Tuesday, May 23, 2017

New Orleans mayor denounces 'false narrative of our history' in speech defending Confederate monument removal

The last of four major Confederate monuments in New Orleans came down on Friday, the final step of a campaign launched in 2015 by Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

While construction workers were taking down the enormous statue of Robert E. Lee, Landrieu delivered a powerful speech about Confederate monuments, the reason they were erected —and why they must come down.

The SPLC joined a number of grassroots organizers including Take 'Em Down NOLA and filed an amicus brief supporting the removal of the monuments. The SPLC has also catalogued the number of publicly supported symbols of the Confederacy around the country and the number of symbols removed since the Charleston massacre

Landrieu's speech is, as David Menschel said, "one of the most honest speeches given by a Southern politician." We've printed it in full below:

Watch Mayor Mitch Landrieu deliver his speech here. 

Thank you for coming.

The soul of our beloved city is deeply rooted in a history that has evolved over thousands of years; rooted in a diverse people who have been here together every step of the way—for both good and for ill. It is a history that holds in its heart the stories of Native Americans—the Choctaw, Houma Nation, the Chitimacha. Of Hernando de Soto, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the Acadians, the Islenos, the enslaved people from Senegambia, Free People of Colorix, the Haitians, the Germans, both the empires of France and Spain. The Italians, the Irish, the Cubans, the south and central Americans, the Vietnamese, and so many more.

You see, New Orleans is truly a city of many nations, a melting pot, a bubbling cauldron of many cultures. There is no other place quite like it in the world that so eloquently exemplifies the uniquely American motto: e pluribus unum: out of many we are one. But there are also other truths about our city that we must confront. New Orleans was America’s largest slave market, a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were bought, sold, and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor, of misery, of rape, of torture. America was the place where nearly 4000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined “separate but equal”; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp. So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well, what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.

And it immediately begs the questions, why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame … all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans. So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission. There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it.

For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth. As President George W. Bush said at the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.” So today I want to speak about why we chose to remove these four monuments to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, but also how and why this process can move us towards healing and understanding of each other. So, let's start with the facts.

The historic record is clear: The Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This “cult” had one goal—through monuments and through other means—to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity. First erected over 166 years after the founding of our city and 19 years after the end of the Civil War, the monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the history of our city and the ideals of a defeated Confederacy. It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America. They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots. These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy, ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement and the terror that it actually stood for.

After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone's lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city. Should you have further doubt about the true goals of the Confederacy, in the very weeks before the war broke out, the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, made it clear that the Confederate cause was about maintaining slavery and white supremacy. He said in his now famous “corner-stone speech” that the Confederacy's “cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first in the history of the world based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

Now, with these shocking words still ringing in your ears, I want to try to gently peel from your hands the grip on a false narrative of our history that I think weakens us, and make straight a wrong turn we made many years ago. We can more closely connect with integrity to the founding principles of our nation and forge a clearer and straighter path toward a better city and a more perfect union.

Last year, President Barack Obama echoed these sentiments about the need to contextualize and remember all our history. He recalled a piece of stone, a slave auction block engraved with a marker commemorating a single moment in 1830 when Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay stood and spoke from it. President Obama said, “Consider what this artifact tells us about history. … On a stone where day after day for years, men and women … bound and bought and sold and bid like cattle on a stone worn down by the tragedy of over a thousand bare feet. For a long time the only thing we considered important, the singular thing we once chose to commemorate as history with a plaque, were the unmemorable speeches of two powerful men.”

A piece of stone—one stone. Both stories were history. One story told. One story forgotten or maybe even purposefully ignored. As clear as it is for me today … for a long time, even though I grew up in one of New Orleans’ most diverse neighborhoods, even with my family's long proud history of fighting for civil rights … I must have passed by those monuments a million times without giving them a second thought. So I am not judging anybody, I am not judging people. We all take our own journey on race.

I just hope people listen like I did when my dear friend Wynton Marsalis helped me see the truth. He asked me to think about all the people who have left New Orleans because of our exclusionary attitudes. Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth-grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it? Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too? We all know the answer to these very simple questions. When you look into this child's eyes is the moment when the searing truth comes into focus for us. This is the moment when we know what is right and what we must do. We can't walk away from this truth.

And I knew that taking down the monuments was going to be tough, but you elected me to do the right thing, not the easy thing and this is what that looks like. So relocating these Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics. This is not about blame or retaliation. This is not a naive quest to solve all our problems at once.

