..I began speaking.. First, I took issue with the media's characterization of the post-Katrina New Orleans as resembling the third world as its poor citizens clamored for a way out. I suggested that my experience in New Orleans working with the city's poorest people in the years before the storm had reflected the reality of third-world conditions in New Orleans and that Katrina had not turned New Orleans into a third-world city but had only revealed it to the world as such. I explained that my work, running Reprieve, a charity that brought lawyers and volunteers to the Deep South from abroad to work on death penalty issues, had made it clear to me that much of the world had perceived this third-world reality, even if it was unnoticed by our own citizens. To try answer Ryan's question, I attempted to use my own experience to explain that for many people in New Orleans and in poor communities across the country, the government was merely an antagonist, a terrible landlord, a jailer and a prosecutor. As a lawyer assigned to indigent people under sentence of death and paid with tax dollars, I explained the difficulty of working with clients who stand to be executed and who are provided my services by the state, not because they deserve them, but because the Constitution requires that certain appeals to be filed before these people can be killed. The state is providing my clients with my assistance, maybe the first real assistance they have ever received from the state, so that the state can kill them. I explained my view that the country had grown complacent before Hurricane Katrina, believing that the civil rights struggle had been fought and won, as though having a national holiday for Martin Luther King, or an annual march by politicians over the bridge in Selma, Alabama, or a prosecution - forty years too late - of Edgar Ray Killen for the murder of civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi, were any more than gestures. Even though President Bush celebrates his birthday, wouldn't Dr. King cry if he could see how little things have changed since his death? If politicians or journalists went to Selma any other day of the year, they would see that it is a crumbling city suffering from all of the woes of the era before civil rights were won as well as new woes that have come about since. And does anyone really think that the Mississippi criminal justice system could possibly be a vessel of social change when it incarcerates a greater percentage of its population than almost any place in the world, other than Louisiana and Texas and then compels these prisoners, most of whom are black, to work prison farms that their ancestors worked as chattel of other men? ...I hoped, out loud, that the post-Katrina experience could be a similar moment [to the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fiasco], in which the American people could act like the children in the story and declare that the emperor has no clothes and hasn't for a long time. That, in light of Katrina, we could be visionary and bold about what people deserve. We could say straight out that there are people in this country who are racist, that minorities are still not getting a fair shake and that Republican policies heartlessly disregard the needs of individual citizens and betray the common good. As I stood there, exhausted, in front of the thinning audience of New Yorkers, it seemed possible that New Orleans's destruction and the suffering of its citizens hadn't been in vain.
Billy Sothern
Unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life are common themes in the American culture today.Folks sometimes mistake my meaning when I say, You have the freedom of choice and the ability to create your best life, because they all too often rush to drop everything that is weighing them down. They quit the job, ditch the unhappy marriage, cut out negative friends and family, get out of Dodge, etc. I do not advocate such hastiness; in fact, I believe that rash decision-making leads to more problems further down the road. Another unsatisfying job manifests; another unhappy relationship results. These people want a new environment, yet the same negative energy always seems to occupy it. This is because transformation is all about the internal shift, not the external. Any blame placed on outside sources for our unhappiness will forever perpetuate that unhappiness. Pointing the finger is giving away your power of choice and the ability to create our best life. We choose: That person is making me unhappy vs. I make myself happy. When you are in unhappy times of lack and feelings of separation – great! Sit there and be with it. Find ways to be content with little. Find ways to be happy with your Self. As we reflect on the lives of mystics past and present, it is not the things they possess or the relationships they share that bring them enlightenment – their light is within. The same light can bring us unwavering happiness (joy). Love, Peace, Joy – these three things all come from within and have an unwavering flame – life source – that is not dependent on the conditions of the outside world. This knowing is the power and wisdom that the mystics teach us that we are all capable of achieving. When I say, You have the freedom of choice and the ability to create your best life, I am not referring to external conditions; I am referring to the choice you have to look inward and discover the ability to transform the lead of the soul into gold. Transformation is an inner journey of the soul. Why? Because, as we mentioned above, wherever we go, ourselves go with us. Thus, quitting the job, dumping relationships, etc. will not make us happy because we have forgotten the key factor that makes or breaks our happiness: ourselves. When we find, create and maintain peace, joy and love within ourselves, we then gain the ability to embrace the external world with the same emotions, perspective and vibration. This ability is a form of enlightenment. It is the modern man’s enlightenment that transforms an unsatisfying life into one of fulfillment.
Alaric Hutchinson
Brian Doyle about the Irish custom of taking to the bed. He says In Irish culture, taking to the bed with a gray heart is not considered especially odd. People did and do it for understandable reasons—ill health, or the black dog, or, most horrifyingly, to die during An Gorta Mor, the great hunger, when whole families took to their beds to slowly starve…And in our time: I know a woman who took to her bed for a week after September eleventh and people who have taken to their beds for days on end to recover from shattered love affairs, the death of a child, a physical injury that heals far faster than the psychic wound gaping under it. I’ve done it myself twice, once as a youth and once as a man, to think through a troubled time in my marriage. Something about the rectangularity of the bed, perhaps, or supinity, or silence, or timelessness; for when you are in bed but not asleep there is no time, as lovers and insomniacs know. Yet, anxious, heartsick, we take to the bed, saddled by despair and dissonance and disease, riddled by muddledness and madness, rattled by malaise and misadventure and in the ancient culture of my forbears this was not so unusual….For from the bed we came and to it we shall return and our nightly voyages there are nutritious and restorative and we have taken to our beds for a thousand other reasons, loved and argued and eater and seethed there and sang and sobbed and suckled and burned with fevers and visions and lust and huddled and howled and curled and prayed. As children we all, every one of us, pretended the bed was a boat; so now, when we are so patently and persistently and daily at sea, why not seek a ship? p. 119-20Brian Doyle in The Wet Engine: Exploring the Mad Wild Miracle of the Heart, p. 90-91
Brian Doyle