Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Saturday September 3, 2005 – 1:30PM

The New Orleans disaster teaches several lessons, and the desperation of the situation in which we find ourselves, dictates that already there is nothing to glean hope from except that maybe we will indeed heed the lessons to be learned here.

Despite the best rhetoric of our leaders and popular purveyors of the politico-cultural stasis, America is still incapable of taking care of, or sparing compassion for, the weakest of us – the poor. In particular when these poor are folks of color, we could care less until property/wealth is threatened. It is a sad commentary on the American ethos that the powers that be, the media, the government, only saw the situation as untenable when looting began (note that a huge percentage of these are still folks in search of food and medicine). Indeed, it is this threat to property rather than an attention to human lives, that got the governor of Louisiana really angry last wek on television; enough to suggest that not only would looting not be tolerated, but the National Guardsmen coming in have the authority to shoot the looters.

Would such carte blanche on violence been offered had the pictures returning from the scene been predominantly of white Americans? Wait – don’t answer.

It is not just that there was at least a week’s warning, or that state officials have ben lobbying for years for the funds to sure up the levees, or that people have been left to fend for themselves at the convention center and the Superdome, or their homes. We still have in our minds a fresh example of how swiftly our officials can rush to the ‘aid’ of another country, whether in the case of the South Asian/African tsunami, or the country’s several actions to implement or restore ‘democracy’ in the world, because one of the ‘blue pill’ attitudes we have in the US, even after 9-11, is that this sort of crisis does not happen here. This is the kind of tragedy that takes place in Third World locales amongst folks without the good economic/capitalistic sense or cultural values to invent reality television and lead the world in technological consumption. So now a natural disaster underscores what so many of us already understand; that the poor and the colored are still second-class citizens in America. Make no mistake – those who could afford to evacuate New Orleans did so. Those who had somewhere to go went there mostly. So now the pictures show us who doesn’t have, who have been relegated to our streets and ghettos; who hungry, are called looters as opposed to survivors, and because of of Mayor Ragin and folks like Kanye West practially losing their minds of national TV, the discourse of how palpable the divide between the haves and the have-nots, how much along lines of color, this line still exists, is being brought into the public discourse and one hopes, not to be swept under the rug of our collective social consciousness once again, like slavery once was, like Jim Crow once was, like lynching once was, like the government suppression of popular movements in the sixties and seventies has been.

Octavia Butler warns of the tenuous nature of the social contracts that exist amongst us, warns us how unprotected we are, how responsible, how vulnerable if even a few of the institutions as we know them fail us. In ‘Parable of the Sower’, she shows us what America might look like if gross capitalism and disregard of the poor go unchecked. We got a glimpse of such a world this past week. New Orleans is a microcosm of our fate if we do not take care of the ‘least among us’. If we do not educate our poor, afford everyone decent housing and medical care, treat our addicts and truly rehabilitate our criminals, we will find that all we hold for granted is hanging on by the narrowest of threads. In disaster those who ain’t got are coming for those who do (or who they believe do – drug addicts are the ones largely responsible for holding the hospitals and pharmacies hostage, because untreated addictions mean complete madness when there is no ready supply. What we need now is a whole population rethinking of what the ultimate goal/result of unchecked capitalism might be. Our current leaders will not renovate our institutional systems enough to make a visible dent in peoples’ lives, but we are the socisal wave, the cultural and moral majority that can one day nsure we routinely adopt more measures on behalf of education, than on behalf of war, more measures in the attack on poverty, than in pursuit of tax cuts to the rich. We will/must do it or we surely will make the most morbid kind of prohecy of Octavia’s parable.

Tuesday September 6, 2005 (2:10PM - Pacific Time)

So now i'm in seattle, having competed in Bumberslam last night, the poetry slam of the Bumbershoot Arts Festival. Bumbershoot is a huge musci festival that takes place annually in Seattle.

Sonya Renee (2004 Nationals indie champ) was also in town for the slam. Buddy Wakefield (2004 and 2005 iWPS champion) was also competing as were Christa Bell (3rd place indie 2005 Nationals) and Jeremy Richards (3 time Bumberslam champion). Rounding out the field were Matt Gano and three YouthSpeaks teens Madeleine Clifford, Jenny Wong and Chris Zwigle. After the first round, three of the nine were to be dropped. After the second round, three of those six were to be dropped. The last three were to be the money round - $1000 to the winner, $500 to the second place and $250 for third place. So of course i pulled the 1 and had to go first in the first round. This usually spells disaster. I did 'Song for Trent Lott' and managed however, to come in fifth in that first round and since every round was a clean slate, it was a new game from then on. Sonya Renee going last in the first round, got the highest score; by far. She was the only person to break 28 in the first round and she got a 29.4 or sump'n (i got a 26.4). In the second round, i did 'The Devil in Music' and did much better. I scored a 27.7 and i think came in 2nd or 3rd in that round. So after all that, i made it to the third round with Sonya Renee and Matt Gano. I had to go first in the third round as well, scored another 27.7 and came in third. Sonya Renee won the whole shebang and we headed off to Charlie's to eat food and drink bourbon.

Tonight is the slam. I'm featuring there. I'll be here all week...

In the second round, i


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