This is, however, about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile and most importantly, choose a better future for ourselves, making straight what has been crooked and making right what was wrong. Otherwise, we will continue to pay a price with discord, with division and, yes, with violence.

To literally put the Confederacy on a pedestal in our most prominent places of honor is an inaccurate recitation of our full past. It is an affront to our present, and it is a bad prescription for our future. History cannot be changed. It cannot be moved like a statue. What is done is done. The Civil War is over, and the Confederacy lost and we are better for it. Surely we are far enough removed from this dark time to acknowledge that the cause of the Confederacy was wrong.

And in the second decade of the 21st century, asking African Americans—or anyone else—to drive by property that they own; occupied by reverential statues of men who fought to destroy the country and deny that person’s humanity seems perverse and absurd. Centuries-old wounds are still raw because they never healed right in the first place. Here is the essential truth: We are better together than we are apart.

Indivisibility is our essence. Isn’t this the gift that the people of New Orleans have given to the world? We radiate beauty and grace in our food, in our music, in our architecture, in our joy of life, in our celebration of death; in everything that we do. We gave the world this funky thing called jazz, the most uniquely American art form that is developed across the ages from different cultures. Think about second lines, think about Mardi Gras, think about muffaletta, think about the Saints, gumbo, red beans and rice. By God, just think.

All we hold dear is created by throwing everything in the pot; creating, producing something better; everything a product of our historic diversity. We are proof that out of many we are one—and better for it! Out of many we are one—and we really do love it! And yet, we still seem to find so many excuses for not doing the right thing. Again, remember President Bush’s words. “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.”

We forget, we deny how much we really depend on each other, how much we need each other. We justify our silence and inaction by manufacturing noble causes that marinate in historical denial. We still find a way to say, “Wait, not so fast.” But like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Wait has almost always meant never.” We can’t wait any longer. We need to change. And we need to change now.

No more waiting. This is not just about statues, this is about our attitudes and behavior as well. If we take these statues down and don’t change to become a more open and inclusive society this would have all been in vain. While some have driven by these monuments every day and either revered their beauty or failed to see them at all, many of our neighbors and fellow Americans see them very clearly. Many are painfully aware of the long shadows their presence casts; not only literally but figuratively. And they clearly receive the message that the Confederacy and the cult of the lost cause intended to deliver.

Earlier this week, as the cult of the lost cause statue of P.G.T Beauregard came down, world renowned musician Terence Blanchard stood watch, his wife Robin and their two beautiful daughters at their side. Terence went to a high school on the edge of City Park named after one of America’s greatest heroes and patriots, John F. Kennedy. But to get there he had to pass by this monument to a man who fought to deny him his humanity.

He said, “I’ve never looked at them as a source of pride … it’s always made me feel as if they were put there by people who don't respect us. This is something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. It’s a sign that the world is changing.” Yes, Terence, it is. And it is long overdue. Now is the time to send a new message to the next generation of New Orleanians who can follow in Terence and Robin’s remarkable footsteps.

A message about the future, about the next 300 years and beyond: Let us not miss this opportunity, New Orleans, and let us help the rest of the country do the same. Because now is the time for choosing. Now is the time to actually make this the City we always should have been, had we gotten it right in the first place.

We should stop for a moment and ask ourselves: At this point in our history—after Katrina, after Rita, after Ike, after Gustav, after the national recession, after the BP oil catastrophe and after the tornado—if presented with the opportunity to build monuments that told our story or to curate these particular spaces, would these monuments be what we want the world to see? Is this really our story?

We have not erased history; we are becoming part of the city’s history by righting the wrong image these monuments represent and crafting a better, more complete future for all our children and for future generations. And unlike when these Confederate monuments were first erected as symbols of white supremacy, we now have a chance to create not only new symbols, but to do it together, as one people. In our blessed land we all come to the table of democracy as equals. We have to reaffirm our commitment to a future where each citizen is guaranteed the uniquely American gifts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That is what really makes America great and today it is more important than ever to hold fast to these values and together say a self-evident truth that out of many we are one. That is why today we reclaim these spaces for the United States of America. Because we are one nation, not two; indivisible with liberty and justice for all, not some. We all are part of one nation, all pledging allegiance to one flag, the flag of the United States of America. And New Orleanians are in … all of the way. It is in this union and in this truth that real patriotism is rooted and flourishes. Instead of revering a 4-year brief historical aberration that was called the Confederacy, we can celebrate all 300 years of our rich, diverse history as a place named New Orleans, and set the tone for the next 300 years.

