarah, Karen and Lee, went to look for those people. Nagin did not. It is a failure of leadership and power, in fact, that Nagin lives his public life without regard to such citizens, even to imagining that he deserves an award.

Editilla said...


E said...

Carmen I see what you're saying. It's just meant to be a constructively critical discussion about how to make progressive opposition successful. I thought that the protest was a great success.