How now, brown cow

I don’t know quite why this was a ditty that I remember from early childhood. Maybe it was something teachers used as we learned to write, or read, or something. It is amazing what sticks in a child’s mind for more than half a century and then bubbles to the surface, unbidden, at the strangest of times. Perhaps these sorts of occurrences signal a need to revisit times of less stress, times of less complexity, times of unintentioned intention. Yeah, I said that – unintentioned intention,. also known as want.

When I was a kid, there were rules, guidelines, rituals. I took most of those as suggestions, like speed limit signs. But I digress. You learned early on, though, that some rules got you closer to what you wanted. Annoying as rule following could be, you kept your eye on the prize and you got a little closer and a little closer until *ding* you grabbed the brass ring (or in my case, the piece of cake, the candy bar, the meal). The reward was usually what you expected, so you came away from the experience with satisfaction.

As I have grown older, things have gotten a lot more complicated, and the expectation is farther removed from the reward. If I follow all the rules, and expect to receive a certain outcome but don’t, that becomes a problem. First time it happens, you shrug it off. When it becomes a pattern, you are likely to become exponentially dissatisfied, even bitter. This experience isn’t ever going to produce what I want, so why bother? Multiplied by millions of people, that can translate to a nation that demonstrates not only disunity, but disarray – rules are either nonexistent or inconsistent, and consequences are luck of the draw in some cases.

This doesn’t match up well with the Universal law, where every action has an equal and opposite reaction, where there are polarities that repel and attract every time, not just sometimes. Where mixing the matter and the anti-matter will make everything go *BOOM* whenever it happens. Not just sometimes.

We have taken to thriving on conditional responses, and that just doesn’t work. If Kyle Rittenhouse took a gun to a protest, but was given a pass by law enforcement because they knew him, because he looked like a good kid, because he was white…then every teenager who brings a gun to a protest has to be given that same pass. But that’s not what happens.

When selective enforcement of the laws we have becomes the norm, we all begin to trust the process a little less. We all being to disrespect it a little more. We all begin to make up our own rules – I can bring a gun to the Capitol Building and bypass the metal detectors, because I’m a U.S. Congressman and I can be trusted to do that, and who the hell do you think you are telling me otherwise? Now, Ilhan Oman, she’s different – you should strip search her because you know how “those people” are.

This. Is. Bullshit. This is about getting what I want – emphasis on the “I” – and I got mine, I hope you got yours. There is no rallying for the common good; we can’t even agree on what the common good might be. We’ve all – ALL – seen too many instances of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” allowing thieves, grifters, murders to escape the seemingly infinite web of rules and regulations that bind the common people.

When you’re fighting to survive, on even the most basic level, fighting to put food on the table (or the paper bag, or the styrofoam tray) and the rules aren’t working for you, you’re going to do whatever is necessary. Full stop. When it’s a movie, like “Fargo”, it’s merely amusing. When it’s real life, like post-natural disaster aftermath, it can get you killed. We’re all clear on that.

After Hurricane Katrina, when I was watching the news coverage of the aftermath of the storm, reporters were flabberghasted to find that the New Orleans French Quarter was mostly intact. There was no power anywhere, and no water or sewer, but there was very little property damage in buildings mostly constructed in the 1800s. They were going to need few window screens and maybe some panes of glass, a couple of roof shingles, but the structures had weathered the storm very well.

Some of that was due to construction standards of the late 18th and 19th centuries in that area – high ceilings, masonry and brick inner walls, shotgun house design. In the oldest parts of the city, things were pretty close together, so wind damage was mitigated.

The trajectory of the hurricane also didn’t put the French Quarter or the Business District at high risk for water damage. Those areas are closer to the Mississippi River, rather than Lake Pontchartrain, and are naturally a little higher than land out towards the Lake. My mother’s house was closer to the Lake, and a foot below sea level. That house suffered little wind damage, but the flooding was catastrophic. The French Quarter likewise suffered little wind damage, but there was virtually no flooding.

When I was growing up there, a hurricane heading up the mouth of the River was considered the worst possible scenario. That’s not what Katrina did, however – she didn’t come up the River, she swept up the Lake side of the city, which is lower ground. Once the levees failed, it was all over. The Lake, trying to empty out into the Gul of Mexico, backed up to the water table, met the soggy land and overtopped the levees, and the rest is history. Thousands of people dead, hundreds of thousands of homes lost, entire lifetimes of history and work and memories…gone.

