Keep The Ordinary From Becoming Deadly

Dec 24, 2011 by

Shortly before we moved back to New Orleans in early 2006, the murder of young Nixzmary Brown came to light. Starved, beaten and tortured by her stepfather for such “major offenses” as taking a Jello pudding from the fridge when she wasn’t supposed to, I was horrified when I saw news clips of police carrying out of the apartment that had become a crime scene a solitary, child-size chair normally found in grade schools across the country, a chair that she had been tied to as part of her many, largely unwarranted, punishments. There have since been calls for a law in Brown’s name that will ensure that anyone convicted of the murder, abuse, and/or sexual assault of a child be sentenced to life in prison.

That chair being carried out of her place stays burned in my brain even now, an ordinary object that, in the wrong hands, became an instrument of terror, used as such not only by her stepfather, but by her mother. I mention this because one question has been going through my head since the drive-by shooting that took the life of Keira Holmes: when does a basically livable city become a hell on earth?

No nearby second line can have this tragedy erroneously pinned on it, because this was a case of someone (or someones) deciding to settle a beef at gunpoint out in the open, sending a message to those in the know (and even those who weren’t) that street justice isn’t settled in the courts. This sadly leaves the officials left to clean up the mess pointing fingers at one another. Though they are all part of this problem, their re-formation is only part of the solution.

What should not enter the picture is the National Guard, whose return to New Orleans was instantly suggested not only by some friends of mine, but also by Austin Badon. Here we have an abusive situation as it is, and now a “Nixzmary Brown Law” of sorts is being called down on us all. Martial law no matter who you are or what you’ve done. Isn’t it bad enough that there’s indefinite detention hanging over all our heads as a nation? I guess not.

The National Guard can’t do all of this:

The National Guard won’t be able to end the entrenched, endemic racism in New Orleans.

The National Guard won’t be able to end the poverty that comes as a result of the racism.

The National Guard won’t be able to fix our shattered school system, which fail so many children, and disproportionately fails the poor and children of color.

The National Guard won’t be able to clean up our corrupt criminal justice system, which jails more people than anywhere else in the world yet cannot seem to improve public safety.

The National Guard won’t repair broken families.

The National Guard won’t create jobs.

The National Guard won’t feed the kids that only get one meal a day, and that from school.

The National Guard won’t end homelessness.

The National Guard can’t address any, not one single reason, why people turn to crime. That’s your job, Mr. Badon. Get the fuck on it.

Get the state to stop fucking around and actually work for the peopleinstead of for themselves. This could be your moment, man. You could start a revolution. You could stand up and shame your fellow lawmakers for their apathy and their ignorance and their greed. You could call out our mayor for being an affable, ineffectual media monkey instead of a leader. You could call out our sheriff for being more interested in clinging to the power of his petty fiefdom than in public safety. You could stand against the prevailing belief that tourism dollars are more important than human lives and dignity. You could.

The National Guard can’t do that. You could.

So could we all, right here at home. We can keep ordinary objects from becoming weapons. We can keep the outdoors from becoming killing fields. In the coming year, we must simply believe it and go about making it happen.


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