Thursday, June 4, 2009
Finding Local Inspiration In Cairo
I try not to do any over praising of Barack Obama’s time in office so far. I voted for him and I want him to succeed but at this early stage you can’t compliment or criticize his policies and decisions so early in game. You have to give things time to see how everything works out. Today I saw something in him that inspired me when I was watching his speech in Cairo. That speech was the greatest example of his leadership abilities and his commitment to change in the world. It was also the blueprint for the next mayor of New Orleans to follow. If there is a candidate who expresses what I saw today he has my vote.
I don’t talk about committing acts of violence because that’s an easy stereotype. However, one of the things that make me want to punch someone is any reporter or writer that makes the comparison between New Orleans and anywhere in the Middle East. I find that really insulting and out of line for an American city. As much as I am offended by that comparison there is one thing that we sort of have in common. We have deep rooted divisions based on class and background that keep us from making any significant changes. The issues are so deeply rooted in our everyday fabric that too many people are set in their ways to even consider what the other side of the table is saying. When you add the fact that every point of view has leadership that benefits from those divisions staying in place, the prospect of change becomes almost impossible. We are not as brazen with it and we try to hide it but the general principle is the same. That’s why we need the Obama speech.
When you are dealing with this kind of entrenched culture, the only way for anyone to start things moving in a different direction is to stand up, tell the truth about everything and call out the mistakes of your allies as well as your adversaries while respecting their position and at the same time admitting your own group’s transgressions. Basically, you have to give everyone a big hug while pissing them off at the same time. It’s the way you get all the folks in the middle to realize you are trying to be fair and objective so they lessen the power of the people on the far ends of the spectrum. You can open dialogue with more positivity that way. That’s what the president laid the groundwork for today. I thought it was an outstanding speech because of the tone. I believe if we have any hope for the future down here we need someone with the vision to stand up and take this same approach. It’s time to acknowledge and accept the reality that unless there is another disaster the same magnitude of Katrina, no one is going anywhere. Mayor Nagin gets a lot of blame but the truth of the matter is that there are issues that are deeper and older than him keeping this city from doing what it needs to do.
In 2009 there is blame and accountability for all races and classes to accept. The next leader of this city needs to stand up and say “I respect and appreciate all your diligence and dedication to the city now sit down and listen while I tell you what you are doing wrong and what you need to change.” That person has to speak the truth to everyone even their own race or circle of people. It’s the only way to get the people in the center to think you don’t have an agenda so they can get involved and support you. If we don’t have that then we are headed for four more years of finger pointing, email reading and obsessive investigative reports. One speech no matter how honest won’t change the entire Middle East just like one speech can not change New Orleans. What something like this could do for us is start to eliminate the divisive people and open the floor to honest discussion. That’s our first step. The big question is there anyone running for mayor that can come close to pulling this off.