New Orleans has had hundreds of severe storms since it was founded. Katrina was nothing new. Nothing to get bitter over, because Mother Nature is who she is, and generally sprinkles her disasters across a wide range of recipients. But people ARE bitter over Katrina, because every level of government failed them. Mandatory evacuation orders were a little later. The drainage and levee systems were discovered to have been neglected. There were people left behind, with no shelter and no provisions. The cleanup ignored residents who had stayed behind and needed work, in favor of a no-bid contract that hired temporary-visa immigrants from outside the city. In general, New Orleanians felt abandoned. And they were.

They had followed the rules. They had insurance, for the most part, but discovered after the storm – when they most needed it – their policies would not cover “acts of God”. Like flooding from hurricanes. To cover that, and have your repairs paid for, you had to have bought federal flood insurance, and many people could not afford that. So, their houses became large pyramids of timber, twigs, wood planks, and broken glass.

But they had followed the rules. And the rules got them…next to nothing in many cases. All of that to say that it’s no wonder a population who has experienced this kind of catastrophe sees no reason to participate in the electoral process. Did they not elect representation that was supposed to look out for them, protect them from the “small print”, make their lives better, or at least keep them going? So who cares about voting? It doesn’t do one bit of good. Rules followed, expectations not met, game over.

When I first moved here to NC, I was amazed to find everyone so polite, no matter their skin color or ethnicity. There is a very low murder rate. Not a lot of road rage, at least not inside the city limits. My initial explanation for that is that everyone gets more of what they expect when they play the game. There are some wide class gaps here, but even the lower levels of that caste understand the rules of the game, and get pretty much what they expected. Not what they wanted, and not that it’s believed to be a fair game, but there’s an acceptance of that reality so the outcome is consistent with what is expected.

Since I’ve been here a while, though, I’ve started to see at least some of the well-hidden dissatisfaction, well hidden in the politeness. There’s a lot of charity that goes on in the churches; food pantries and clothes pantries and meal distribution. Charity makes me a little crazy, though, because it’s a never-ending cycle that sometimes breeds dependence if there’s not attention paid to why there’s a need for the charity. If someone has no clothes, and no food, I feel that it’s incumbent on everyone who has clothes and food to ask why these people have none. Throwing somebody a couple of dollars at the street corner doesn’t solve their problem, and you’ll probably see them back at the same corner tomorrow.

Charity is necessary, but solutions for poverty can’t stop there. When it’s cold outside, giving people a warm meal, a warm shelter, a warm garment is compassionate, and the right thing to do. In the meantime, however, we should be discerning more permanent solutions, like how to create jobs, or sustainable resources. Urban farming, perhaps, could solve a bit of the hunger crisis. Curbing the waste in restaurants and groceries might do likewise – instead of discarding day-old bread, or … something. And we need something.

So, in answer to my initial question – how now, brown cow? I would first like to say that I am not a cow, brown or otherwise, but..that is not the point. How, now? Loosely translated…how the eff are we going to create something new, that fulfills the promise we’ve all been waiting for? We can’t keep doing this same crap and expect different results, whether we follow all the rules or not.

It takes about nine months to birth a human baby. Not 400 years. We’ve had a long time to get this right, but we still have only big bellies and a lot of water retention to show for all that time. I’m still willing to believe this has been a national gestation period, but I think we’re in labor now. There’s a new country trying to be born, and we’re not letting it make its way down the birth canal. The fetus is pushing on us, wanting to be born, and people are stopping it. Some of us are trying to kill it, abort it. And they say they are pro-life. Interesting.

As long as we keep trying to stop development of this new life, of this new nation, we’re going to have all kinds of problems. It’s like trying to keep a lid on a pressure cooker. At some point it’s going to blow, and then all hell is going to break loose. Maybe that’s what is happening now – all hell is breaking loose because some folks have been trying to stop the natural flow of things. They really can’t stop it, but…they’ve got things pretty stuck. They are holding on to the status quo with all the strength they’ve got, but even they know that won’t be enough. The change is going to come, and they can go kicking and screaming if necessary, but things are going to change.

I’ve been saying for a while now that souls are trying to get off this planet in record numbers. They are practically leap-frogging over each other to get to the door. They have seen the handwriting on the wall, so to speak, and know there is more suffering that will come because people are trying to block the inevitable. I guess I should have some compassion for those status-quo mongers. It must be tiring to pretend you’re God all the time.

Never say never. Nothing is permanent, even us.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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