After decades of public debate, of anger, of anxiety, of anticipation, of humiliation and of frustration. After public hearings and approvals from three separate community led commissions. After two robust public hearings and a 6–1 vote by the duly elected New Orleans City Council. After review by 13 different federal and state judges. The full weight of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government has been brought to bear and the monuments, in accordance with the law, have been removed. So now is the time to come together and heal and focus on our larger task. Not only building new symbols, but making this city a beautiful manifestation of what is possible and what we as a people can become.

Let us remember what the once exiled, imprisoned, and now universally loved Nelson Mandela and what he said after the fall of apartheid. “If the pain has often been unbearable and the revelations shocking to all of us, it is because they indeed bring us the beginnings of a common understanding of what happened and a steady restoration of the nation’s humanity.” So before we part let us again state the truth clearly.

The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered. As a community, we must recognize the significance of removing New Orleans’ Confederate monuments. It is our acknowledgment that now is the time to take stock of, and then move past, a painful part of our history.

Anything less would render generations of courageous struggle and soul-searching a truly lost cause. Anything less would fall short of the immortal words of our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, who with an open heart and clarity of purpose calls on us today to unite as one people when he said, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds … to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Saturday, November 19, 2016

12 Signs America is in Decline

1. Median wealth per adult Rank of U.S.: 27th out of 27 high-income countries Americans may feel like global leaders, but Spain, Cyprus and Qatar all have higher median wealth (per capita) than America’s (about $39,000). So does much of Europe and the industrialized world. Per capita median income in the US ($18,700) is also relatively low–and unchanged since 2000. A middle-class Canadian’s income is now higher.

2. Education and skills Rank of U.S.: 16th out of 23 countries The US ranked near the bottom in a skills survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which examined European and other developed nations. In its Skills Outlook 2013, the US placed 16th in adult literacy, 21st in adult numeracy out of 23, and 14th in problem-solving. Spots in prestigious US universities are highly sought-after. Yet higher education, once an effective way out of poverty in the US, isn’t anymore – at least not for lower-income and minority students. The authors quote studies showing, for example, that today 80% of white college students attend Barron’s Top 500 schools, while 75% of black and Latino students go to two-year junior colleges or open-admissions (not Top 500) schools. Poor students are also far less likely to complete a degree.

3. Internet speed and access Rank of U.S.: 16th out of 34 countries Broadband access has become essential for industry to grow and flourish. Yet in the US, penetration is low and speed relatively slow versus wealthy nations—thought the cost of internet is among the highest ($0.04 per megabit per second in Japan, for example, versus $0.53 in the US). The problem may be too much concentration and too little competition in the industry, the authors suggest.

4. Health Rank of U.S.: 33rd out of 145 countries When it comes to its citizens’ health, in countries that are home to at least one million people, the US ranks below many other wealthy countries. More American women also are dying during pregnancy and childbirth, the authors note, quoting a Lancet study. For every 100,000 births in the United States, 18.5 women die. Saudi Arabia and Canada have half that maternal death rate.

5. People living below the poverty line Rank of U.S.: 36th out of 162 countries, behind Morocco and Albania Officially, 14.5% of Americans are impoverished — 45.3 million people–according to the latest US Census data. That’s a larger fraction of the population in poverty than Morocco and Albania (though how nations define poverty varies considerably). The elderly have Social Security, with its automatic cost-of-living adjustments, to thank, the authors say, for doing better: Few seniors (one in 10) are poor today versus 50 years ago (when it was one in three). Poverty is also down among African Americans. Now America’s poor are more often in their prime working years, or in households headed by single mothers.

6. Children in poverty Rank of U.S.: 34th out of 35 countries surveyed When UNICEF relative poverty – relative to the average in each society—the US ranked at the bottom, above only Romania, even as Americans are, on average, six times richer than Romanians. Children in all of Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan fare better.

7. Income inequality Rank of U.S.: Fourth highest inequality in the world. The authors argue that the most severe inequality can be found in Chile, Mexico, Turkey — and the US. Citing the Gini coefficient, a common inequality metric, and data from Wall Street Journal/Mercer Human Resource Consulting, they say this inequality slows economic growth, impedes youths’ opportunities, and ultimately threatens the nation’s future (an OECD video explains). Worsening income inequality is also evident in the ratio of average CEO earnings to average workers’ pay. That ratio went from 24:1 in 1965 to 262:1 in 2005.

