Sunday, August 31, 2008

Achas Shaalti meh-es Adonai, osah avakesh

I've had some great canvassing moments. I was floored by Obama's acceptance speech. Shocked by McCain's VP pick. And got to spend an incredible weekend with Knucklehead. But I can't think of any of that right now.

I can't, because 12 of the happiest days of my life were spent in New Orleans, Louisiana. 6 as a college senior with WA. And 6 with onmyway88 and mD this past May at Fess. And now, I watch in horror from hundreds of miles away, as Hurricane Gustav slowly makes its devastating way towards the Gulf Coast. Barely three years later, after herculean efforts by volunteers and non profit organizations to stand up do what our government was SUPPOSED to do, which is begin to rebuild a fallen region, and a fallen city, that work threatens to be washed away.

I'm terrified.

Terrified that this crossroads of history and culture will be so devastated. And terrified that we won't have the strength or resolve to rebuild this city. This American city. I say American because its history is that of America: African, English, French, Indigenous, Spanish all rolled into one. The birthplace of American music, of Jazz, R&B, and Funk. The home of one of the strongest African American labor unions in the first half of the 20th century.

Its home for a lot of people. For me, it's just a place I really love.

I'm terrified for the whole Gulf region, but I'm most worried for New Orleans because of my own attachments to it.

After Katrina, I saw New Orleans as a kindred city to New York in a new way. More could have been done to stop my city from being attacked. And more could have been done to help prepare New Orleans for Katrina and help rebuild in its aftermath. I saw in these moments, a government that did not respond to its capability.

I was on a City Council primary when Katrina hit. Several of us talked about leaving and heading straight for New Orleans to volunteer, constantly. We all stuck out the race, but sent money, resources, spread the word, and did what we could from afar. My first reaction is to find a plane that would fly me down there and go, right now. You can't catch a hurricane for a city like you could catch a bullet for another person. But if I could, I would.

It is Elul, the last month of the Jewish year, and the beginning of the spiritual buildup to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the High Holidays. The title of tonight's post is from Psalm 27, said every day of Elul, and on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as well. The translation I have handy reads: One thing I ask of G-d, this I seek: to dwell in G-d's house all the days of my life, to behld G-d's beauty, and to frequent the Temple.

But today, the one thing I ask of G-d is this: to do Your best to lessen the strength of the storms, to help all of Your people get out safely, and to give us the strength, resources, and resolve to rebuild the right way.


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