8. Prison population Rank of U.S.: First out of 224 countries More than 2.2 million Americans are in jail. Only China comes close, the authors write, with about 1.66 million.

9. Life satisfaction Rank of U.S.: 17th out of 36 countries The authors note Americans’ happiness score is only middling, according to the OECD Better Life Index. (The index measures how people evaluate their life as a whole rather than their current feelings.) People in New Zealand, Finland, and Israel rate higher in life satisfaction. A UN report had a similar finding.

10. Corruption Rank of U.S.: 17th out of 175 countries. Barbados and Luxembourg are ahead of the US when it comes to citizens’ perceptions of corruption. Americans view their country as “somewhat corrupt,” the authors note, according to Transparency International, a Berlin-based nonprofit. In a separate survey of American citizens, many said politicians don’t serve the majority’s interest, but are biased toward corporate lobbyists and the super-rich. “Special interest groups are gradually transforming the United States into an oligarchy,” the authors argue, “concerned only about the needs of the wealthy.”

11. Stability Rank of U.S.: 20th out of 178 countries. The Fragile States Index considers factors such as inequality, corruption, and factionalism. The US lags behind Portugal, Slovenia and Iceland.

12. Social progress index Rank of U.S.: 16th out of 133 countries A broad measure of social well-being, the index comprises 52 economic indicators such as access to clean water and air, access to advanced education, access to basic knowledge, and safety. Countries surpassing the US include Ireland, the UK, Iceland, and Canada.






Monday, November 14, 2016

Fascism is the new Chic


It appears that fascism has returned to out doorstep. Not that it ever left. I simply grew tired of writing about it every day. And I had hoped that a Republican-led government was not and issue. I thought they had discredited their selves. Instead, they have opened the door and empowered the basest elements of our society and given rise to the very real threat of fascism in America.

Our new fearless leader has given voice to the most fascist elements of the United States. They are coming out into the open in all their fearless glory since the Golden Haired God has pandered to them by removing civility from public discourse.

And people are fighting back with massive protests from coast to coast, the likes of which have not been seen in a century.

The disgruntled white man has decided that if they cannot maintain their illusion of superiority over all others that they will burn the whole thing down. And, I fear, that is exactly what they will do.

As I write our militarized police force is gearing up for martial law.

So, as I stated above, it appears that this voice will be forced to come out of semi-retirement and begin this commentary again.




Friday, September 09, 2016

Senator asks for investigation in response to news that Trump's modeling agency illegaly hired immigrant women who did not have the appropriate work visas.

Courtesy of the Bipartisan Report 

A United States senator just sent the Department of Homeland Security a letter asking for the immediate investigation of Donald Trump’s modeling agency after an August 30th publication by media outlet, Mother Jones, in which Trump’s company was accused of trafficking illegal immigrants willing to work as models.

The openly anti-immigrant candidate is being accused of “illegally importing” women to work as models in his agency, and while this makes him look like a giant fool, it could also hold legal ramifications that would leave Trump paying a hefty fine, and possibly even serving jail time for human trafficking. 

This isn’t the first time that Trump has been accused of shipping immigrants in with the sole intention of exploiting them for near slave wages. One woman, in particular, was set to be on Trump’s cancelled MTV show “Girls of Hedsor Hall.” Earlier this summer, she spoke out against Trump, saying that he brought her here for no reason other than to be able to pay her less than minimum wage.

Good I'm glad SOMEONE is responding to some of these illegal activities undertaken by Donald Trump.

Don't forget he is also still being accused of multiple rapes, facing a lawsuit for ripping Trump University students off, and the subject of a probe into possibly illegal donations to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

And that is all on top of the thousands of lawsuits that already involve Donald Trump.

Oh yeah, this running for President was a great idea.




Thursday, August 18, 2016

Pocket Constitution

This election season, the ACLU wants to help you brush up on your rights. So they're giving away FREE pocket Constitutions - and you can order yours now! 
 
Join me in getting this election season's must-have accessory: the ACLU pocket Constitution.
https://www.aclu.org/freeconstitutionsTAF

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

All Christians are bad

I'm really getting tired of the "all Muslims are bad" trope.

Everyone everywhere is always so quick to condemn those of whom they know nothing.

The truth is that people are people regardless what they call their creator... or if they even believe in a creator!

This debate is an insult to intelligent thinking people everywhere.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Southern Comfort

One of the things I love about the south is their human compassion.

The consensus among them is that Gay's "asked for it", said of the Orlando Massacre.

Yeah, that Southern Charm is heart warming.